HMA v Mikey James Durdle

At the High Court in Aberdeen today (5 March 2020) Lord Arthurson sentenced Mikey James Durdle to 3 years imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

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

“Mikey James Durdle, on 27 January 2020 at Edinburgh High Court you tendered a plea of guilty under section 76 procedure to an indictment libelling a single charge of causing the death of Kyle John Robertson, aged 20, by dangerous driving on 25 February 2018 on the A835 at Garve.  No previous convictions have been made available by the Crown, although I was on 27 January advised that you currently have three points on your licence for a non-driving construction and use offence.  You are yourself now aged 23 and you were aged 21 at the time of the crime libelled on the present indictment.

The agreed narrative in this case makes plain that at about 2.00pm that day you drove your vehicle at a greatly excessive speed in an overtaking manoeuvre onto the opposing carriageway and thereafter into collision with the vehicle being driven by Mr Robertson, who was not known to you.  Your dangerous driving caused his vehicle to leave the road, cross the verge onto a railway line and to strike a tree on the far embankment.  The speed limit was 60mph and you were certainly in the course of your overtaking manoeuvre driving at a speed well in excess of 80mph at the time of the collision.  Members of the public commendably stopped their own vehicles to render what assistance they could to Mr Robertson, including a nurse, a former ambulance technician and a fire service section manager who was travelling in connection with another duty.  At 2.41pm a first responding doctor pronounced Mr Robertson’s life extinct.

I have listened with considerable care to the submissions advanced on your behalf by your senior counsel this morning and have in addition read the many supportive character references in respect of you together with a report from Highland Trauma Services which have all been lodged prior to this hearing.  The author of the background report prepared upon you has assessed the remorse which you have expressed to be genuine and has himself assessed you as presenting a very low risk of reoffending.  The author of the Trauma Services report has made a similar assessment concerning your remorse. You have a good employment history, a supportive family and a girlfriend.  You have further fully accepted your criminal responsibility in this matter, not least through the tendering of a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity available to you in these proceedings.

It falls to me to determine your level of culpability in this case.  In doing so I have had regard to, as I am entitled to do, the Definitive Guideline regarding this offence issued in August 2008 by the English Sentencing Guidelines Council.  In terms of the categories or levels set out in that helpful guideline, I have concluded on the basis of the whole circumstances before me that your driving manoeuvre in this case created a substantial risk of danger rather than simply a significant one but that your offence falls squarely within the lower half and below the mid range of that middle category.  Your driving, albeit that this comprised a single manoeuvre on your part, was plainly fraught with danger to other road users on the occasion we are dealing with.

On any view therefore no sentence other than a custodial one would be appropriate, and having so determined your level of culpability on the whole facts under reference to the said guideline, I accordingly as a first stage in the present sentencing exercise select an intitial starting point custodial tariff of 5 years.  There are no aggravating features in your case.  There are, however, substantial personal mitigatory factors, including your driving record to date and the remorse which you have subsequently demonstrated.  I also note in particular that you stopped traffic on the westbound carriageway after the accident, and, by way of assistance at the scene, you and others lifted Mr Robertson out of his vehicle prior to the commencement by others of CPR.  In addition I note and accept the submission of your senior counsel about the eye witness evidence regarding the contribution made by Mr Robertson in respect of the collision itself. Having regard to that mitigation advanced in terms of the Guidelines I propose to select a reduced starting point custodial tariff of 4 years and 6 months.  You are, of course, entitled to a discount on that figure in recognition of the utilitarian value of your guilty plea, which in this case means that the maximum discount requires to be applied to that reduced starting point tariff.

You will accordingly serve a sentence of 3 years imprisonment, to run from today’s date.  I confirm that, but for the early timing of your plea, that period would have been one of 4 years and 6 months.

You will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a total period of 7 years and 6 months, which period comprises a period of 6 years discounted from 9 years due to the timing of your plea, plus a mandatory extension of half of the final custodial sentence imposed, all in terms of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 section 35(C)(4).  You will further require to sit a prescribed test of competence to drive before you can ever obtain a licence again. Your licence will be endorsed accordingly.

You are therefore going to prison today.  But you will serve your sentence, regain your liberty, resume your work and continue with your life.  You may in due course marry and have children and grandchildren.  Mr Robertson will not do any of those things, due to your criminal conduct on 25 February 2018.  His parents and siblings have sustained a grievous loss which no words expressed on your behalf by your senior counsel, no matter how sincerely meant these are, can ever heal.  Indeed, no sentence which this Court can pass upon you today can adequately measure or even begin to address the overwhelming and enduring scale of the pain which the family of Mr Robertson continue to endure, as has been made clear eloquently and most movingly within the victim impact statements prepared by Mr Robertson’s parents and sister which I have read in advance of this sentencing hearing.”