HMA v Thomas Curry

At the High Court in Livingston today (18 October 2019), Lady Scott sentenced Thomas Curry to 6 years’ imprisonment after he pled guilty to dangerous driving resulting in the death of a man.

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

“You have pleaded guilty to an amended charge 1 on the indictment of driving dangerously whereby you caused the death of Robert Sharp in contravention of s1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Circumstances of the Offence

On 26 July 2017 in the afternoon, you were driving a Peugeot car on the southbound carriage way on the A74 motorway. Your friend the deceased Robert Sharp was in the front passenger’s seat. Key features of your driving were –

(1)  At about 15.37 a speed check recorded you driving at 90 miles per hour.

(2)  A short time later, at about 11 ½ miles further down the A74, another car began to overtake you. You then moved directly into lane 3 causing the driver of the other vehicle to brake sharply and veer into the rumble strip on the central reservation in order to avoid a collision. Another motorist following behind was so concerned at your driving he called his work to get them to call the police.

(3)  A short time later, at about 7 miles further down the A74, after overtaking another car, you then drove across the motorway from lane 3 to lane 1 whereby you caused your car to collide with the rear offside trailer of an articulated lorry driving in lane 1.

As a result of the collision your car left the road, travelled upon the embankment and crashed into a fence. Other drivers ran to help and seek assistance. You were found injured with a deep cut to the head. Mr Sharp was found trapped in the passenger seat and unresponsive. He was removed from the car by fire officers and airlifted to hospital.

He had sustained catastrophic head injuries. He died at 23.40 hours. His death was caused by your driving.

Robert Sharp was born into a large family, the youngest of 5 brothers and 2 sisters. Tragically, his family had already lost siblings making this loss even harder. Now only two brothers remain. Just as Mr Sharp felt his life had changed for the better it was taken from him and his remaining extended family are left devastated and forever bereft.

Sentencing Factors

I have had regard to the recognised sentencing guidelines and to the following factors:

1. The seriousness of the s1 offence - how bad the driving was and the degree of foreseeability of harm. This assessment must look at the driving in the context of the whole libel. I assess that this as a course of bad driving which was prolonged and persisted in.  It also involved driving at a high speed in excess of the speed limit. Your driving manoeuvre into lane 3 caused another car to veer onto the central reservation to avoid a collision. This was driving that caused alarm and was obviously dangerous. Notwithstanding this, you then proceeded to cause the crash.

Even if I accept you fell asleep and you drifted across the motorway - this happened in circumstances where you knew you were very tired, very upset and, shortly beforehand, you had had a near collision.

Broadly, I assess the starting point of the sentence to be within level 2 of the guidelines.

2. I then have to consider any aggravating factors.  A substantial aggravation is your bad driving record albeit some convictions are of some age. You have a conviction for dangerous driving; two convictions for driving without a licence; three convictions for driving without insurance and two convictions for driving whilst disqualified.

You also have numerous convictions for aggravated vehicle taking and have received sentences of imprisonment on a number of occasions.

3. On the other hand, I have also taken into account any features in mitigation and what has been said in your favour by your solicitor advocate. In particular, the background of you having been very upset at the time and of you having mental health issues.

4. Further the factors of that:

You have expressed remorse.
The deceased was your close friend.
You tried to assist at the scene.
That you sustained an injury.
The fact that you pleaded guilty in advance of trial.

Balancing all of these factors, I sentence you to a sentence of imprisonment of 6 years which is discounted from a sentence of 7 years in view of your plea.

In addition, you are disqualified from driving and applying for a driving licence for a period of 7 years. The disqualification imposed includes a mandatory extension period of 3 years 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."