Crash dad in call for tougher sentences

A CALL has gone out today for tougher sentences for dangerous drivers after a man who caused a devastating accident was sent down for just 16 months.

Neil Puffett

A CALL has gone out today for tougher sentences for dangerous drivers after a man who caused a devastating accident was sent down for just 16 months.

Rob Gentry, 38, of Lonsdale Close, Ipswich, was left with a broken back after a car being driven by 20-year-old Portuguese national Davide Mendes ploughed into his VW Golf on July 10.

And although the father of two said he forgives Mendes for the incident he feels the court should have more power to hand down stronger sentences for extreme cases of dangerous driving.

As part of an appalling catalogue of driving, Ipswich Crown heard that on the day in question Mendes:

- got involved in a fight

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- fled in a car without a full licence or insurance

- jumped a red light

- drove the wrong way down Warwick Road

- sped along Woodbridge Road at up to 70mph

- clipped a kerb at 80mph, smashing into Mr Gentry's VW Golf

Despite this Mendes was sent to a young offenders' institute for 16 months as the maximum sentence for dangerous driving is two years.

He could possibly serve as little as half that sentence.

Mr Gentry said: “I have no anger to the chap involved, I just feel numb towards him.

“He is young and made a stupid mistake. I don't bear him any malice or have anger towards him.

“That might change though if in six months I'm told the damage is permanent although at the moment I'm getting stronger each day and trying to stay on the positive side.

“He seems genuinely remorseful which I was told on several occasions by police officers who interviewed him.”

Despite forgiving Mendes, Mr Gentry said both he and his wife Joanne feel courts should have the power to hand down tougher sentences where warranted for bad cases of dangerous driving.

He said: “Judges really ought to be freed up to take it case by case.

“There seems to be a broad scope of dangerous driving offences and the maximum two year sentence doesn't seem a lot for some cases.”

In delivering the sentence yesterday, Recorder Martyn Levett acknowledged that some people may think 16 months is too low.

He said although sentences for causing death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving had recently been increased the maximum for dangerous driving remained at two years.

- Should judges be able to hand down stiffer sentences for dangerous driving? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

- The court case

Mendes, of Orchard Street, Ipswich admitted dangerous driving, driving without insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with his licence.

In addition to the custodial sentence he was banned from driving for three years.

On the morning in question he had driven home from work at 6am with two colleagues and following an argument had become involved in a fight in Milner Street, Ipswich which resulted in the police being called.

When officers arrived Mendes jumped into his sister's Vauxhall Vectra and sped away, jumping

red traffic lights at the junction of Grove Lane and Warwick Road and driving on the wrong side of the road along Warwick Road at 50mph.

He turned left into Woodbridge Road and drove on the wrong side of the road causing a cyclist, who estimated Mendes' speed to be 70mph, to mount the pavement.

As Mr Gentry went to turn out of Khartoum Road into Woodbridge Road, Mendes clipped a kerb near the Case is Altered pub while driving at 80mph and careered across the road where he smashed into Mr Gentry's VW Golf.

In addition to suffering a broken back Mr Gentry of Lonsdale Close, Ipswich suffered an arterial bleed in his knee. He underwent hours of surgery, including an operation to fit a plate to his spine and although he is now able to walk with a stick he still has to wear a frame attached to his back and faces the prospect of further surgery.