HMA v JAMES MORAN

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Turnbull sentenced James Moran to four year and four months in prison after he pled guilty to causing the death of Peter Harper on the A876 in the district of Clackannan on 5 August 2011.

On sentencing Lord Turnbull made the following statement in court:

“I accept at the outset that you are a man who has worked hard throughout your adult life to contribute to society and to provide for your own family and to bring your own sons up to contribute themselves in a constructive way within our society.

Someone with your background, having no previous involvement with criminal activity, would understandably be devastated at the circumstances in which you now find yourself and would plainly also be devastated at the distress and loss caused by the conduct of which I have heard.

I accept of course that you are genuinely remorseful and have a clear insight into the consequences of your decision to drive on 5 August of last year.

I also accept of course that you did not intent to cause the death of another or to cause any injury or damage at all. However all who drive motor vehicles on our roads carry a responsibility not only for their own safety but for the safety of other innocent road users.

The level of responsibility which is carried by motorists is often only made clear in tragic circumstances such as this.

Mr Harper died as a 44 year old man in the prime of his life with a good and happy future in front of him. However as is so often the way in cases such as this, the destruction caused spreads far beyond the death of the individual.

Mrs Harper will have the burden of bringing up their young child on her own and he will be denied the lifelong benefits of a father’s care and guidance. Mr Harper’s daughter, although a young adult, has to cope with a similar loss and all of his other family members, including his own parents, have to cope with the devastation brought into their lives in consequence of Mr Harper doing nothing other than travelling to his work at 7.30 in the morning.

However it may be helpful if I make clear what my responsibility is at this stage. My responsibility is to assess the culpability involved in your driving.

In doing that I recognise only too well that no sentence which I can impose is capable of undoing the harm caused by the way in which you chose to drive in the early hours of 5 August last year.

Nor can any sentence of imprisonment reconcile Mr Harper’s family to their loss or alleviate their anguish. I do not have the power to do that and the sentence which I will impose is not an attempt to do so.

The sentence which I must impose is not designed to be a measure of the Harper family’s loss, nor is it designed to be a measure of the value of the life of a much loved husband, father, son and brother.

Indeed the sentence which I must impose will probably seem insignificant by comparison with the sentence which you have imposed upon that family.

When it comes to an objective assessment of the culpability involved in your driving I must take account of the deliberate decision you took to undertake a very long journey whilst having had little sleep and after having consumed alcohol.

These circumstances render this a serious case of its type given the predictable consequences which ensued.

However there are mitigating factors which I ought also properly and fairly to take account of. I alluded to some of these a moment ago and I accept in general the force of the sensitive submissions made on your behalf by Mr Smith.

I also accept Mr Smith’s categorisation of the case for the purposes of applying the case guidelines to offences of this type.

I am also required by parliament to consider restricting the sentence which I would otherwise think appropriate to reflect the utilitarian value inherent in your plea of guilty. I accept that this plea has a measure of utilitarian value but less than it would have had if tendered at an earlier stage.

You will be disqualified from driving for a period of 10 years and until you re-sit the extended test of competence to drive.

In all of the circumstances I consider that an appropriate sentence would have been one of 5 ½ years imprisonment.

In light of the plea of guilty I will restrict this to a period of 4 years and 4 months to date from 4 September 2012".