HMA v Steven Bennie

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 21 October 2016, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Steven Bennie to seven years six months imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mary Laurie by dangerous driving.

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

“On 29th November last year Mary Laurie was returning home with her husband from what must have been one of the happiest days of her life – her son’s wedding. In an instant, as a result of your actions, that life was gone and a family who had just been celebrating were left to mourn their loss.

The depth of that loss comes across eloquently from victim impact statements. There is nothing that I can do or say that can adequately mark the enormity of what happened and the impact of these events on family and friends.

You have pleaded guilty to three charges arising out of this incident, the most serious of which is causing death by dangerous driving. In doing so you have accepted your guilt and I am satisfied that you have shown remorse for your actions.

You have written me a letter of apology to the family. I am sure that you are genuine in your wish that this had never happened.

The law recognises the value of a guilty plea in sparing witnesses from having to give evidence and avoiding a trial by prescribing a discount on the sentence that would have been passed had you been convicted after trial. When I come to pass sentence I shall give you the benefit of that discount.

I first have to determine the level of seriousness of the offence. It is in fact difficult to imagine a more serious level of dangerous driving or set of aggravating factors than you displayed.

You drove a car without a full driving licence and while uninsured. You were under the influence of alcohol.

You failed to stop when signalled to do so by police officers. Having given the impression that you were going to stop, you then drove off at speed with the police in pursuit.  

You reached speeds of up to 80 mph in a 30mph limit. You turned off your headlights presumably so that you could not be seen.

Finally you went through a red light colliding with a taxi in which Mary and James Laurie were passengers, causing Mrs Laurie’s death and the serious injuries to Mr Laurie.

I am satisfied that you knew what you were doing. You deliberately chose to drive without a licence or insurance. You deliberately drove while under the influence of drink.

I note the suggestion that your sense of panic when you saw the police may have increased as a result of a hyper arousal state. But you had with you a young woman who was repeatedly pleading with you to let her out of the car.  You must have been well aware of the danger you were putting people in but you deliberately chose to ignore that danger.

In your favour you are a young man with no previous convictions. You have a good work ethic and a record of achievement. You appear to be well regarded by those who know you.

I take account of your family’s difficulties and your background described in the social work report. These events have no doubt had an impact on your family but they continue to be supportive of you. That support will be important to you in the future as you come to terms with what you have done. I have also read the medical and psychological reports and I take into account your present mental and psychological state.

Had you been convicted after trial I would have imposed a sentence of 11 years imprisonment. The maximum sentence I can impose on charge 1 is 14 years imprisonment so that reflects the gravity of the offence, but also takes into account the mitigating factors I have outlined.

In view of the plea I shall discount the sentence of imprisonment to seven years six months. I shall order that you be disqualified from driving for a period of 10 years and that you will not be eligible to apply for a driving licence until you have passed an extended test.

On charge 2 the sentence is one of eight months imprisonment and disqualification from driving for a period of 12 months.

I shall admonish you on charge 3.

The sentences shall run concurrently and be backdated to 23 September 2016.”