HMA v MURRAY GEDDES

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 18 December 2014, Lord Glennie sentenced Murray Geddes to nine years imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

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

“Murray Geddes, you have pled guilty to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. Those words are barely adequate to describe the offence. In the minutes leading up to the accident you were driving fast and erratically on a two-way carriageway, overtaking at speeds well in excess of the 60 mph speed limit and possibly up to 90 or 95 mph, crossing solid white lines as you did so and terrifying the drivers in the cars you overtook. You lost control at a corner and your car left the road, became airborne for 10 or 20 feet and plummeted down the embankment. Your passenger, Graeme McKenzie, a good friend, was thrown from the car and died from head injuries. Fortunately his death was probably instantaneous. 

All that is bad enough. But to make matters worse you were clearly unfit to drive because of the amount you had drunk. You had been drinking beer and spirits for a number of hours. Your blood alcohol level was about twice the legal limit. You had already driven a couple of times between the pub and your home when you must have known you were well over the limit, and you knew when you set off that you were unfit to drive. That is why you called a taxi to pick you up from the pub, but when it did not come you decided you would drive regardless. 

You are all too aware of the result of your actions. You have lost a close friend, but his family have lost a son, a brother, a husband and a father. I have read and taken account of the victim impact statements prepared by them. They are all clearly devastated by what has happened. Their lives are permanently scarred. Their loss is irreplaceable. 

Nothing that this court can do will make good that loss. And I am sure that the shock of this tragic accident means that it is unlikely that you will re-offend in this way. But the court must show by its sentence that you, and anyone else in your position who takes the risk and drives when well over the legal alcohol limit, have to take the consequences of your actions. If such actions result in the death of another person, be he a passenger or a total stranger, a lengthy prison sentence is inevitable, if only to send out a clear message to others. 

Guidelines have been laid down for sentencing in a case such as this. The combination in your case of the way in which you were driving, the amount of alcohol in your system and the fact that you knew you should not be driving places this case in the most serious level of offending. On top of that, you had a conviction only a few months before for driving at 90 mph in a 60 mph limit. So I cannot regard this as a momentary aberration.  

I have listened carefully to everything said on your behalf. I accept the genuineness of your remorse – how could you not regret the consequences of your actions? Apart from your recent conviction, you do not have a bad record. I am prepared to accept that you do not normally drive in this way, though your previous recent conviction raises questions about that. I take account of the written testimonials to your good character and work ethic. You have clearly done well, despite the injury you suffered in a vicious assault on you back in 2007, which appears to have caused you to increase your alcohol consumption. And I take account also of the fact that by your early plea of guilty you have saved the time and expense of a trial as well as the upset that would have caused – but you could hardly have done otherwise than tender an early plea given the circumstances of the accident. 

I have taken account of these mitigating factors, as well as the previous conviction for speeding to which I have referred. Taking all these matters into account, had it not been for your early plea of guilty I would have sentenced you to a period of imprisonment of 11 years. Because of your early plea, albeit in circumstances where a plea was inevitable, you are entitled to some discount on that period. For that reason I shall reduce the period of imprisonment by two years. 

The sentence of the court is therefore one of nine years imprisonment, backdated to 26 November of this year, since when you have been in custody. I shall also disqualify you from driving for 12 years from today, and I shall order that your disqualification shall continue until you have sat and passed an extended driving test.”