HMA v JAMES GEORGE NEILL

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Stewart sentenced James George Neill to 9 years in prison after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. Natasha Clark died following an accident on the A83.

 On sentencing Lord Stewart made the following statement in court:

“JAMES GEORGE NEILL you have been convicted on your own plea of causing the death by dangerous driving of Natasha Clark then aged 17 contrary to section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Natasha Clark died as the result of fatal injuries sustained when the car you were driving crashed. She was one of three passengers in the car. She was sitting in the rear seat behind you. The crash occurred on 20 August 2012 as you were travelling south on the A83 road between Ardrishaig and Tarbert, Argyll at a point 0.1 mile south of Erines Cottage where the road narrows. You were returning to Tarbert from Stronachullin about three miles north of the crash site. I know the road well. I have had regard to the material presented by the Crown including the map of the area, the drive-through video and photographs of the site and of the crash scene.

Throughout this stretch of road there are numerous corners and rises and dips in elevation. Your speed was observed to reach 110 mph. The rear seat passengers Sandra Harvey and the deceased were being thrown from side to side. They held hands and the deceased shut her eyes. You ignored the pleas of the front seat passenger Sean McGregor to slow down.  On the account given in the narrative agreed between the Crown and the defence the crash was the culmination of a persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving over a distance of three miles. The speed of the vehicle was grossly excessive.The extreme danger to the occupants of your vehicle and to other road users was obvious. You continued in complete disregard of the pleas to slow down.

The crash happened at about 20.00 hours. Natasha Clark was taken by ambulance to Mid Argyll Hospital and airlifted from there to Glasgow Royal Infirmary. She had suffered multiple injuries including fractures of the pelvis and the lower spine, possible fractures of both legs, a collapsed left lung, laceration of the liver, internal bleeding and cardiac arrest with catastrophic brain damage. Following consultation with her family medical treatment was withdrawn she was pronounced dead 24 hours after the crash on 21 August 2012.

Sandra Harvey was also badly injured in the crash. You and the front seat passenger escaped significant injury. There are no mitigatory circumstances in your conduct immediately after the crash. You stated that you had not been speeding and you phoned a friend to come and pick you up. I have taken account of the fact that your remorse reportedly appears to be genuine. The enormity of what you have done impacts on your own life including your ability to leave the house in the small community in which you live.

I have had regard to all the circumstances brought to my attention including the Criminal Justice Social Work Report, the well-judged plea in mitigation by Mr Whyte and the victim impact statements by Natasha Clark’s father, grandmother and aunt.

You will go to prison for nine years. The sentence is backdated to Friday 17 January 2014 the date of your last appearance when the plea was recorded and you were remanded in custody. On that date I noted that the plea had been agreed on 9 January, that is less than two weeks before the date the trial was due to start. Your trial had been fixed for 20 January. I have discounted your sentence by six months for the plea of guilty. Had you not pled guilty when you did your sentence would have been nine years and six months imprisonment. I am bound to disqualify you from driving and shall do so for a period of fifteen years which period I have not discounted for reasons of public protection; and I order in terms of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 s. 36 (1) that the disqualification must continue until you have passed an extended driving test. Your driving licence will be endorsed”.