Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 17:26 UK

Death driver jailed under new law

Martin Swanson
Martin Swanson was riding a motorbike with his son as pillion passenger

New legislation has been used for the first time in Scotland to jail a woman whose careless driving caused the death of a motorbike rider in Glasgow.

Lillian Martha Kenny, 43, admitted being responsible for the crash which killed Martin Swanson, 36, and seriously hurt his seven-year-old son.

At Glasgow Sheriff Court, Kenny was jailed for nine months.

The new laws cover cases where death is caused by driving carelessly or driving without a licence or insurance.

The court heard how Kenny suffered a "momentary lapse of attention" while making a right turn through traffic lights on Auldhouse Road at the junction with Nether Auldhouse Road, near Pollokshaws, on 14 November 2008.

The 43-year-old, who had never held a licence and was not insured, turned into the path of a motorcycle being driven by Mr Swanson.

The crash resulted in his death and serious injury to his son, who was a pillion passenger.

Not only were you behind the wheel unlicensed and uninsured, but you had a conviction from 2006 for driving without a licence and while uninsured
Sheriff Daniel Convery

Passing sentence on Kenny, Sheriff Daniel Convery said she had pleaded guilty to "relatively new offences created by recent changes in the law".

He said these now gave courts the power to impose custodial sentences in cases where "careless or inconsiderate driving, or driving while not properly licensed and uninsured, causes death".

"Not only were you behind the wheel unlicensed and uninsured, but you had a conviction from 2006 for driving without a licence and while uninsured," he said.

"You knew you were breaking the law when you drove. If instead you had chosen to obey the law that evening, Mr Swanson would not have been killed.

"These are significant aggravating features which, when taken together with the catastrophic consequences of your momentary carelessness, make a custodial sentence inevitable."

Law changed

Sheriff Convery also disqualified Kenny from holding or obtaining a driving licence for two years.

Last year the UK government amended the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Under the new laws, careless or distracted drivers can now be given a custodial sentence of up to five years - when previously they would have received fines and points on their licence.

They also created a separate offence - carrying a maximum term of two years - penalising unlicensed, disqualified drivers or those without insurance.

The sentence handed to Kenny was welcomed by Margaret Dekker from the Scottish Campaign Against Irresponsible Driving.

Mrs Dekker lost her 24-year-old son in a road crash in 1998 and has lobbied for the legal system to take road fatalities more seriously.

She said it was "a step in the right direction", but expressed concern that even after the changes to the law someone convicted of causing death by careless driving probably would not go to prison.

"If you asked any member of the public whether it was careless or dangerous to turn into the path of another vehicle, they'd say it was dangerous," she said.

"If you asked any member of the public whether it was careless or dangerous to go through a red light, they'd say it was dangerous. But somehow when it gets into court, it all gets a bit muddied."

Mrs Dekker also called for specialist fiscals and advocates to prosecute road death cases.



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