HMA v JAMES WATSON

At the High Court in Glasgow Lord Burns sentenced James Currie Watson to 8 years and 9 months imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing the death of Brendon Main by driving dangerously in Newburgh on 24th July 2011.

On sentencing Lord Burns made the following statement in court:

“On 24th July 2011 you chose to go with your son and his friends to the Ythan Hotel in a car, although you could easily have walked.  You chose, after drinking what must have been obvious to you was an excessive amount of alcohol, to drive the car back to your house with your 3 young passengers.  It is clear from the agreed narrative that you drove at excessive speed on Main Street Newburgh while under the influence of drink as a result of which you lost control of the car and crashed into the parked Land Rover with such force that it was moved from its original position and lifted onto the bonnet the car parked behind it. 

In the SER you appear to have attempted to explain that loss of control by saying that you were distracted because the young man you killed attempted to leave the car having undone his seat belt and opened the passenger door. This is not mentioned in the agreed narrative nor, as Mr Moggach very properly informed me, is it mentioned in the police statements of the two other passengers one of whom is your son who is supposed to have alerted you to this matter. In the circumstances, I am unable to accept this information as providing an explanation, partial or otherwise, for the loss of control of the car. It seems to me to be extraordinary that you would attempt at this stage to shift any part of the blame for this terrible episode onto the young man for whose death you are wholly responsible.

The most likely cause of this tragic occurrence is set out in the agreed narrative namely that you had consumed excessive amounts of drink and failed accurately to judge the position of the parked cars in front of you.

Brendon Main’s parents have lost their only child and nothing this court can do will in any way fill the void that has been caused by his death.

You took a deliberate and unnecessary decision to drive this car although considerably under the influence of alcohol. You proceeded to drive in a manner which flagrantly ignored obvious risks by driving at excessive speeds on a narrow street where cars were parked on one side. It was obvious to the driver of the motor car which was approaching from the north that your driving posed a serious danger.  This was carried out in the knowledge that you had three passengers on board. 

Although you have expressed a degree of remorse to the SW and through your counsel to me, the credibility of such protestations is considerably undermined by your attempt to deflect some of the blame onto Mr Main.

The maximum sentence available to me is 14 years. I have had regard to the fact that you are a man who has had a good work record. This is testified to by the letters from you clients which have been provided to me. You have not come to the attention of the police in recent years but you do have a previous conviction for careless driving which is now some 19 years old.   

I have decided that the appropriate sentence is one of 11 years imprisonment.  In view of the plea you tendered, the victim’s family have been spared the ordeal of having details of their son’s death subjected to public scrutiny.  That constitutes a utilitarian value which ought to be recognised.  In the circumstances, I consider that a discount is justified in this case. You pled at the stage of the first Preliminary Hearing and I consider that your sentence should be reduced to one of 8 years and 9 months.  I will back date that to 11th February 2013.

In addition you will be disqualified from driving for a period of 15 years from today’s date and must take the extended driving test before you regain your licence.”

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