Can You Get Any Worse?

From the Daily Telegraph, 6 December 2000:

Driver Gets Eight Years for Women's Deaths

A car dealer who killed three women pedestrians when he ploughed into them while three times over the drink-driving limit was jailed for eight years yesterday.

Allan Jackson, 39, who had two previous convictions for driving with excess alcohol, hit the women from behind while being pursued from a red light district by police. Relatives of his victims criticised existing legislation after the judge said that he could be released from prison within four years.

Jackson was initially charged with three counts of manslaughter. That was reduced to death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Bradford Crown Court heard how his three-litre BMW mounted a pavement before hitting four women who were walking home from a night out.

Angela Ovington, 28, a teacher, who had been singing moments earlier, died instantly. Susan Briggs was thrown partially through the windscreen and carried 40 yards on the bonnet as Jackson tried to drive away before smashing into a church wall.

Miss Briggs, 30, a hospital web site manager, was hurled from the vehicle on impact and died a few hours later. Victoria Fisher, 27, also a teacher, died from her injuries five days after the incident on Aug 28. Louise Tinkler, 28, a student, escaped injury by scrambling up a wall as the car brushed her jeans.

Jackson, of Birkby, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He was banned from driving for 10 years and ordered to resit the test.

Andrew Dallas, prosecuting, said Jackson had spent the afternoon and early evening before the incident drinking at a pub in Huddersfield. He refused to hand over his car keys to the landlord as he left at 8.30pm, saying: "I'll be walking home."

Jackson drove to a red light district where he picked up a prostitute and took her to his home. She told police he stumbled when he got home and admitted he had been taking cocaine. They drank vodka and Red Bull. Jackson called a taxi to take the woman home at about 10.30pm.

Half an hour later, he revisited the red light district, wearing only a vest, boxer shorts and slippers. Police approached when they saw his car at the roadside with a known prostitute in the passenger seat.

An officer told the woman to get out of the car, which she did. When asked if he had been drinking, Jackson sped off. The BMW went through a set of red traffic lights without slowing, causing other cars to brake. It crossed a dual carriageway at speed and, at one point, had all four wheels in the air.

Jackson was later seen driving along the pavement of Willow Lane, where the four women were walking. He squeezed the car through a gap between a concrete lamp post and a wall before ploughing into them.

Richard Vardon, defending, read out a letter Jackson had sent to the families of the victims in which he wrote: "I am deeply ashamed. I shall be haunted with this the rest of my life." Jailing him, Judge Roger Scott said there was nothing that could be said in Jackson's favour.

After the hearing, Miss Fisher's mother, Ann, called on the Government to examine existing legislation and consider the sentences "in a more serious light". Miss Briggs's mother, Pauline, 57, said: "His sole purpose was to stop himself being breath-tested for a third time and these three girls paid with their lives."

It is difficult to imagine a worse case than this, and also hard to see what possible mitigating factor there could have been for the court to impose a sentence of eight years rather than the maximum 10.

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