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HMA v Bill Russell Ray McKenzie


Jun 27, 2024

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, Lady Poole imposed a community payback order of 300 hours unpaid work on Bill Russell Ray McKenzie. He had previously pled guilty to causing death by careless driving. McKenzie has also been disqualified from driving for 5 years and must resit an extended test if he chooses to drive again


On sentencing, Lady Poole said:

“Bill Russell Ray McKenzie, you had been due to stand trial in the High Court on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.  However, on 20 May 2024 the Crown accepted your plea of guilty to a lesser offence of causing death by careless and inconsiderate driving. The case is in court today to sentence you for that crime.

On 17 September 2021 you were 18 years old.  It was late in the evening, and you drove your girlfriend and her friend to get ice cream.  You were driving through Pollok in Glasgow.  You were driving in the overtaking lane of a dual carriageway, with a speed limit at that point of 30 miles per hour, and one of 40 miles an hour some distance ahead.  Another car drove up in the inside lane.  It was driven by Jay Morrison, aged 19, who one of your passengers knew from school. 

Ahead of both of you were roadworks.  These resulted in a closure of one lane of the dual carriageway.  Your car was in the lane that both cars needed to be in to avoid those roadworks.  Both you and Jay Morrison were driving at excessive speeds.  Jay Morrison undertook you.  You accelerated to try to keep pace with him, and were travelling at about 45 miles an hour.  You eventually braked to let Jay Morrison into the lane in front of you.  But just after successfully crossing into your lane to avoid the road works, Jay Morrison lost control of his car at a bend in the road.  As a result, he lost his life.  By your plea of guilty, you accept that you drove carelessly and inconsiderately, in a way that contributed to the death of Jay Morrison. 

Jay Morrison’s death is a tragedy.  It continues to be a tragedy for the family and friends he left behind.  He was a valued son, brother and friend.  The pain his loss will have caused to those who loved him is incalculable.

In these circumstances, Jay Morrison’s family are to be commended for the compassion which they have shown towards you.  They have said that they wish no further pain to be caused to anyone else involved in Jay Morrison’s death.  In particular, they have shown grace by saying that they do not wish to see you imprisoned for what happened. 

I ordered a criminal justice social work report to assist me in determining how to sentence you, which I have taken into account.  I have also had regard to everything said on your behalf in mitigation, and reference letters provided on your behalf.

You are now 21 years old.  You have nearly finished a four year apprenticeship as a plumbing and heating engineer.  You remained at the scene of the crime and confirmed to the police you had been driving. You provided saliva and breath specimens which later tested negative for alcohol and drugs.  You have no previous convictions, and a good previous driving record since passing your test.

You are remorseful about the tragic consequences of your careless and inconsiderate driving.  Through your counsel you apologised to Jay Morrison’s family for your part in this. 

The Sentencing Guidelines for statutory offences of causing death by careless driving apply in your case.  I have watched CCTV footage and looked at photographs.  My view is that your speeding, while trying to keep up with Jay Morrison, and lack of consideration for the lane closure ahead and drivers in that lane, put this offence at level A in seriousness, despite the submissions before me about level B. However, there are a number of mitigating factors, including Jay Morrison’s contribution to what happened, your driving record, you remaining at the scene and assisting the police, your lack of any previous convictions, and your genuine remorse.

The Sentencing Young Persons Guidelines also apply in your case.  I have regard to your immaturity at the time.  You were 18 years old, and showed more risk taking and less good judgement or appreciation of the consequences of your actions than a person of full maturity. Your rehabilitation is an important consideration for the court, as well as punishment for the serious consequences of what you did and giving you an opportunity to make amends.  A custodial sentence should only be imposed if no other sentence is appropriate, both under the Sentencing Young Persons guidelines, but also because you have not previously served a custodial sentence.

Because of the gravity of your offence and its terrible consequences, I am satisfied that the custody threshold is met.  However, because of your plea of guilty, your age, your remorse, and the wishes of Jay Morrison’s family, in this case there is a suitable alternative to a custodial sentence, which is a community payback order.

The community payback order would require you to undertake a number of requirements that I am going to explain to you.  You should listen carefully as I will ask you firstly to confirm that you understand the terms of the order I would impose and secondly, that you are willing to comply with the order.

A community payback order is a punishment that requires you to pay back to the community for the offence that you have committed.  You would be subject to that order from today’s date. 

It would include a requirement to perform an unpaid work or other activity work requirement of 300 hours.  This work will be carried out under the instruction of your responsible officer who will be a member of the Criminal Justice Social Department that is a social worker with whom you must stay in touch.  They are responsible for allocating you to the work that you will undertake, which must be completed under their supervision and in a satisfactory manner.  You must report to this social worker as required.  This work must be completed within a period of 12 months from today’s date.

The order would also include an offender supervision requirement for the duration of the unpaid work requirement.  During this period you must attend appointments with your responsible officer at the place and times instructed, for the purposes of promoting your rehabilitation and monitoring of your unpaid work requirement. 

While the order is in force, you should report any change to your address and the times that you work to your responsible officer.

If you fail to comply with any of the requirements that are being imposed in this order, you will be reported back to this court and be dealt with for that failure.  The court will either issue a warrant for your arrest or you will be cited to come to court.  If it is proved that you failed to comply without reasonable excuse with the terms of any requirement, the court can fine you, revoke the order and deal with you as if the order had not been imposed, revoke the order and sentence you to imprisonment, vary the order to impose a new requirement or vary, revoke or discharge any requirement imposed by the order, or impose both a fine and vary the order.

This order is a sentence.  If your circumstances change while the order is in force, you or your supervising officer will be entitled to apply to the court to have the order varied, revoked or discharged.

I will therefore sentence you to a community payback order with an unpaid work requirement of 300 hours to be carried out within 12 months, and a supervision requirement of the same duration.  The Clerk will provide you with a copy of the order once the court rises.

Because I have already taken into account your guilty plea in deciding on a community rather than a custodial disposal, I have not discounted the number of hours of unpaid work you must perform.  I have however set the period of time within which they must be performed to try to ensure the unpaid work requirement is compatible with your current apprenticeship and work, to achieve a balance between you making amends and your rehabilitation.  I also impose a lengthy period of disqualification from driving or holding a driving test of 5 years.  In addition, your driving record with the DVLA will be endorsed, and you will be required to sit and pass the extended driving test should you wish ever to hold a driving licence again.”

27 June 2024