News Criminal Defence 14th Dec 2020

Sophia Dower’s client given suspended sentence in case of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

In this exceptionally tragic case, Sophia Dower represented Mr Biggs, an 83 year old man of previous good character who was charged with causing the death of 99 year old Mrs Clark by dangerous driving.

On 15 May 2019, Mr Biggs’ vehicle collided with Mrs Clark at approximately 34mph whilst she was crossing the road ahead of him with her walking frame at a recognised pedestrian crossing, causing her fatal injuries. The whole collision was caught on his vehicle’s dash-cam. Mr Biggs failed a road-side eye test as he was unable to read a number plate further than 7 metres away – the legal requirement being 20.5 metres. It later transpired that he suffered a degenerative eye condition (AMD/age-related macular degeneration) and had been advised by the hospital and his optician to self-check he could read a number plate at the requisite distance. Mr Biggs did not remember being given that advice, and therefore failed to do so. He had previously self-reported to the DVLA in 2014 disclosing that he suffered with AMD but was deemed fit to drive after further investigation.

Sophia drafted a basis of plea which substantially reduced his level of culpability and was accepted by the Crown. Mr Biggs pleaded guilty on the agreed basis at the PTPH on 9 November 2020. The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report however the Judge gave an indication in open court that the sentence in this case could only be one of immediate custody.

At the sentencing hearing before the same Judge, it was submitted that a sentence of immediate custody was not the only option available to the Court and that any sentence of immediate custody would undoubtedly have a severely disproportionate impact on Mr Biggs given his age, frailty and susceptibility to Covid-19. Sophia successfully argued that in light of the basis of plea, his previous good character and strong personal mitigation, the Court could properly suspend the sentence of imprisonment. The Court reduced the starting point from 3 years to 2 years and then made a further one third reduction for credit (having acceded to Sophia’s submission that full credit was appropriate in this case). The Court agreed that although a suspended sentence was “wholly exceptional”, it was the appropriate sentence in the circumstances of this case. Mr Biggs was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months with no requirements and no order of costs. He was also disqualified from driving for 4 years and required to pass an extended re-test.

Counsel was instructed by Simon Milburn and Glenda Hair of Hunt and Coombs Solicitors.

Links to media coverage:

BBC News

Daily Mail

Peterborough Telegraph

Cambridgeshire News

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