THE father of a schoolgirl who died after being hit by a banned driver has welcomed tougher sentences for motorists who cause death or series injury when driving while disqualified.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced that the law will soon be changed so that disqualified drivers could face 10 years in prison if they caused a death, and up to four years' imprisonment if they caused serious injuries.
The tougher maximum sentences are designed to reflect the impact on victims and their families.
Paul Houston’s daughter Amy, who was 12 at the time, died after being hit by a car when she ran into the road in Newfield Drive, Highercroft, Blackburn, in November, 2003.
The motorist, Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, who was disqualified from driving, ran away from the scene.
He was given a four-month jail term for driving without insurance and while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident. There was no specific law at the time against causing death through driving while disqualified. Amy's family successfully campaigned for a new law, which was dubbed “Amy's Law” in Parliament.
It created the offence of ‘causing death while driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured’, and the current maximum sentence facing a driver who causes death while driving when disqualified is two years' imprisonment.
There is no specific offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified.
Paul, 45, from Oswaldtwistle, said: “I’m absolutely delighted.
“We were hopeful they would raise it and they have.
“I’m normally critical of judges and MPs but on this occassion they’ve got it absolutely spot’on. Death is probably one of the greatest crimes you can commit in our society and the punishment should reflect that.
“At the moment it’s a bit low.
“If you’re driving while disqualified your driving ability is not considered to be safe, and you were told not to do it.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “The sentences have gradually increased over the years and I’m certainly keen on strengthening the sentences.
“At the time there was a shortage of prison places, but it’s eased a little.
“They’ve got some more headroom.”