The family of a biker who was killed in a crash labelled the court “disgusting” and “a joke” after the young motorist who caused the tragedy was sentenced.
During an emotional and protracted hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court this morning (4 May), Toby Clay pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
The 20-year-old HGV mechanic turned into the path of oncoming motorcyclist Paul Patterson on the B4019 near Highworth on 2 June last year – killing him instantly.
Prosecutor Tom Power said the defendant cut the corner as he turned off the main road towards his home in Skinners Close, Hannington, whilst driving his Lexus.
He told the court that the offence “isn’t at the top end of the sentencing guidelines when you look at the aggravating factors”, adding that the collision was caused by Clay’s “momentary inattention”.
Mr Power told the bench that the defendant has no previous convictions or points on his licence and only came into court through the back door for his “own welfare” following an altercation with the victim’s family in the lobby.
Defending, Lee Mott said: “There’s nothing that I can say, or indeed on Mr Clay’s behalf that will make this any better”, before telling the court they must follow the sentencing guidelines.
He described them following them as a “very cold, very clinical” way to establish the correct sentence, adding that it is “the way of the law”.
Mr Mott continued: “You’re statutorily obliged to take into account the sentencing guidelines.
“I make that point very clear from the outset because there is no doubt that there will be those going away from this hearing that feel that justice may not have been done.”
He took the bench through the guidelines, which clearly and undisputedly placed Clay’s crime in the lowest of categories – confirming that his client stayed at the scene, was travelling at or below the speed limit and accepted his wrongdoing from the moment he was interviewed by the police.
Mr Mott added: “He had been to that junction many times, it’s the road that takes him to where he lives, he was careless. He became familiar, he affectively pulled up to that junction and took it in a manner that he shouldn’t have done.
“He accepted that in his [police] interview and he accepts that he wasn’t taking the care required during that manoeuvre.”
Following a 15 minute retirement, chair of the bench Martin Clarke delivered Clay’s sentence.
He said: “It has been a very emotional day for everybody.
“The charge at which you face is causing death by careless driving, not the high one of dangerous driving. So it’s a lesser tariff in terms of a sentence.
“Taking everything into consideration, and this comes from both the prosecutor Mr Power and your defence solicitor Mr Mott, it is in the lowest bracket for this particular offence and we must sentence accordingly.”
He imposed a 12-month community order with the requirement to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, a £95 surcharge and a 12-month driving ban.
Mr Clarke added: “It is that we have to follow the guidelines as Mr Mott said, some sentences don’t appear to be fair for people’s opinions. But at the end of the day, the law is the law and we must follow what that law says.”
A member of Mr Patterson’s family clapped loudly before shouting “well done”.
Moments later, as the family were asked to leave the courtroom by legal advisor Juen Batchelor, another voice said: “It’s disgusting, it’s a joke, you’re a joke”.