Aggravated Dangerous Driving

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 30th April 2003.

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Photo of Denis Murphy Denis Murphy Labour, Wansbeck 9:30 am, 30th April 2003

I am grateful to the House for allowing me this debate. I intend to cover a range of issues relating to aggravated dangerous driving. I shall focus on the tragic death of Rebecca Sawyer and call for a number of changes to laws relating to motoring offences.

The tragic events of the last new year's eve caused shock and revulsion throughout the United Kingdom. At 10.44 pm on Tuesday 31 December 2002, in Ashington in Northumberland, Mr. Steven Sawyer was driving his two children home after they had spent an evening at their grandparents' house. Mr. Sawyer was driving the family motor car south on Hawthorn road, towards the traffic light junction with College road and Sixth avenue, in an area with a 30 mph speed limit. Rebecca Sawyer, aged six, was strapped in the rear of the vehicle next to her younger sister, Kirsty, who was secured in a child seat. At the same time, a stolen Vauxhall Astra, driven by Ian David Carr, was travelling west at high speed towards the same traffic light, which all witnesses confirm was on red as he approached it.

Ian Carr had three passengers in the stolen vehicle, two men and a woman. The stolen Vauxhall Astra sped through the red light, crashing into the Sawyer family's car, with horrific consequences. The three members of the Sawyer family were seriously injured and taken to Wansbeck general hospital, where, tragically, Rebecca Sawyer died at 5 past 12 on 1 January 2003. Kirsty suffered critical injuries and had to be transferred to Newcastle general hospital's intensive care unit.

What of the fate of the driver and passengers in the offending vehicle? Eye-witnesses stated that after the collision the offending vehicle eventually stopped on the footpath directly outside an Asian-run shop. As soon as the car stopped, a male, described as tall and slim, was seen getting out of the driver's seat. That person ran off immediately and did not return to the scene. Shortly afterwards, the rear offside passenger door opened. A male and female left the car. The male ran off first, quickly followed by the female.

Ian Carr made no attempt even to check whether his passengers were injured, let alone to seek help for the terrible injuries he had caused. He did what he has always done: he ran away—a callous, cowardly act. Carr then went into hiding. Two of the three passengers gave themselves up to the police the next day, the third having been arrested near the scene. The three passengers showed the same total disregard for human life that Carr did. They made no attempt to offer assistance and must bear a heavy responsibility for leaving the scene of a serious crime without offering any help. Those were not the actions of innocent people.

At 4.57 pm on Tuesday 2 January 2003, Carr was traced and arrested at an address in Lynemouth, Northumberland, by a Northumbria police motor patrol and was taken to Bedlington police station. He was later interviewed in the presence of a solicitor, and confirmed that he was the driver at the time of the collision. Carr was described by the officers who interviewed him as showing no regret for the death of Rebecca or for the serious injuries that he had caused. He was described as being completely without remorse or compassion.

Carr had 89 previous convictions. One of his offences was committed on 14 October 1990. An Austin Metro car was stolen in Ashington. It was involved in high-speed races with another stolen vehicle. The Metro overturned at Woodhorn crossroads in Ashington while travelling at 90 mph. One of the passengers, Mark Wren, was flung from the vehicle and suffered serious head injuries. In all probability, he was killed outright. The driver of the vehicle tried to get Mr. Wren from the scene, but that was not possible, and he left Mark's body draped over a fence at the roadside before running away.

The driver then asked the other passengers to provide an alibi by saying that the deceased was the driver of the stolen vehicle. In fact, Ian Carr was the driver, and he was charged and convicted at Newcastle Crown court, and sentenced to 12 months youth custody for causing death by reckless driving, the maximum sentence permitted because of his age. Carr was described as arrogant, callous and uncaring. He showed absolutely no remorse. His only thoughts were for himself, which was exactly how he was described before he was sentenced for his latest terrible crime.

In passing sentence for that crime this year, the judge stated:

"The circumstances of this offence in which you caused the death of a much loved little girl, inflicted critical injuries to her baby sister and caused less serious injuries to her father have torn at the hearts of people throughout this region and indeed further afield as well.

Nothing I can say can begin to adequately describe the revulsion that the community feels at what you have done. Everyone is understandably appalled."