Calls for tougher punishments for drink drivers after Jennifer's death
- Credit: Archant
There have been calls for tougher punishments for drink drivers after a crash which claimed the life of a 32-year-old Suffolk woman.
Robert Lowe, from Peregrine Close, Clacton, was sentenced to six years and eight months in jail on Friday for causing the death of Jennifer Baker, from Claydon.
In addition to being jailed, he was banned from driving for six years and 10 months.
Lowe, 44, had been drinking in pubs and was more than twice the limit when he caused a head-on collision with Miss Baker’s vehicle on October 23, 2020, in Norwich Road, Barham. She died at the scene.
He had a previous conviction for drink driving from 2015.
John Scruby, spokesman for the Campaign Against Drink Driving, said he was hopeful the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill 2022 will act as more of a deterrent to drink drivers.
Previously, the maximum jail term in such cases was 14 years, but the bill gives the option of sentencing someone who has caused death by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to life imprisonment.
Mr Scruby said: “This sentence is clearly not enough. However, until this new bill comes into effect, we are left with these paltry sentences.
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“It is all down to the guidelines, which state that if you plead guilty in court, immediately 50% of your sentence is gone. Judges and magistrates' hands are tied by these guidelines.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, Tim Passmore, said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the lady’s family and friends. This dreadful action highlights the issue of drink driving, and the terrible consequences it can have.
“There is no excuse, at any time, for this kind of appalling behaviour.
“This perhaps calls into question, if someone has been convicted of a second offence of having consumed vast amounts of alcohol [before driving], which they know is against the law, is it worth considering if they should be banned forever from driving?
“For the tiny minority of people who think it is acceptable to act like this, sentencing needs to act as a clear deterrent.”
Sentencing 44-year-old Lowe on Friday, Judge Emma Peters said he had been driving entirely on the wrong side of the road when his Seat Altea hit Miss Baker’s VW Polo.
Judge Peters described Miss Baker, who had been returning from a dog walk with her partner, as a “wonderful young woman” and told Lowe that her family would never forgive him.
The court heard that Miss Baker died at the scene of the accident and her boyfriend, who’d been in the front passenger seat, had suffered serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury which had left him suffering from seizures.
Lowe had also been seriously injured.
Lowe, of Peregrine Close, Clacton-on-Sea, admitted causing Ms Baker’s death by careless driving while he was twice the drink-drive limit.
In a statement, Miss Baker’s mother Maria described the devastating impact her daughter’s death had on their family and said Lowe had shown a disgraceful “arrogant disregard” for her daughter’s life.
She described the anguish she felt at her daughter’s death and not being able to protect her as “unbearable” and said her hopes and dreams for her daughter had been shattered by Lowe’s “selfish” actions.
Jennifer’s father Andrew described his daughter as “ loving, affectionate, quick-witted and very special” and said he hoped Lowe would never forget the “terrible and unforgivable” thing he’d done.
Miss Baker’s partner Rhys Holbrow said her death had changed his life forever and described the devastating effect the injuries he had suffered had had on his career and life in general.
David McGowan, of Woodward Markwell in Ipswich, where Miss Baker worked as part of the management team, said her colleagues had been left devastated and heartbroken by her death and the company had set up an annual award in her honour.
Nicholas Bleaney, for Lowe, read out a letter from Lowe in which he said he was “truly sorry" for what he’d done and said he wished he could change places with Miss Baker.