HMA v ANDREW MATHESON SINCLAIR

At the High Court in Glasgow on 9 December 2014, Lord Armstrong sentenced Andrew Sinclair to four years imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

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

“Andrew Matheson Sinclair, you pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr William Lesley Davison, by driving your vehicle dangerously, on the A882 Wick to Thurso road, on 1 April 2013, while under the influence of alcohol. You lost control of your vehicle and collided, at an estimated speed of 50 mph, with the bus which Mr Davison was driving in the course of his employment. He was 63 year of age, married, with a son, and within a matter of weeks from his intended date of retirement.

The accident occurred shortly after 9.00pm.  Although it was dark, the weather was dry and clear. Having earlier consumed two-to-three bar measures of whisky, you swerved across the road and into the path of the oncoming bus. The force of the impact was such that the bus stopped almost immediately and its rear was forced up in the air. As a consequence, Mr Davison sustained very serious head injuries from which he died shortly afterwards.

Whether or not you were over the legal limit at the time, it is well known, and should be borne in mind by any responsible driver, that even taking small quantities of alcohol undermines the ability to concentrate on the road.

I accept that you have shown and feel real remorse for the consequences of the accident which you caused. You accepted responsibility for you actions at an early stage and I will take that into account in due course.

The fact remains however that this is a very serious matter. No sentence that I can impose can in any sense be a measure of the value of the life which has been lost or provide comfort to those of the family whose own lives have been devastated as a result. I have read and take into account a victim impact statement by Mr Davison’ widow, which is eloquent in its terms explaining the extent of her tragic loss and her difficulties in coming to terms with it. As the result of your actions, her life has changed from the course which she would otherwise have expected.

In determining sentence, I have come to the view that the manner of your driving, impaired through your consumption of alcohol, created a substantial risk of danger to other road users. I take into account the fact that you have previously been convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol.  On that occasion you were disqualified from driving for 12 months. I can only assume that in the period since, you have failed to learn by that experience. I also take into account that others were injured as the result of your actions. All three passengers on the bus suffered injuries and required medical treatment. Against that, I note that you, yourself, were seriously injured, that you were hospitalised, have been receiving ongoing treatment, and now have some continuing disability. I recognise, from the several testimonial letters made available to me, that you are a respected member of your local community and that you have in the past been a productive member of society. I also recognise that you have not previously been sent to prison.

I note the content of the criminal justice social work report which has been prepared in relation to you, the terms of which indicate that the risk of you reoffending is a low one, and the terms of the psychiatric report now also available, and I have considered the whole circumstances of the case and the points made in your favour this morning by Mr Smith. Having regard to the level of criminal culpability demonstrated by the facts of this case, I have come to the conclusion that there is no appropriate alternative to a custodial disposal. Although there are clearly features of this case which must be viewed as aggravating factors, these must be balanced by the mitigating effect of your personal circumstances, which I have taken into account.

If you had been found guilty after trial, then having regard to all of these factors and taking into account also the need to ensure that the sentence imposed was proportionate to the nature and whole circumstances of this offence, I would have sentenced you to a period of imprisonment of six years and disqualified you from driving for a period of 10 years. Taking into account the public utility of your early plea, the sentence I now impose on you is a period of imprisonment of four years.  You will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of six years and eight months, and until you pass the extended driving test. Your licence will be endorsed.”

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