HMA v DAVID SMILLIE MACDONALD

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Bracadale sentenced David Smillie MacDonald to 42 months in prison after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

On sentencing Lord Bracadale made the following statement in court:

 

"You have pled guilty to causing the death of Gordon Cooper in the early morning of 23 December 2010 by dangerous driving of your articulated lorry on the A9 which resulted in a collision between your vehicle and the articulated lorry being driven by him.

Mr Cooper was aged 57 years.  He was an experienced lorry driver who had been employed in the industry for many years.  He was a family man who leaves a widow, to whom he had been married for 27 years, and two sons.  The family will have to live with that loss.  It is clear that the untimely death of her husband has had a profound effect on Mrs Cooper.  In their victim impact statements both she and her son Daniel quietly and sensitively articulate just how much they miss Mr Cooper.

 

I am conscious that no sentence imposed on you today can bring back Mr Cooper or begin to compensate the Cooper family for their loss.  The sentence cannot, and is not intended to, measure the value of the life of Mr Cooper.

In sentencing you I have to have regard to the culpability of your driving.  You embarked on a long return journey between Elgin and Girvan driving a heavy goods vehicle through the day and night without taking adequate rest periods.  The predictable result was that you fell asleep at the wheel with devastating consequences.  All drivers must take care not to drive when they are too tired and for commercial drivers like you the regulations about rest periods are laid down with the specific purpose of preventing such catastrophic occurrences.

The law makes it clear that in these circumstances the only appropriate sentence is a custodial sentence.

You were driving above the speed limit for your vehicle which is an aggravating factor but I accept not one which was determinative in the accident.

You have a number of previous convictions for road traffic offences. Over a period of 5 years you have accumulated 7 such convictions.  While each looked at on its own is relatively minor, the pattern is indicative of a somewhat irresponsible approach to driving. 

That is an aggravating factor though I take into account the points made by Mr Smith in this regard.

I accept that you have shown remorse and are carrying a considerable burden in respect of what happened.  These events will also have a significant effect on your family.

I also take into account that you suffered very serious injuries as a result of the collision.  These will have a permanent and profound effect on you.

These are mitigating factors.

Balancing these various considerations and having regard to the guidelines and cases to which I have been referred, I conclude that the appropriate sentence, leaving out of account the stage at which you pled guilty would be 4 years and 9 months imprisonment.  In the light of the stage at which you pled guilty I shall reduce that to 42 months. 

Disqualification

You will be disqualified from driving for 7 years and will require to sit the extended driving test".