Relatives of Ross and Clare Simons, who were killed by a dangerous, disqualified driver in Hanham, are joining other bereaved families in demanding a change in the law so that in the case of multiple deaths, judges can impose a jail term per victim.
Having concurrent sentences, instead of sentences being served consecutively, would have meant Nicholas Lovell – the driver who mowed down the young Hillfields couple in January 2013 – would have been jailed for 21 years, rather than the 10 years and six months that he received.
Ross, 34, and Clare, 30, were knocked off their tandem bicycle by Lovell, who was being pursued by police at the time. His previous convictions included 11 cases of driving while disqualified and four of dangerous driving. Tests showed that at the time of the crash, 38-year-old Lovell, from Oldland Common, had drugs in his bloodstream.
Speaking in a debate on sentencing for dangerous driving in Parliament yesterday, Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore, who has supported the families of Ross and Clare, said the law needed to be changed urgently.
He said: “We should not have this situation of what’s called concurrency when sentences are served together.”
Mr Skidmore said the families of Ross and Clare would be working with the fiancées of two men who were killed in similar circumstances in Reading earlier this year and that on 1st December, families from across the country who have suffered similar tragedies would be meeting for a summit at Westminster.
Reading West MP Alok Sharma told the debate about Kris Jarvis, a father-of-five, and dad-of-two John Morland, who were cycling in February of this year when they were killed by a disqualified driver called Alexander Walter, who was being pursued by police.
Walter, 31, who had a total of 67 previous convictions, was driving a stolen BMW at 70mph in a 30mph zone, while two and a half times over the alcohol limit and having recently taken cocaine. He was sentenced to 10 years and three months.
Mr Sharma said that the sentence was not sufficient punishment for the devastation that Walter had caused.
After the sentencing, Kris’s fiancée Tracey Fidler and John’s fiancée Hayley Lindsay launched an online petition calling for the Government to amend the law so that in the case of multiple deaths, judges can impose a jail term per victim. Their petition has more than 24,000 signatures and the support of the families of Ross and Clare.
They also felt cheated by the justice system and last year set up the Justice 4 Ross and Clare campaign for tougher penalties for dangerous drivers. They have already secured one victory – in May, as a result of their campaigning and a 15,000 name petition handed in at 10 Downing Street, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that from next year, offenders who ignore their driving bans will be jailed for up to 10 years if they cause a death on the road. A banned driver who causes serious injuries will get up to four years’ imprisonment.
The current maximum sentence facing a driver who causes death while driving when disqualified is two years, with no specific offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified.
The Justice Secretary has committed to a review of all driving related offences and penalties, which is expected to conclude early next year.
Victims Minister Mike Penning said he welcomed yesterday’s debate in Westminster Hall and said his thoughts were with victims’ families.