Mother's campaign goes to the top

GRIEVING mother Denise Downing is today waiting to see if her campaign for tougher sentences for hit-and-run drivers will change the law.She has sent 2,600 names on a petition to Home Secretary David Blunkett pleading for a mandatory jail term as a minimum for drivers who fail to stop at the scene of a serious accident.

GRIEVING mother Denise Downing is today waiting to see if her campaign for tougher sentences for hit-and-run drivers will change the law.

She has sent 2,600 names on a petition to Home Secretary David Blunkett pleading for a mandatory jail term as a minimum for drivers who fail to stop at the scene of a serious accident.

The former Ipswich mum has been on a crusade for justice since her son's killer was fined just £83 after colliding with him when driving illegally.

Marc Downing, 22, died after the accident while on holiday in Cornwall. The motorist, Hayley Matthews, admitted driving without insurance or an MoT, driving with defective tyres and failing to stop and report the accident.

At the time, Mrs Downing described the sentence as an "insult" and has called for drivers who kill accidentally while committing an offence to be charged with manslaughter.

She said: "When hit-and-run drivers kill, it should be manslaughter. The law should be changed; there has to be a deterrent.

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"I don't know how anyone can knock someone over and leave them to die in the road. What is the difference between having an illegal car on the road? It is still an illegal weapon.

"What is there to stop her (Matthews) getting into a car again?"

She admits that Ms Matthews did not intentionally set out to kill anyone, but questioned whether the law could stop her from doing the same thing again.

"My son came up with a good point. He pays £1,000 a year on car insurance, but he says, 'why bother if I'm only going to be fined £83," she said.

"If my petition can stop someone getting into a car illegally, it might save somebody."

Mrs Downing has been overwhelmed by the strength of public support for her case, which has seen more than five times her expected number of people sign the petition and brought her case national awareness after appearing on BBC 1's Real Story.

She also has the backing of Conservative MP Sir Michael Lord, who, she says, has agreed to write a letter to the Home Office pledging his support, but he was not available for comment.

However, a report by the Law Commission in 1996 recommended the abolition of unlawful act manslaughter, where a defendant kills accidentally while committing an offence.

The Home Office is still to decide whether to implement these suggestions.

Do you think the law should be changed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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