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HMA v Graham David Smith


Apr 26, 2023

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lord Arthurson sentenced Graham David Smith to 3 years imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. He was also disqualified from driving for 6 years and 6 months.

In sentencing, Lord Arthurson said: 

"Graham David Smith, on 29 March 2023 at Edinburgh High Court you tendered a plea of guilty by section 76 procedure to a single charge of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

On 16 December 2021 at 1509 hours while you were driving a Ford Transit van on the A90 Aberdeen to Ellon road, approximately one kilometre north of the off slip to the A975, on a divided dual carriageway, you failed to maintain proper observations of the roadway ahead of you, failed to observe a stationary vehicle encroaching into lane one of the northbound carriageway, failed to observe the deceased John Grover then changing a tyre on that vehicle whilst he was in lane one of the carriageway and failed to take evasive action to avoid him. You thereby struck Mr Grover with your vehicle, occasioning such catastrophic injuries to him that he died shortly after that collision while he was still at the locus.

Mr Grover had activated his hazard warning lights. It was daylight and there was good visibility. The weather was fine and dry. Subsequent sight line analysis established that Mr Grover’s vehicle would have been visible for approximately 450 metres. At the applicable speed limit for your vehicle, namely 60mph, that would have equated to 16.78 seconds. There were no vehicles driving in front of your vehicle which would have obscured your view of the road ahead. You did not react in any way to the presence of Mr Grover and his vehicle. You instead continued to drive in lane one and struck Mr Grover, with fatal consequences.

Mr Grover was initially conscious. Two off-duty paramedics and one off-duty police officer commendably stopped to offer assistance pending the arrival of the emergency services. Extensive emergency medical treatment was thereafter administered by a special operations medical response team. Mr Grover went into cardiac arrest and sadly succumbed to his injuries, with life being pronounced extinct at 1622 hours. At post mortem examination it was ascertained that Mr Grover had sustained, inter alia, a subdural and a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a fracture dislocation of the first cervical vertebra, hyperextension of the spinal cord, multiple rib fractures, a further spinal fracture, a laceration to the small bowel and multiple complex orthopaedic fractures.

Mr Grover left school to join the Black Watch, Royal Regiment of Scotland, in which he served for 24 years. He leaves behind a loving partner, two children and his wider family.  At the time of his death he had been head chef at the Fairview Care Home, Bridge of Don, and was held in high regard by both staff and residents. Mr Grover was aged 62 at his date of death. I have read very moving victim impact statements provided by his family members. You should be under no illusions in respect of the gaping and painful void left in the lives and hearts of many due to your criminal conduct in this tragic case. Equally, the court is well aware that no sentence that it can impose will or could fill that terrible void in the lives of Mr Grover’s loved ones and friends.

You are yourself now aged 60. You are married and have also served in the armed forces, serving for 27 years as a marine engineer with the Royal Navy. You have no previous convictions and have no penalty points on your driving licence. The criminal justice social work report which has been prepared for this morning’s sentencing hearing is in uniformly positive terms. You have expressed full and appropriate remorse and victim empathy. You are assessed as presenting a minimal risk of reoffending.

Your counsel has addressed the court on your behalf in mitigation. I propose to take all of the points which he has made into account in determining an appropriate disposal on this indictment. I note in particular, however, what has been said concerning your stable family and employment history, your appropriately remorseful attitude to this offence and the devastating effect that these events have had on you yourself.

In this case I am satisfied that the only appropriate sentence requires to be a custodial one, standing the gravity of the offence before the court. Inexplicably, and with adequate time, good visibility and a clear line of sight, you failed to have proper regard to Mr Grover as he worked on his tyre repair thereby encroaching into lane one of the carriageway, and by your dangerous driving you accordingly caused his death. You have a good driving record and in my view have expressed clear, consistent and authentic remorse for what you have done. You have additionally pled guilty to this indictment at the earliest opportunity.

In the whole circumstances I now sentence you as follows. But for the timing of your guilty plea I would have selected a custodial tariff of 4 years and 6 months in your case. Taking account of, as I require to, the timing and undoubted utility of that early plea, I now impose a sentence of imprisonment of 3 years. That sentence will run from today. In addition you will be disqualified from driving for a period of 6 years and 6 months, being a period of 5 years plus a period of 18 months, representing one-half of the custodial disposal imposed today. At the conclusion of that disqualification period you will require to sit an extended test of driving competence before you can apply for any future licence."

26 April 2023