HMA v THOMAS KEVIN IRVINE

On 11 January 2011 at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Pentland sentenced Thomas Irvine to nine years imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. Thomas Rarity and Anthony Gordon died following an accident on the A737 road on 31 January 2009.

On sentencing Lord Pentland made the following statement in court:

"Thomas Kevin Irvine, you have pleaded guilty to causing the deaths by dangerous driving of two men on 31 January 2010. These two men had commendably gone to the assistance of another motorist, whose car had been involved in an accident. On a straight section of a dual carriageway where you should have had an excellent view ahead, you drove at an excessive speed past a number of cars which had stopped (some with their hazard warning lights on) in the nearside lane because of the accident. You crashed into Mr Rarity, who was standing on one side of the overturned car, then into the car itself, causing it to strike Mr Gordon, who was on the other side of it. It would seem that, unlike the other drivers on the dual carriageway that evening, you failed to see the accident ahead of you, at least until it was far too late to avoid a collision. It is clear that you were driving much too fast in the circumstances.

I consider that your dangerous driving comprised not just driving at an excessively dangerous speed, but also gross inattention to an obvious hazard, which you had no excuse for failing to notice. But what makes matters even worse is that you were at the time considerably under the influence of alcohol and unfit to drive at all. According to what you told the police, you had been drinking the previous day. Then, having had nothing to eat on the day of the accident itself, you went to a public house in Paisley after work where you had several pints of lager. At the time of the accident you had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in your blood. As a result of this, your judgement must have been gravely impaired and you were clearly unfit to be driving.

The catastrophic outcome of your reckless and grossly irresponsible conduct extends well beyond the tragic fact that two men lost their lives in circumstances where they had gone to the aid of another motorist; their families and friends have also suffered and will continue to suffer great pain and distress. The sentence I impose today should not be thought of as an attempt to measure the level of suffering you have caused to many others; that is not something that a sentence of the Court can compensate for. Clearly, I cannot undo any of the devastation you have brought about, but I can (within the applicable legal framework set by Parliament) attempt to reflect society’s strong condemnation of drunken and dangerous driving in an effort to deter others who may be tempted to take the type of chances that you were willing to take.

I take account of your previous good driving record and of the regret that you have instructed your counsel to express. I have also considered the terms of the Social Enquiry Report and all that has been said in mitigation by Mr Stewart. I note that you have no analagous criminal record and that you have previously made a positive contribution to society.

Having regard to the relevant case law and guidance in relation to sentencing for this particular statutory offence, I consider that the appropriate sentence to mark the level of your culpability in the whole circumstances would have been 11 years imprisonment, had you not pled guilty. As the law requires me to do, I shall discount that period to reflect your guilty plea. I note in this connection that the evidence against you was overwhelming and that you had no realistic option other than to plead guilty. In these circumstances, the sentence I impose today is one of 9 years imprisonment from 10 December 2010.

In addition, you will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 12 years. At the end of this disqualification period, you will require to pass an extended driving test before you can drive again".

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