HMA v LEE HAMILTON

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 3 October 2014, Lord Uist sentenced Lee Hamilton to four years and eight months in prison after the accused pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

On sentencing, Lord Uist made the following statement in court: 

“Lee Hamilton, you pleaded guilty to causing the death of a friend, Kristoffer Colin Brister, by driving a car dangerously in Windygates Road, Leven on Saturday 30 November last year in that, while under the influence of alcohol and driving at excessive speed at a time when you did not have a full driving licence and were uninsured, you lost control of it and collided with a wall, causing him fatal injuries. 

The circumstances were that, sometime shortly before 2am that day, Mr Brister was a passenger in the car which you drove at a speed of about 70 miles per hour along Windygates Road, causing bystanders to hear the noise of a loud revving engine. One of the bystanders thought the car would crash due to its speed. You lost control of the vehicle, which mounted the pavement, struck the boundary wall of a house and turned by 90 degrees. The pre-impact speed was calculated at just under 62 miles per hour. You were helped out of the car, but ran away when the police arrived. You were later apprehended by the police when you were getting into an ambulance at the house of a friend, and the following day you admitted to the police that you had been driving the car. Mr Brister was killed instantly in the collision and you were injured. The previous evening you had been at a wedding reception where you had consumed alcohol, consisting of beer and spirits, over a period of about five hours, to the extent that you were physically sick. You had therefore had a considerable amount to drink and should not have been driving a car. Another reason why you should not have been driving a car is that you held only a provisional licence and were not insured. Moreover, the journey which you were undertaking at the material time, described by you as “a spin”, was a wholly unnecessary one. 

You are now 23 years old. You have two minor previous convictions, in 2008 and 2009, which are of no relevance for present purposes. I have considered the criminal justice social work report on you and all that has been said on your behalf in mitigation. I accept that you have now shown genuine remorse for what you did, at the same time accepting that you require to be punished. This is a tragic case, as all such cases are, and nothing that I say or do can undo the terrible consequences of your decision to drive a car in the early hours of 30 November last year. Regrettably, this is not the only case to come before this court where a young driver’s dangerous driving has resulted in the loss of another young life. 

On charge 1, had you been convicted by a jury after trial I would have imposed a sentence of six years imprisonment and disqualified you from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of ten years and until you pass the extended test of competence to drive. As you pleaded guilty at an early stage, that sentence will be discounted to four years imprisonment and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of six years eight months and until you pass the extended test of competence to drive. That sentence will run from today’s date. 

On charge 2, had you been convicted by a jury after trial, I would have imposed a sentence of 12 months imprisonment and disqualified you from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of three years. In view of your early guilty plea that sentence will be discounted to eight months imprisonment and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of two years. The sentence of eight months imprisonment will be consecutive to the sentence of imprisonment imposed on charge 1. 

The practical effect of these two sentences is that you are sentenced to a total of four years eight months imprisonment and disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of six years eight months and until you pass the extended test of competence to drive. 

I shall also order endorsement on each charge of any driving licence you may hold.”