It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon, and to follow the incredibly powerful speech from my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick. I extend my sympathies to the families here today.
The tragic case of Violet-Grace, like the others we have heard about, starkly illustrates the devastating results that can occur when people recklessly ignore the rules of the road and drive dangerously. That is a reminder of just how important it is to get the law right—but in this context, it is increasingly clear that that is simply no longer the case. The sheer number of members of the public who have thrown their weight behind this campaign shows the strong desire for a law that fits the crime in instances of death by dangerous driving. Sadly, that feeling is known to many of my constituents—in Barnsley East, we have shared in our own tragedy.
According to Library figures, there were 293 traffic accident casualties in my constituency in 2017. Of those, 62 were serious and four fatal. The following year, Brierley’s Jacqueline Wileman was hit and killed by a HGV lorry that had been stolen by four men, who joyrode the vehicle around Barnsley for two days. They damaged cars, injured pedestrians and nearly killed a man, stopping only when they crashed into a house while travelling at a speed at least twice the limit. Sadly, that was not before they hit and killed Jackie on her daily walk through the village. All four men had criminal records, with nearly 100 convictions between them—some were for driving offences, including one for death by dangerous driving. One man pleaded guilty and the other three were also convicted, but with plea deductions and time on licence, all will serve between five and just over six years. That is a huge blow to an already grieving family—Jackie’s life was taken, and their lives have been torn apart since that day.
It goes without saying that Jackie’s family have wondered whether one of those involved would have been free to acquire this second sentence if he had been given a longer and more appropriate sentence for his first conviction for death by dangerous driving. The turmoil that they have gone through is indescribable, and what’s more, the judge who sentenced those responsible agrees. His hands were tied by the 14-year maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving, and he admitted that the increase was unfortunately a matter for Parliament, not for him.
So what are we waiting for? Expert judges, the public—demonstrated by the petition’s support—and MPs across the House all support an increase in the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving. More importantly, so do the Government, who have the power to increase the maximum sentence. The Minister is aware of the importance of that, having met Jackie’s family and me just a few weeks ago.
I implore the Government not to ignore the cases of Jacqueline Wileman, Violet-Grace, and others tragically killed by dangerous driving. Increase the sentence now, provide a genuine incentive to avoid driving dangerously, and give judges the ability to take those who do so off our streets. We in this House must do everything that we can to ensure that nobody else has to suffer like the families we have spoken of today.