HMA v STEWART WILLIAMSON

At the High Court in Edinburgh Judge John Beckett QC sentenced Stewart Williamson to 5 years imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing the death of Eduard Goudsblom by dangerous driving on 6 April 2013 in Pitlochry.

On sentencing Judge Beckett QC made the following statement in court:

11 February 2014

“You pled guilty to causing the death of Eduard Goudsblom by dangerous driving.

I accept that you have expressed and felt genuine remorse for the consequences of the accident which you caused.  At the age of 55, the only blemish on your character is that your driving licence was endorsed in 2009 for speeding.

I take account of all of the information in the report and the very supportive references which have been provided on your behalf. I have read and considered all of them carefully.

I note that you served this country in the armed forces for more than twenty years and that your service was exemplary. Your discharge summary records that you are considered to have conducted yourself in an exceptional manner in many difficult environments around the world. You were a professional and dedicated soldier who showed considerable ability for communication, man-management and organisation. You acquired many specialist skills and passed them on in your role as a trusted and effective instructor.

It is an impressive record and you have made a favourable impression on those that you have worked for and with in your subsequent employment.

I recognise that you are a family man with three young children.  From the references provided, it is clear that you are also a loyal friend and a good neighbour to many people who have valued your friendship and practical assistance. You have been active in your local community in which you are plainly highly regarded and viewed as a positive role model. You have raised funds for charities.

I take into account all of the points made on your behalf by Mr Renucci this morning. Looking at the whole circumstances, I consider that there is mitigation in your remorse and your excellent character prior to 6 April last year. I acknowledge that you pled guilty before the case was indicted so that there was no prospect of there being a trial. The law requires me to take that into account. 

I recognise that you have not previously been sent to prison and that prison will be very difficult for you and that it will impact on your family in ways which will be extremely difficult and painful for all concerned. You will know, however, that you brought these consequences on yourself, and you know also that another family has suffered greater pain and permanent consequences.

You made the incomprehensible decision to drive the short distance to your home when you had been drinking for several hours and you knew that you should not have driven at all. Your wife had begun to walk home, expecting you to follow on foot.

You were found to have a level of 108 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, which is slightly over three times the legal limit of 35 mcg per 100ml of breath. You have accepted that you drove at excessive speed, and even after striking a kerb and another vehicle, your vehicle was still travelling between 27 and 37mph when it struck the deceased. You were driving at excessive speed in a place where it was entirely foreseeable that there would be pedestrians about. There was a clear warning on the surface of the roadway to slow which you did not adequately heed. Your vehicle was heard to make a roaring sound which gave people an impression of speed and alerted them to the approach of your vehicle. You mounted the kerb before losing control of your vehicle.  Mr Goudsblom had been standing off the road and in front of a hotel when he reacted in panic and you collided with him, causing the fatal consequences which were narrated when you pled guilty on 14 January. Your vehicle was partly off the road, when it struck the deceased.

Mr Goudsblom had no chance of surviving the serious injuries which were caused by your driving.

It is apparent that he was a fit and healthy man who was enjoying an active retirement. He was a much loved husband, father and grandfather and his family has been profoundly affected by his death.

I have been provided with information from his family about the impact of what happened. Following the disbelief, shock, sadness and fear that she felt on hearing that her husband had died, his widow then had to tell the news to her children and grandchildren. She explains that the joy has gone from her life. The deceased’s son has described the trauma of learning of the death of his father and the aftermath, together with the long term consequences of having lost a relationship of indescribable value. His daughter feels that her father was still very much in the prime of his life when he died suddenly and unnaturally. She misses him terribly.

The sentence I will pass is not in any sense a measure of the value of the life that has been lost. There is no sentence that I can pass which can have any impact on the loss and grief felt by the family of the deceased. Mr Goudsblom was irreplaceable.

Having considered all of the circumstances of the case and the points made in your favour by Mr Renucci, and having considered sentencing guidance for cases of this kind, I have reached the conclusion that there is no alternative to a prison sentence because of the gravity of the crime which you committed.

In my judgement, the whole circumstances, which include a number of serious features, bring this case into the upper level of culpability. However, I also consider that there is significant mitigating effect in your personal circumstances and in the remorse which you have shown. I take that into account in selecting the sentence which is the starting point in this case.

If you had not pled guilty, you would have been sentenced to imprisonment for seven years and disqualified for ten years. Taking account of your having pled guilty at a relatively early stage of the proceedings, the sentence will be reduced to five years, backdated to 14 January 2014.

You will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of seven years and until you pass the extended driving test. Your licence will be endorsed.”