HMA v ROBERT BROWN

At the High Court in Perth on 4 November 2014, Lord Bannatyne sentenced Robert Brown to two years’ imprisonment and banned him from driving for 15 years after he pled guilty to causing the deaths of Scott Prior and Mark McColl by dangerous driving.

On sentencing, Lord Bannatyne made the following statement in court:

“Robert John Brown, in this case you have pled guilty to causing the deaths of Scott Prior and Mark McColl by dangerous driving. What happened on the day of this incident was a dreadful tragedy. As a result of this incident, these men have died and their families have been deprived of them. It is, of course, impossible for the court to place a value on the lives of either of these men; that is not the purpose of a sentence in a criminal case. I have no doubt that the families of both of these men have been deeply affected by their loss. Nothing I can say or do can compensate for their loss, nor will it reconcile them to their loss. I suspect no sentence I impose would be sufficient in their eyes.

In considering the appropriate sentence in this case, I have had regard to the recent Scottish authorities dealing with contraventions of section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and to the English Sentencing Guidelines. As was recognised by your counsel, Mr Ross, these authorities and guidelines make it clear that, no matter what the mitigating circumstances, the gravity of a contravention of this section of the Act will mean that normally only a custodial sentence will be imposed. I have considered the circumstances in this case and have reached the view that there are no exceptional circumstances which would justify me in imposing a non-custodial sentence.

It is, however, my opinion that there are factors before me that entitle me to hold that this was not an offence which was at the upper end of the scale of seriousness. In sentencing in a case of this type, the principal factor in determining the sentence is the gravity of the dangerous driving by the accused. There were certain factors which I considered reduced the gravity of the dangerous driving: (i) there was no prolonged period of dangerous driving; (ii) no aggravating factors such as driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs were present; (iii) there was no greatly excessive speed.

I think that the driving can be categorised as has been described by Mr Ross in the course of his address to me. In addition to the above, there are the following factors that in my opinion can properly be had regard to in considering the appropriate level of sentence: You are otherwise of good behaviour. You have no previous convictions and in particular no previous convictions for road traffic offences. You have fully co-operated with the police and always accepted responsibility for what happened and in no way sought to minimise your role in those events. The incident quite clearly has had a profound effect on you and as a result of it you have experienced feelings of extreme guilt and remorse. No risk factors have been identified by the social worker preparing the report and it appears on the information before me highly unlikely that you will ever in the future offend. I also note the general positive terms of the social work report. Lastly, I note that you pled guilty at the earliest possible stage by pleading guilty in terms of section 76 of the 1995 Act.

Having given consideration to all of the factors in this case I have decided that the appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment for two years, having reduced this from three years to take account of your early plea. You will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 15 years.”