Justice Secretary backs Ross and Clare campaign

January 30 2017

PEOPLE in the Downend area are being urged to support a campaign to increase the maximum sentence for dangerous driving to a life term.

PEOPLE in the Downend area are being urged to support a campaign to increase the maximum sentence for dangerous driving to a life term.

It follows the tragedy four years ago in which Ross and Clare Simons were killed when the tandem they were riding in Hanham was hit by a speeding car.

The driver, Nicholas Lovell, who was disqualified and had 69 previous convictions, was jailed for ten and half years and is expected to serve little more than five.

The maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years.  Ross and Clare’s family want to see it made tougher, especially for those who commit the offence when they are already banned from driving.

The Justice for Ross and Clare Campaign has been pressing its case since the deaths in January 2013 and met former Prime Minister David Cameron and the previous Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to urge them to action.

Now, backed by Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore, the family met the current Justice Secretary Liz Truss in Parliament on January 16. Their talks came a fortnight before the closing date for the Government consultation on whether to increase the maximum sentence.

Ms Truss told Ross’s parents, Dawn and Edwin Simons, and his sister Kelly Woodruff, that she wanted to see longer jail terms.

She said after the meeting: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses. While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.”

Kelly Woodruff, who lives in Oldland Common, was pleased that Ms Truss was backing the campaign.

She said: “The Justice Secretary was quite horrified – it really hit home. We asked her if something would be done by the close of this year and she said she thought it would be sooner than that. She was very committed.

“This is the time for change – it is going to happen and this is a chance for people to have their say. A lot of people in a community are affected by death by dangerous driving, such as the people whose house Ross and Clare were killed outside for example.

"This is the time for everyone to look at the consultation and decide what they want to see in any future legislation and to be listened to.”

Mr Skidmore urged local people to take part in the consultation and help make sure the sentencing rules were changed. He said the judge at Lovell’s trial had wanted to imprison him for longer but was unable to do so.

He  said: “The Justice Secretary was shocked by the case. I would urge all of those that have followed our campaign to add their comments to the consultation so that we can deliver life sentences to those that carelessly wreck the lives of innocent people."

To contribute to the consultation, visit the Ministry of Justice website - https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/driving-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury/  - or contact the team handling the submissions on 07580 701239 or email drivingconsultation@justice.gsi.gov.uk