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When deciding a sentence, a judge must deal with the offence that the offender has been convicted of, taking into account the unique circumstances of each particular case. The judge will carefully consider the facts that are presented to the Court by both the prosecution and by the defence.
Read more about victims of crime and sentencing.
HMA v Darren Morrison
May 25, 2023
In sentencing, Sheriff Kerr said:
“Darren Morrison, you were convicted by a jury of causing serious injury to Julie Welsh by dangerous driving.
The harm which you caused to Julie Welsh is devastating and permanent. Her injuries were life threatening.
I will list only the most serious of them:-
She suffered a traumatic brain injury
Extensive lower leg injuries
Extensive pelvic injuries
She suffered a miscarriage of her unborn child.
Almost 2 and a half years after the collision, Julie Welsh remains in hospital under 24 hour specialist care. She has severe brain damage, to the extent of having no awareness of her surroundings; she cannot communicate; she requires medical assistance to breathe; she is fed through a tube. She is blind in one eye.
She has had a total of 10 surgeries, including amputation of both of her legs below the knee. She has no independent mobility.
Julie Welsh was unable to participate in the trial process herself but some of her family members have provided Victim Impact statements which make it plain that life as she knew it as an active young mum is over. All of them, and particularly her young child, have lost her society.
A number of civilian witnesses spoke to your speed being excessive for the particular road conditions. There was evidence of your speed increasing as you travelled uphill immediately before the collision.
As you journeyed along that road for a number of seconds you failed to observe a pedestrian pull her dog back from the road in reaction to your speed.
You failed to observe that road markings were present to alert drivers to the hazards created by a hill and a junction on the crest of the hill.
According to your own evidence you missed a turning because of talking within in your vehicle.
You failed to adjust your speed, and you failed to observe Julie Welsh crossing the road. The road was over 10 metres wide and she had made it most of the way across when your vehicle struck her.
There was cogent expert evidence that she should have been visible to you for a number of seconds. You had travelled on the road for 160 metres to the point of impact.
One of your passengers observed her before you did and shouted to alert you.
You adjusted your speed only after you struck her.
Contrary to what you suggested, all of this amounts to more than a momentary lack of attention.
For a sustained period your driving fell far below the standard to be expected from a careful and competent driver.
I take all of this into account in imposing sentence.
I also have regard to all that has been said on your behalf and to the terms of the CJSWR prepared for this hearing. The terms of that report are favourable to you.
I also have regard to the following matters:-
I consider it relevant that a matter of months before this collision you had your driving license endorsed with 3 penalty points in relation to a separate matter which involves a lack of observation.
You are a young man. You have expressed appropriate remorse and empathy towards Miss Welsh to the writer of the CJSWR who judges those emotions to be genuine.
You have experienced an understandable downturn in your mental wellbeing as a direct result of this matter.
However, you are a young man who has been robust and mature in overcoming a degree of childhood adversity to the extent that you have a good work record and secure relationships.
You have no criminogenic needs or risk factors which require intervention.
Having regard to all relevant factors, I have reached the conclusion that the only appropriate sentence to reflect the gravity of your offence and harm caused by it, is a custodial one. The sentence I impose will have regard to the fact that you were 18 years old at the time of the offence and are currently 20 years old.
I sentence you to a period of custody of 2 years.
That sentence will run from today.
In addition you will be disqualified from driving for a period of 8 years , being a period of 7 years plus a period of 1 year representing one half of the period of custody imposed.
At the conclusion of the disqualification period you must sit and pass an extended test of driving competence before you can apply for a driving licence."
25 May 2023