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HMA v Darren Sturgeon


Mar 26, 2024

At the High Court in Aberdeen today, Lord Colbeck sentenced Darren Sturgeon to 8 years in prison. Sturgeon pled guilty to causing the deaths of John Laird and Michael McManamon by dangerous driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. He has also been disqualified from driving for 14 years.

On sentencing, Lord Colbeck told Sturgeon:

“Darren Sturgeon, on 27 February 2024 you pled guilty (by way a section 76 indictment) to a charge of causing the deaths of John Laird and Michael McManamon by your dangerous driving (contrary to section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988), and a further charge, under section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of causing death by driving whilst uninsured.

The circumstances of the offence and the tragic consequences were narrated to the court in detail when the case last called.

On the evening of 18 November 2022, whilst you were under the influence of alcohol; unfit to drive as a result of medical treatment (your right foot being so heavily bandaged that you could not wear footwear), and driving at grossly excessive speed your collided with the car then driven by John Laird, in which his friend Michael McManamon was a passenger, as it turned from Mill Street in to Kings Park Avenue in Glasgow.

Mr McManamon was pronounced dead at the scene while Mr Laird was taken to hospital but succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

You are 35 years of age. You have a number of previous convictions, one of which is for driving without insurance; and a conviction for drink driving which post-dates the present offences.

I have regard to all that is said in the CJSWR and to all that has been said on your behalf today by Mr Barr.

As was recognised by your counsel when the case last called, nothing said by you or on your behalf can offer comfort to the families and friends of Mr Laird and Mr McManamon.

The extent of that loss is apparent from the victim impact statements provided to the court. Nothing I can say or do, and no sentence any court could pass, can compensate for the deaths of Mr Laird and Mr McManamon.

The gravity of the crimes you have committed is such that there is no suitable alternative to a prison sentence. That is necessary to punish you, to seek to deter you and others from driving in such a dangerous manner and to protect the public from you.

I deal firstly with the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

The first step in sentencing is an assessment of the nature and seriousness of the offence. Two things determine the seriousness of an offence: the culpability of the offender and the harm caused, or which might have been caused, by the offence.

For the offence to which you have pled guilty, the law has fixed the level of harm, which is that death has been caused. The seriousness of the offence is, therefore, largely determined by your level of culpability.

I recognise that you did not intend to cause harm, however, the fact that by your own admission you were drunk, it appears to such an extent that you have no recollection whatsoever of driving that evening, and the speeds at which you travelled are each redolent of someone who was utterly reckless as to whether harm was caused. The fact that you chose to drive whilst your right foot was heavily bandaged reinforces that conclusion.

The risks inherent in driving at speed whilst impaired by the consumption of alcohol are self-evident. You either knew, or should have known, of the risks that might arise from your actions.

The sentencing guideline in respect of “Statutory offences of causing death by driving” sets out a number of features relevant to the assessment of seriousness.

In your case, the agreed narrative sets out what can only be considered as a prolonged and deliberate course of bad or aggressive driving, with a disregard for the danger that might have been caused to others, prior to the collision. You were impaired through the voluntary consumption of alcohol and drove at grossly excessive speed for the road.

Considering also your failure to provide a sample for analysis and the impairment caused by your heavily bandaged foot, coupled with your disregard for road markings and warnings given by other motorists, I am satisfied that your offence is one that is properly regarded as a Level A offence in terms of its seriousness.

That assessment provides, again by way of the death by driving guideline, a sentencing range of 7 – 12 years custody.

I then require to consider the aggravating and mitigating factors present in this case.

In terms of aggravating factors, there is the fact that more than one person was killed; your previous convictions, in particular those for road traffic offences; and your subsequent conviction for drink driving.

In terms of mitigating factors, I accept that there is considerable remorse on your part, however, the subsequent conviction for drink driving I have referred to – coming, as it did, only 5 months after the present offences – restricts significantly the weight that can be attached to that.

But for your plea of guilty, I would have sentenced you to 12 years imprisonment. The law requires me to allow you credit for that guilty plea. Having regard to the timing of your plea, you will go to prison for a period of 8 years. That sentence will run from 27 February 2024 when you were first remanded in custody.


In addition, your licence will be endorsed and you will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 14 years and until you have passed the extended driving test.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the 14-year disqualification comprises a period of 10 years that I impose in relation to the offence, and a further 4 years by way of the extension period, which I am required to add in terms of section 35C of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

Section 3ZB

In addition to the offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, you also pled guilty to a contravention of section 3ZB of that Act.

That offence is also covered by the sentencing guideline in respect of “Statutory offences of causing death by driving”. As you were driving whilst uninsured only, the offence is a Level B one, in terms of seriousness. That, in turn, gives a sentencing range of a Level 1 to a Level 2 community payback order.

In light of the sentence I have imposed in respect of charge (001), I do not propose to follow the guideline. To do so is impractical where a custodial sentence has been imposed on charge (001).

In relation to charge (002), I will impose a custodial sentence of 6 months imprisonment, which will run concurrently to the custodial sentence on charge (001).

In addition, your licence will be endorsed and you will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 15 months and until you have passed the extended driving test.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the 15 month disqualification comprises a period of 12 months that I impose in relation to the offence, and a further 3 months by way of the extension period.

The disqualification on charge (002) will run concurrently to that imposed on charge (001).”

26 March 2024