HMA v Thomas Andrew Wainwright

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 7 April 2017, Judge John Morris QC sentenced Thomas Wainwright to 12 years’ imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of causing the death of Theresa Wade by dangerous driving.

On sentencing, Judge Morris made the following statement in court: 

“Mr Wainwright, the jury unanimously convicted you of causing the death of Theresa Wade by dangerous driving. 

As you have no doubt been advised, the penalty for that offence is almost inevitably one of imprisonment.  In determining the length of that sentence I require to take into account several factors, both aggravating and mitigatory. 

It is quite clear from the evidence which the jury heard that on the day of the fatal crash you had embarked on a prolonged, persistent and quite deliberate course of ‘bad’ driving prior to the accident occurring.  

  1. On that day from 11.20 in the morning until about 8 o'clock in the evening you drank alcohol on a sustained and regular basis – to such an extent that, as a matter of common sense, your blood alcohol content would have been well in excess of the legal limit. Just prior to your leaving your final licensed premises you were spoken to by a concerned member of the public who, knowing that neither you nor your passenger lived in the village where the pub was situated, asked how you were getting home. Your reply was, ‘the car knows its own way home’ – a remark, sir, which is perhaps all too indicative of your general attitude to all that transpired.
  2. Also, prior to the accident you persistently drove at, quite frankly, ridiculously excessive speeds. To drive at 95.5 miles per hour on a dark country road borders on the reckless. Your explanation in court – that it was uphill and you were in complete control of the vehicle – is just insulting to the intelligence of any right-thinking individual. Even your speed at the point of collision, 69.5 miles per hour, was grossly excessive for the type of road and the conditions.
  3. After the accident you gave completely false and misleading information to those who enquired of you what had happened; presumably by then conscious of what you had done you sought to avoid responsibility. You even went so far as to suggest that it was Miss Wade who was responsible for the collision in that it was she who had been driving on the wrong side of the road, when the only person seen driving on the wrong side of the road was you.  And in your evidence you sought to put the blame on Miss Wade knowing full well that her family were in court listening to you.
  4. Also, after the accident you refused to take a breathalyser test because you knew that such a test would reveal the scale of your drinking.
  5. Further, you have shown no remorse for your actions – quite the contrary:  your arrogance when giving evidence and in the social enquiry report is quite staggering. 

Clearly, I must take all these aggravating factors into consideration.

I also must consider the harm that you have caused to others; not just to Ms Wade, who tragically lost her life, but also to her family whose lives have been devastated. That is clear from the victim impact statements. 

And finally on the aggravating side of the equation I have to take into account the fact that you have a previous conviction for driving while unfit through drink or drugs; an offence which apparently the French courts took seriously enough to impose a custodial sentence – albeit suspended.  

You therefore clearly understood the dangers of driving after consuming alcohol but chose to ignore that previous warning with tragic consequences. 

On the mitigating side, I am bound to say that I find some difficulty in finding any mitigating factors, save the fact that you are still a relatively young man.  

But even that factor is compromised by the fact that as a young man you hold a responsible position as a first mate on a sea-going yacht and in that position – as you indicated in your evidence – you were well aware that to consume alcohol when navigating that vessel would have been sheer folly.  

You must then have well understood that to drive a high-powered sports car which, for reasons only known to yourself, you hired to travel to a rural Scottish island having consumed alcohol, carried equal risks. 

Mr Wainwright, by your actions you have taken the life of a popular young lady with her whole life before her and shattered the lives of those who loved her. For that, sir, you must pay a price – not only as a punishment to you but as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to drive at excessive speed under the influence of alcohol. 

I consider that with the aggravating factors in your case and the lack of any meaningful mitigation your actions bring you into, if not the very highest range of the sentencing spectrum for such offences, then at least the high end of the medium range. You'll go to prison for 12 years, backdated to 21 March 2017.   

Further, you will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 15 years and until you have passed the extended test of competence. 

In relation to charge 3, standing my sentence in charge 1, you'll be admonished and disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of three years.”