The father of a tragic teenager who was left dying on the road by a hit-and-run driver has said current sentencing guidelines are “pathetic” and need a complete overhaul. Iain Fryar was speaking out after the Scottish Sentencing Council published a public consultation on death by driving for first offenders.
An overhaul of sentencing guidelines for a raft of offences including sex offences and domestic abuse is being planned by the council in the coming months.
Shaun Gatti was driving at speed and on the wrong side of the carriageway when he knocked 15-year-old Robyn Fryar down as she crossed Glenburn Road, Paisley, at around 2am in July 2019. Gatti’s motor dragged the teenager’s body ‘for a distance’ before she was thrown forward after he hit the brakes during the horrifying accident.
Instead of calling for help, the killer fled the scene and tried to hide the badly damaged Volkswagen Golf underneath a tarpaulin sheet. He was sentenced to just five years in prison when he appeared before the court in 2020.
Last night Robyn’s heartbroken dad, Iain, said: “Getting that knock at the door or the phone-call from police is the worst thing you could ever go through. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Sentencing in this country is pathetic and in my daughter’s case it was shocking.
“We have the life sentence and it will die with us whereas the criminals spend a little time in prison then have their whole lives ahead of them. The punishment should fit the crime. If you kill someone then nothing less than life will do.”
Devastated Iain added: “I would urge everyone to take part in the consultation because you never know when something like this could happen to you. My daughter deserved better from the justice system.”
The draft guideline makes clear the differences between the statutory causing death by driving offences: causing death by dangerous driving; causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs; causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving; and causing death by driving: unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified drivers.
The guideline will serve as a template for the approach of the sentencing council’s future offence guidelines. Offence guidelines on certain sexual offences (rape, sexual assault and making, distributing or possessing indecent images of children), domestic abuse offences, and environmental and wildlife crime is currently being prepared.
It is also preparing a further general guideline on sentence discounting.
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland said: “Victim Support Scotland welcomes the Scottish Sentencing Council’s public consultation on this guideline. Losing a loved one due to driving offences is devastating and sentencing decisions can be difficult to understand. I’m pleased this consultation will let the voices of those who have experienced this to be heard. We will encourage our networks to respond.”
Chair of the Council and Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, said: “This guideline will bring significant benefits to both the public and to the courts. Causing death by driving offences are very serious in nature and are of significant public concern.
“They can be amongst the most complex and emotive cases before the courts and a guideline that explains how the sentences are decided, listing some of the factors taken into account, will be helpful to public understanding. The guideline will also assist in relation to the predictability of a sentence.
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She added: “In court, the guideline will assist judges in making what, at times, can be challenging sentencing decisions. There can be a significant difference between the harm caused – in these cases a fatality – and the culpability, or level of blame, of the offender.
“It is vital to us that we get the widest possible range of views and I would urge people to take this opportunity to help shape our first offence guideline, which will also serve as a template for future offence guidelines.”
A consultation paper, along with the draft guideline and a draft impact assessment, are available on the Council’s website. The deadline for responding is Tuesday 22 November 2022.
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