HMA v Ramsay Stevenson

At the High Court in Glasgow today (9 January 2020), Lord Matthews sentenced Ramsay Stevenson to 5 years imprisonment and disqualified him from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 11 years and 6 months after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

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

“You have pleaded guilty to causing the death of a young man, Cameron Donaldson, by a prolonged course of dangerous driving in the early hours of 1 October 2018.

Mr Donaldson, who was a friend of yours, was a rear seat passenger in the car you were driving.

I am well aware that no sentence I can possibly impose can mitigate the grief his loss has occasioned to his family and friends and particularly his mother. I have read a heart-rending statement in which she has set out in words what his death has meant to her but I am sure she found mere words to be inadequate. Nonetheless, I have to do the best I can, within the limits of what the law deems appropriate, to impose on you a suitable punishment for this grave offence.

Mr Donaldson, of course, was not the only victim. Your front seat passenger Pauline McDowell was severely injured, suffering fractures to her spine, to five ribs and to her right heel bone and left ankle, as well as a full thickness laceration to her bottom lip, the loss of two front teeth and bleeding on the brain. That resulted in her admission to hospital, where she caught a serious infection.

As if all of that were not bad enough, you had only a provisional licence, had no insurance and were on bail from 22 March 2018 in respect of other Road Traffic offences, including dangerous driving and driving without a proper licence and without insurance. I am told that the circumstances of those offences, in respect of which you have now pleaded guilty in the Sheriff Court and are awaiting sentence, are similar to the ones I am dealing with today, so it is clear that you did not learn from that experience and were quite prepared to break the trust placed in you by the Court.

The circumstances of your driving were narrated on the last occasion you appeared in court.

Police officers saw the car in a Tesco car park and, on checking, discovered that it was uninsured and that it had been declared as off-road.

They signalled you to stop but instead of doing so and facing up to your responsibilities you accelerated away and drove through a number of streets at grossly excessive speeds, reaching 90 miles per hour. Eventually you lost control and the car mounted a central reservation before colliding with a tree. The engine bay caught fire but, although Pauline McDowell was trapped in the front passenger seat and Mr Donaldson was lying bleeding and unresponsive in the rear footwell, your only thought was for yourself and you ran away and hid.

Luckily police officers were on hand to assist and they put out the fire.

On examination eventually you were found to have consumed amphetamine, MDMA, or Ecstasy, and Etizolam, all drugs which can affect driving. I take on board, however, that it is not possible to say when they were taken or precisely what effect, if any, they had in your case.

I have taken account of everything said on your behalf and the contents of the reports. You are a young man with a limited record. You plainly have very significant learning difficulties and suffer from ADHD.

However, the circumstances of these offences contain a number of aggravating factors which elevate your culpability to a very high level. I am referring in particular to the consumption of drugs, albeit it cannot be said what the effect of that was, the lack of a proper licence and insurance, the fact that you drove off to evade the police, the grossly excessive speed, the persistent and prolonged course of driving, the fact that Ms McDowell was injured in addition to the death of Mr Donaldson and the fact that you made yourself scarce after the collision.

As against all that I must balance the mitigatory factors which are present in your case. These are principally your age, your relative lack of record, your learning difficulties, your remorse for causing the death of your friend and the fact that you sustained a serious injury yourself. All these factors, principally your learning difficulties as set out in Dr Tansey’s report, mean that the sentence is reduced from what it would otherwise have been.

I must also give you credit for the fact that you pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing.

In all the circumstances, on charge 2 I impose imprisonment for a period of 5 years, including 6 months for the bail aggravation. It would have been 6 years and 8 months with the 8 months attributable to bail had the case gone to trial.

I disqualify you from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 11 years and 6 months and until you pass the extended test of competence to drive. The disqualification period would have been 9 years but I have to increase it by half of your custodial term. I should also say that after trial the disqualification period would have been 12 years, leaving out of account the period I have had to add on, so I have given you credit for your plea.

On charge 4 you will be admonished and dismissed and disqualified for 9 months concurrently. It is academic but it would have been 12 months after trial.

On charge 5 you will also be admonished and any licence you may hold will be endorsed.

On charge 7 you will be subject to a concurrent term of imprisonment of 6 months including 3 for the bail aggravation. It would have been 8 months with 4 for that aggravation after trial. The sentence is concurrent because it is all part of the same circumstances and I have taken account of it in looking at the aggravating factors which contributed to my assessment of the appropriate sentence on Charge 2.

The custodial sentences will run from 22 July 2019.”