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Sentencing Statements

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In cases where there is public interest or where the sentence may be complicated or controversial, the judge may decide to make the sentencing statement more widely available. You can read the judge’s full statement here once sentence has been passed.

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Today at the High Court in Glasgow Lord Woolman imposed an extended sentence of 15 years, of which 12 years is the custodial part and 3 years the extension period after Paul Lyons pled guilty to the culpable homicide of Mark Richard Fleeman on the M74 on 4 June 2009.

On sentencing Lord Woolman made the following statement in court:

"In pronouncing sentence, I must principally have regard to the terrible events giving rise to these five charges. As a result of your appalling conduct that night, one man is dead. Another is severely injured and permanently disfigured and impaired. A third had a nasty and frightening experience.

There are two important reasons why you should not have been on that road that night. First, you were disqualified from driving. Secondly, you were unfit to drive because you were under the influence of drink and drugs.

It is clear that you were prepared to drive with complete recklessness. You drove at speeds of up to 100mph. That was the fastest speed of which the van was capable. It was cruel fortune that placed Mr. Orr, Mr. Fleeman and Mr. Allsup on the same stretch of road as you that night. In your condition, you presented a major risk to all road users.

In respect of Mr Orr, you cut right in front of his Subaru and immediately started to slow down. As a result, he had to take avoiding action. He then accelerated to get away. However, some minutes later, you again drove your van up behind the Subaru at speed, overtook it, cut in front of it and slammed on your brakes. You then positioned the van to try to prevent Mr Orr from overtaking. It is not surprising that he thought that you might be trying to “carjack him”.

Shortly afterwards, you drove at high speed close to the van containing Mr Fleeman and Mr Allsup. After Mr Fleeman made a gesture at you, you said “I’m going to sideswipe him”. You then collided with the rear of their vehicle. So this was no accident. It was deliberate.

As a result, the other van began to ‘fishtail’. In other words, it swung from side to side. It then went out of control and overturned several times. Just prior to the collision, a ‘999’ call was made from the deceased’s mobile phone. The operator who answered the call heard the sounds of the crash.

Mr Fleeman and Mr Allsup were thrown from the van. Mr Fleeman died. Mr Allsup sustained terrible injuries. The lives of two men and their families, total strangers to you, have been shattered. On the last occasion, the statements of Mrs. Fleeman and Mr. Allsup were read out in court. They eloquently described the enormous impact your crime has had on their lives: physical, emotional, and financial.

After the other van went off the road and overturned, you did not stop. Instead you drove off and took steps to ensure that your van has never been traced and recovered. You then went to Spain where the police tracked you down. You were arrested in Alicante Airport on 23 September 2009, but you did not consent to extradition. Accordingly, you were only returned to this country after the Madrid Court granted an extradition order on 5 October 2009.

I have considered your personal circumstances as set out in the Social Enquiry Report. You have a criminal record stretching back to 1999, when you were 17 years old. It includes convictions for assault, misuse of drugs, theft and breach of the peace. It also contains many bail aggravations which demonstrates your failure to abide by court orders. Most significantly, you have a number of RTA convictions, including two for dangerous driving, two for careless driving, one for driving whilst disqualified and one for driving without insurance.

I take into account all that is said on your behalf by Mr McBride and the full apology which was given on the last occasion. I note that you are said to be contrite. But I must balance that against the very serious nature of these charges, your record and the fact that you have been assessed as presenting a high risk of re-offending and of causing harm.

First,  I shall  state the sentences I would have imposed if you had been convicted after trial. I will then consider whether any discount should be granted for your early plea of guilty.

Charge 1: Dangerous driving

Having regard to the nature of your driving that night, and your past convictions. I would have sentenced you to the maximum term of 2 years’ imprisonment for dangerous driving.

Charge 2: Culpable homicide

This is a particularly serious case. Because of the high risk you pose, it is appropriate to consider an extended sentence. The sentence on this charge I would have imposed after trial is one of 15 years: a custodial term of 12 years and a three year extension period to manage your return to the community.

Charge 3:  Driving whilst disqualified

You have been disqualified from driving a number of times. On two separate occasions in 2003, the court ordered that you should resit your test before you would be allowed to drive again. You failed to pass the test when you attempted to do so in 2007. I would have sentenced you to 1 year imprisonment on this charge.

Charge 4: Driving without insurance

I shall admonish you on this charge.

Charge 5: Attempting to defeat the ends of justice

Many hundreds of hours of police time were required to trace the perpetrator and then track you to Spain. On this charge, I would have sentenced you to a period of 3 years’ imprisonment.

In respect of charges 1 and 3, I shall disqualify you from driving for life. Having regard to these offences and your previous convictions, you have forfeited the right to drive on our roads. For what it is worth, I shall also direct your licence to be endorsed on charges 1, 3 and 4.

All these offences were committed whilst you were on bail from Airdrie Sheriff Court. Six months of any custodial sentence will be attributable to the bail aggravation.

The sentences on charges 2 and 5 will be consecutive. Charges 1 and 3 will be concurrent. In other words, if you had been convicted after trial, I would have sentenced you to a period of 15 years in prison, with a three year extension period.

You have pled guilty by means of section 76 letter. It is open to me to grant a discount from the sentence to reflect your early plea. I acknowledge that the plea has avoided the distress that would have been occasioned to the family and witnesses if a trial had taken place. It has also freed up valuable court resources. However, I must balance that fact against your disposal of the evidence and the fact that considerable police resources were required to detect the perpetrator of this crime and to arrange for your return from Spain. This can only have added to the agony of those affected by these crimes.

I have decided in the exercise of my discretion to grant you a discount of 3 years from the sentence you would other wise have served. Accordingly, the sentence is one of 15 years, of which 12 years will be the custodial part and 3 years the extension period. The sentence will be backdated to 23 September 2009, when you first appeared in respect of this matter and were remanded in custody”.