HMA v Donald Maguire

At Dunfermline Sheriff Court today, 10 January 2018, Sheriff Craig McSherry imposed a Community Payback Order with an unpaid work requirement of 300 hours on Donald Maguire and disqualified the accused from driving for two years after he pled guilty to causing the death of Bartlomiej Plachta and Monika Lewandowska-Ritchie by driving without due care and attention. On sentencing, Sheriff McSherry made the following statement in court:

"Mr Maguire has pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention and causing a collision which resulted in the tragic deaths of an eight-year-old child and his 36-year-old aunt. The child was in the rear passenger seat behind his aunt, the driver. The vehicle in which they were travelling was losing power and the driver pulled up with her vehicle’s nearside being off the carriageway. The vehicle’s hazard warning lights were on.

"The vehicle was seen to slow down and stop by two witnesses, one of whom was driving behind the accused’s lorry and another who was in the course of overtaking the accused’s lorry. The latter pulled back to allow the accused to move out. The evidence of these witnesses is that the accused did not move out or did he brake. The tachograph of the lorry confirms that he did not apply the brakes.

"The accused can offer no explanation for having caused this accident. He told the police that he saw the flashers of the vehicle which had stopped in front of him and he could not pull out because there was another car alongside him. He said he moved out as far as he could. He obviously braked but there was nothing he could do.

"This account is contradicted by the two witnesses who say that he neither braked nor moved out. There was no vehicle alongside the lorry. The evidence is that the accused failed to react to the presence of the stationary vehicle.

"In my view the fact that two people have died is an aggravating factor which I am bound to take into account. Having regard to the English sentencing guidelines there would appear to be no other such aggravating factors.

"In mitigation the accused is a first offender with a driving record only blemished by a couple of speeding offences. I am willing to accept that he did not place the blame on anyone other than himself.

"There was no course of bad driving in this case but it would appear a momentary loss of concentration in keeping a lookout on the road and the vehicles ahead.

"The accused has shown genuine remorse and has a daughter a couple of years older than the child who died and can to some extent empathise with the parents of the dead child.

"He did not leave the scene but attended the victims. I accept that what he said to the police, although untrue, was said not long after the accident when he was trying to explain his lack of action to avoid the stationary vehicle rather than an attempt to excuse his responsibility.

"I am bound to follow what is stated by Lord Eassie in HMA v MacKay that it was not the intention of Parliament that a prison sentence be universally imposed, supported by the appeal court in HMA v McCourt.

"The accused is a first offender with good character and apart from a couple of speeding offences, with an unblemished driving record. At the time of the accident he was employed as a HGV driver and accordingly quite experienced.

"I am further under obligation to consider an alternative to prison particularly where a person, such as the accused, has not served such a sentence.

"As a direct alternative to a custodial sentence, and as a discount, I am imposing a Community Payback Order with 300 hours unpaid work requirement in a nine-month period; together with a supervision requirement for 24 months; and he is to attend road traffic offenders’ group work programme. He is also disqualified from driving for three years, (discounted to two years) and ordered to sit an extended driving test."