HMA v Declan Mayes

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 14 August, Lady Scott sentenced Declan Mayes to five years and three months imprisonment and disqualified him from driving after the offender pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

On sentencing, Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

“You have pleaded guilty in charge 2 to breaking into garage premises; in charge 3 to the theft of a Peugeot motor vehicle; in charge 4 to a contravention of s1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 that you caused the death of Mr Lionel Simenya by dangerous driving in the said Peugeot and in charge 6 to causing death by driving when you were uninsured to drive in contravention of S3ZB of the 1988 Act.

Circumstances of the Offences

On 7 March of this year Mr Mayes, you were out driving about with others on the streets of Edinburgh  when in the early hours  you  embarked on the criminal enterprise of  breaking and entering the garage in Fords Road with the intent to steal  car keys from within the garage. You bent metal bars and smashed a window to gain entry and removed car keys. On leaving you noticed a Peugeot motor vehicle parked for repair was parked outside. You proceeded to steal it to drive it away and an associate came in the car with you.

Also parked nearby was a van which belonged to the deceased Mr Lionel Simenya. At the time he temporarily slept in his van whilst he was working close by. He had worked as a chef and kept in the van, along with other equipment, the kitchen knife which was recovered after the collision from the road outside.

Two of your associates touched or tampered with the van. The deceased was asleep inside and he armed himself with his knife to go outside. He came out on to the road and chased your associates.

It is agreed that the view of the police collision investigation is that the driver of the Peugeot would have had a clear line of sight of Mr Simenya. It is your positon that you did see him - you say he ran past you with the knife in pursuit or your associates whilst you were starting to drive the Peugeot. 

It is also agreed in driving the Peugeot car you lost control, striking a fence and after reversing you then travelled a relatively short distance at the side of the road before colliding with a wall. Before you collided with the wall you must have collided with Mr Simenya and it is thought his foot or leg was caught in the vehicle whereby he fell down and you drove over him.

You have explained when you saw the man with the knife you went into a panic when you were driving off. Even accepting your explanation you were in a panic  - you have by your plea accepted that in the circumstances your driving was dangerous and caused the death of Mr Simenya and you have accepted full responsibility.

As a result of your conduct Mr Simenya has been killed. He was 35 years old. He went as a boy, aged 14, with his family from Burundi to Belgium. As an adult he then came to Scotland to work as a chef. The information before me shows a hard-working man -with his life ahead of him. It shows a good man, who was much loved albeit he was far from home. The victim statements I have read from his mother and his brother are heart breaking. They, and his extended family, have been devastated and will be forever bereft.

Sentencing Factors

In my consideration of sentence here I have had regard to the recognised sentencing guidelines and to the following factors:

(I)                 The seriousness of the s1 offence - how bad the driving was. This involves failures to pay attention and take avoiding action. Shown in the facts of the driving, colliding the car with the fence and the wall and the deceased, all within a short distance. The failure to have proper regard to, or look out for, vulnerable road users, especially when you knew the deceased and your associates were there.   Broadly as a starting point I have assessed this at around the low end of level 2, high end of level 3 of the guidelines.

(II)                I then have to consider any aggravating factors. And these are significant here. The fact at the time you were driving a stolen car (charge 2) and you were driving whilst uninsured (charge 6). Then that you have a significant record for such offences - 4 recent convictions for stealing motor vehicles; 2 for driving whilst uninsured and driving without a licence. You also have convictions for driving whilst disqualified and driving without a licence. Taken together this presents a picture of persistent road traffic offending. Finally this driving arose in the context of your being involved in the criminal enterprise to break into premises to steal cars keys and cars.

(III)             On the other hand I have also considered any features in mitigation and what has been said in your favour by counsel. You panicked and this was a fast moving event. You are only 21 years old. You have a young baby and the affect upon her and your partner. The Criminal Justice and Social Work (CJSW) report states you have thought hard about the consequences and you have real remorse. It was you who sought to make the early plea.

Balancing all of these factors I sentence you as follows:

On Charge 2, to 2 years imprisonment to run concurrently with the sentence on charge 4.

On Charge 3, you are admonished and your licence endorsed.

On Charge 6, you are admonished.

On Charge 4, you are sentenced to 5 years and 3 months imprisonment which is discounted from from 7 years to reflect your early plea. This is backdated to 18 March 2019.

In addition on charge 4, you are disqualified from driving and applying for a driving licence for a period of 8 years and 7 months. The disqualification imposed includes a mandatory extension period of 2 years and 7 months in terms of s35C of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. You will require to re-sit the extended test of driving competence prior to obtaining a new licence.”