HMA v Christopher Taylor

At the High Court in Glasgow on 7 March 2018, Lord Beckett imposed a Community Payback Order on Christopher Taylor and disqualified him from driving for 22 months after the accused was found guilty of causing death by careless driving.

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

“Christopher Taylor, I have taken account of your personal circumstances and the lack of any convictions at the age of 30. You are the father of a young child who was in the car when you were driving when this accident happened. 

“Whilst your suffering from depression has had an adverse impact, you have nevertheless sought to take your family responsibilities seriously. You are seeking to improve your circumstances through education. 

“The jury found you not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and instead found you guilty of the lesser but still serious charge of causing death by careless driving and I am bound to sentence you on the charge on which you were convicted. 

“Nevertheless, as a result of the way that you drove, and in particular your error in overtaking on an undulating country road where you could not see far enough ahead, you caused an accident which had fatal consequences. 

“Yvonne Shann, a middle aged woman who was driving safely and responsibly died in a head-on collision which is entirely your responsibility. 

“There is no sentence the court can pass which can mark the value of the life lost. Her husband, her three sons, her sister and her wider family lost Mrs Shann with no warning and are left to grieve the permanent gap in their lives. 

“I have read of the terrible impact which this has had on her husband and the radical change it has brought about in his life. The loss of their mother has been a serious blow for her sons who are still struggling to come to terms with it. 

“I have considered the guidance contained in the Definitive Guidelines on sentencing for cases of this kind and, having heard the evidence, it seems to me that your driving was not at the highest end of cases of careless driving.

You made a misjudgement, albeit a significant misjudgement, in the dark on a difficult road in which oncoming traffic could be hidden from view by the configuration of the road. 

“You had been following a car for several miles and the manner of your driving had caused no concern to its driver prior to the accident. He considered that you would simply have been unable to see the oncoming car when you moved out to overtake. 

“You immediately stopped and did all that you could to assist the deceased. You waited at the scene for the police. Having observed you throughout the trial and seen and heard you giving evidence, I am satisfied that your remorse is genuine. These are relevant mitigating features in the particular circumstances of this case. 

“Since you have not been sent to prison before, I could only impose such a sentence if there was no suitable alternative. There are kinds of sentence which are intended to be an alternative to a prison sentence and in your case, notwithstanding the tragic loss of life, I am satisfied that I can impose one. 

“You will be disqualified from driving for 22 months, discounted from two years, and you will require to sit the extended driving test before you can drive again. 

“As an alternative to a prison sentence I intend to make a community payback order comprising an unpaid work requirement of 300 hours. This work must be completed within a period of 12 months from today. 

There is no allowance for your guilty plea as I have taken it into account in refraining from imposing a prison sentence. 

“A community payback order is a punishment that requires you to pay back to the community for the offence that you have committed and I am imposing this order as an alternative to a prison sentence.”