HMA v JAMES SNEDDON

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 25 August 2014, Judge Morrison QC sentenced James Sneddon to a community payback order with 300 hours of unpaid work after he was convicted of causing death by careless driving.

On sentencing, Judge Morrison QC made the following statement in court: 

“James Sneddon, on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, you were convicted by the jury of the less serious charge of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving. 

The circumstances were that, at about 2am on 6th January last year, Alastair Dudgeon was cycling to work as a baker on a dark and unlit road, the Kincardine Bypass. The front nearside of your car struck him in a straight-on impact with the rear of his bicycle. Alastair Dudgeon died as a result of that collision. The Crown’s case was that that you were not paying attention to see the rear flashing light on his bicycle or you did not give him enough room. It was not discounted by the police accident investigators that Mr Dudgeon could have moved further into the road, that you did not give him enough room and collided with the rear of his bicycle. That you did not give him enough room was your defence in this case. There was some evidence that the rear light was not very bright. There was also evidence from the police investigators, who were looking for the scene of the accident after the event, that the rear light could have been seen for some 200 metres or for up to about 39 seconds. At the time it would probably have been less than that. Mr Dudgeon was not wearing any high visibility clothing. In any event you did not give him enough room. The jury decided that your actions were careless and not dangerous. 

The death of Alastair Dudgeon at the age of 51 is a tragedy for his family. His widow was devastated and she lost her best friend. Her health was affected.  It is harder for her now financially. His children and stepson have lost a father to turn to for guidance. The sense of loss and the effect on their lives and grandchildren are clear from the victim impact statements. 

The maximum sentence for this offence is five years’ imprisonment. The sentencing guidelines indicate that the sentencing range to be considered in the circumstances of this case would be from a community disposal to two years’ imprisonment depending on, among other factors, the degree of carelessness. There was no deliberate course of bad driving. It seems to me that the degree of carelessness was not mere momentary inattention but it could be described as a single negligent manoeuvre. Under the guidelines the degree of carelessness does not preclude a community disposal. 

Factors to be considered in determining the sentence are these. There were no aggravating circumstances. You had not been drinking or using your phone. You were driving well within the speed limit, that is about 40mph in a 60 limit. Your car had no defects and was in good condition.  

After the collision you took steps to position your car to protect Alastair Dudgeon from other vehicles. You telephoned for an ambulance and remained at the scene. 

Although it will be little or no consolation to Alastair Dudgeon’s family, you are extremely regretful for what happened, that your lack of care has had a devastating effect on Alastair Dudgeon’s family and that you are finding it hard to deal with the knowledge that your actions caused his death. 

You are a first offender. You have one fixed penalty for speeding some three years ago on your driving licence. Otherwise you have a good driving record. The social work report records that you have a stable lifestyle, pro-social attitudes and that there is a very low risk of you re-offending. I have considered all that has been said on your behalf by Miss Toner. 

In all the circumstances of this case, I consider that the appropriate sentence is a non-custodial sentence of a community payback order with 300 hours of unpaid work. You will be disqualified from driving for four years but to get your licence back you must sit and pass the extended driving test.”