HMA v SCOTT CLARK

Today at the High Court in Glasgow Judge Rae QC sentenced Scott Clark to four years imprisonment after he was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. Edna Watson died following an accident on the B751 Gatehead Road, Ayrshire on the 22 June 2009.

On sentencing Judge Rae made the following statement in court:

“This is a tragic case; tragic from a number of perspectives but principally tragic for the family and friends of Mrs Watson, who lost her life needlessly as a result of your wholly irresponsible behaviour in driving your vehicle at excessive speed on a country road, a road with which you were familiar, and in a car with which you were familiar, all because, apparently, you were in a rush to get to a golf match with your father. 

The evidence disclosed that you were driving so fast that, as your vehicle came over the crest of the hill, a blind summit, and, to quote a word used by a witness, “landed” on the other side, the undercarriage of your vehicle struck the roadway leaving a gouge mark on the road surface.  You then lost control of the car completely, crossed to the other carriage and collided with Mrs Watson’s vehicle with, what was described as a “massive impact”, and with such force that your engine became dislodged from its mountings and flew off onto the side of the road and Mrs Watson’s car ended up on its side in a field.

From tyre marks on the road, the police crash investigators estimated your speed as 82 Miles per hour plus or minus 10%, in other words between just over 74 and just over 90MPH.

There was some implied criticism by the defence of the configuration of the road but it was clear from the evidence that police witnesses were able to negotiate that road safely at the speed limit, namely, 60 MPH, without losing control. Obviously you were driving far too fast for that road with devastating consequences.  How many more of these wholly avoidable incidents do we have to see before the message gets across that motor vehicles are, potentially, lethal weapons, when driven at excessive speed?

You are, otherwise, a young man of good character and you have a promising career ahead of you. It is sad to see someone like you appearing in this court on such a serious charge.

Although your remorse was perhaps not apparent during the trial, you have expressed remorse to the social worker preparing the background report and that worker has noted that you seemed genuinely devastated that you had caused the death of Mrs. Watson.  To your credit you have always accepted responsibility for the crash and you offered, at an early stage, to plead guilty to causing death by careless driving, a much less serious charge.  But balanced against that, despite your comments to witnesses immediately after the crash when you admitted that you were speeding, you have since then never, in my view, accepted that you were driving over the speed limit to the extent that you were and this position appears to have been maintained in the background report.

The evidence presented at trial, on the other hand, would lead to a reasonable inference that you did exceed the speed limit by a significant margin.  Crucially the jury were satisfied that you were driving dangerously.

Inevitably you will be disqualified from driving and I require by law to order that you will require to pass the extended test of competence to drive before being permitted to drive again.  I should explain that, although disqualification is part of the punishment to be imposed in such cases, the very long periods of disqualification should be reserved for cases in which there has been a record of repeated offending against the Road Traffic Act and such disposals are designed, in part, to protect the public in the future from those who have histories of bad driving.  There is no such history of repeated offending in the present case and that has to be reflected in the disqualification period, which I shall set at 9 years.

Custody is inevitable in this case. I recognise however that no sentence which I can impose will ever compensate the family of Mrs Watson for their loss.  In any event, that is not the function of this court.  In selecting an appropriate sentence I have to have to regard to guidance given in prior decisions of the Court of Appeal in these sorts of cases. 

After considering all the relevant factors I have decided that the appropriate sentence in the present case is one of four years imprisonment backdated to 9 December 2010”. 

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