Judges now have the power to hand out life sentences for causing death by dangerous driving, thanks to a campaign set up in memory of a young couple who were killed in Hanham nine years ago.
In January 2013, Ross and Clare Simons, from Hillfields, were out for an afternoon ride on their tandem bike on Hanham Road when they were struck and killed by Nicholas Lovell, who was fleeing from the police.
The 38-year-old from Oldland Common already had 11 convictions for disqualified driving and four for dangerous driving.
He received the maximum possible sentence available at the time but with his guilty plea, this was reduced to 10 years and six months. The judge said at the time that he wanted to give a longer sentence but his hands were tied. Lovell was subsequently released from prison in 2018 after serving five years of his sentence.
Together with Ross and Clare’s families, Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore set up the Justice 4 Ross and Clare campaign to call for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for death by dangerous driving, and a petition signed by 15,000 people was handed to 10 Downing Street.
In 2017 the Ministry of Justice announced that it would be increasing the maximum penalty for dangerous driving offences from 14 years to life. And as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which received Royal Assent on 28th April, that has now become law.
Kelly Woodruff, Ross’s sister, said: “Myself and all of my family are delighted to bring a very long nine-year campaign into its final stages. After losing Ross and Clare in 2013 we have always felt we needed to achieve something positive out of an awful situation. Changing the death by dangerous driving law from 14 years to life means the world to us knowing we will be helping future victims and their families.
“We’d like to thank Chris Skidmore and his team for all their help and dedication over the years on this campaign. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Mr Skidmore said: “I am delighted that the change which Ross and Clare’s family and myself have campaigned for during the past nine years has now become law.
“For far too long, drivers who killed either through reckless or careless driving have not faced sentences which reflect the terrible damage and harm that they cause to families and local communities.
“Ross and Clare’s family should be immensely proud of what they have achieved and the positive change that has come from their tireless campaigning.”
The family and MP had also campaigned successfully for longer sentences for offenders who ignore their driving bans and back in 2014 it was announced that from 2015 they would jailed for up to 10 years for causing a death on the road, rather than for two years, while a banned driver who caused serious injuries would get up to four years. Previously there had been no specific offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified.
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