Dangerous Driving — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:54 pm on 8th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston 4:54 pm, 8th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I compliment my hon. Friend Helen Jones for her excellent introduction and the work that she has obviously put into the debate. I pay tribute to other hon. Members who have contributed.

I praise the three people who have made the debate happen: Rebecca and Glenn, who are present in the Chamber, and Violet-Grace, whose tragic and senseless death is the reason for it. I praise everyone who has signed the petition, and I praise the St Helens Star and the whole St. Helen’s community for supporting Rebecca and Glenn’s tireless work to get their e-petition signed, to get the debate and to prevent something similar from happening in future.

Rebecca and Glenn are asking for the law to be changed and for a sentence that fits the crime: “Life sentences for Death by Dangerous Driving”, as the petition states. That will hopefully deter others from reckless driving, so that what happened to Violet-Grace does not happen to another child—or, if it does, so that those responsible receive a sentence that fits the crime they have committed, and that gives them the time necessary to reflect, to be rehabilitated, and to have proper regard for, consideration of and understanding of their actions.

The law must be improved for victims and survivors. In the case that we are discussing, the defendant’s barrister objected to the parents reading out their full impact statement and argued that the defendants would find it too upsetting. The judge accepted that, so the CPS barrister gave the parents a copy of the victim impact statement with the parts that they could not read out in open court highlighted. The whole purpose of the victim impact statement is the impact on the victims and the survivors, not the defendant. Guidance should be given to the judiciary that the overriding consideration is for the victim and their family, not whether the impact statement may upset the defendant.

We are asking for a sentence that fits the crime. Violet-Grace was a beautiful, angelic-looking four-year-old child. Some hon. Members may find the following upsetting—my family have not been able to say it or hear it. On Friday 24 March, she was simply walking home from pre-school and calling on her aunty and her four-year-old cousin with her nan. Her nan had lifted her up to carry her safely across the road, but had not put a foot on the road when she was struck by a stolen vehicle, which had been recklessly driven at 83 miles per hour in a 30-mile zone before it collided and mounted the pavement.

The stolen car that struck them was fitted with false numberplates and had a cloned key. The driver had no licence or insurance. The Independent Police Complaints Commission later reported that there had been complaints about the car being driven dangerously since noon that day. The driver and his passenger then fled the scene, running over Violet-Grace, who had been thrown 50 yards away. The passenger ran back to the car, stepping over the child again, to retrieve a bag that he needed. The whole incident was witnessed by her four-year-old cousin.

A fireman working in the area heard the noise and saw two young men running at speed. He ran to the main road, found the scene and Violet-Grace, and worked with a local dentist to resuscitate her. The driver fled the country and travelled to Amsterdam to “clear his head” by getting some weed. He then fled to Alicante.

Glenn Youen received a phone call at work to tell him to get to Whiston Hospital urgently. Rebecca, who was working in Warrington Hospital, received a similar call. She set off driving—sobbing—and spotted a parked police car. She got out, banged on the window and pleaded for help, so the police took her under blue light to Whiston Hospital. Violet-Grace’s injuries were horrific, and it was essential to move her to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Rebecca and Glenn were told that she could not survive her injuries. They knew her as a loving, caring child, always wanting to help others. They courageously decided to donate her organs to help to save other young children’s lives. They say that that is what Violet-Grace would have wanted.

It was suggested that Rebecca get into bed with Violet-Grace, but she was reluctant to do so with all the tubes and equipment around her. She was persuaded to do so. She prayed and pleaded, “Please breathe, please breathe.”

Violet-Grace passed away with the local priest, Father Tom Neylon, saying prayers around her. He checked the time: it was 11.58 pm on 25 March. He said, “Ah, today is the day that the angel Gabriel came down to tell Mary she is to have a baby called Jesus.” The family wept. Violet-Grace was the angel Gabriel in her school’s nativity play. She was so pleased, and she used to dance around singing, “I’m the boss of the angels, I’m the boss of the angels.” Her kidney and pancreas were donated to save the lives of two other young children.

Nan, a nurse who trained at Great Ormond Street Hospital, suffered numerous injuries and was in a critical condition. It was a miracle that she survived, but she had life-changing injuries. Grandad, a university lecturer, has had to retire to take care of her—all that while the driver was in Amsterdam clearing his head.

Earlier, I said that all we are asking for is a sentence that fits the crime that has been committed. The two men responsible for Violet-Grace’s death will serve less time in prison than she was alive—less than four and a half years. In fact, by pleading guilty, and with good behaviour, the driver might be out even sooner. I ask everyone here today, is that truly a sentence that fits the crime that was committed? I believe that most, if not all, of us would say no. Clearly, the 164,632 people who signed the petition would agree.