'No justice for my daughter'

AN OUTRAGED mother today hit out at the justice system after a teenager who drove the car which crashed and led to her daughter's death walked out of court with “only a slap on the wrist”.

Grant Sherlock

AN OUTRAGED mother today hit out at the justice system after a teenager who drove the car which crashed and led to her daughter's death walked out of court with “only a slap on the wrist”.

Vici Gaecke said the law had failed her family and there had been no justice for 15-year-old Sarah after repeat offender Samuel Clements appeared in court.

The 19-year-old was fined just £25 for driving without a licence when he crashed his unroadworthy Renault 19 near Nacton on the A14 on December 21 last year in a catastrophic accident which claimed Sarah's life.

And for driving without insurance he was handed a £200 fine and eight penalty points.

It was only due to the fact he had been caught committing the same offence before that led to him being given a 12-month driving ban when he appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court yesterday.

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Today Ms Gaecke, of Nacton Road, Ipswich, said: “It has ended my daughter's life and destroyed my family and what has he got? “Nothing. There's no justice. There's been no closure whatsoever.

“The fact he was in court last year charged with doing the same thing just twists the knife even further.

“If he'd been imprisoned there would have been justice for Sarah. He needs to take on some responsibility for what he's done.”

Clements, of Wellington Street, Ipswich, pleaded guilty to driving without insurance, driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence and using a motor vehicle with a defective tyre when he appeared before magistrates.

The court heard that the trainee forklift driver, who only has a provisional licence, lost control of the Renault, which he had purchased just two days before, while driving toward Ipswich with two passengers, one of whom was Sarah, at about 7.40pm four days before Christmas.

Three days earlier Sarah, a Holywells High pupil, had celebrated her 15th birthday.

An inquest held at the same court in Elm Street last week saw coroner Dr Peter Dean record a verdict of accidental death after a policeman gave evidence that tests had shown it was most likely the badly defective tyre on Clements' car that caused him to lose control.

The inquest heard that Sarah had survived the crash but was hit by another vehicle as she tried to scramble clear.

The magistrates heard yesterday due to the circumstances Clements had not been charged with any offence in connection with causing her death.

Sandra Dyer, prosecuting, said: “He lost control and rolled the car along the nearside embankment. It ended up on its roof in lane one.

“At the time he didn't have insurance for the use of the car and he didn't have the necessary driving licence.”

Clements had little to say about the crash in court, other than telling chairman of the magistrates Anthony Baker it was “a tragedy” and that he wished he had “gone by the books” and not broken the law.

Mr Baker told him his choice to get behind the wheel had been “a deliberate act” and his crime was aggravated by the fact he had two passengers in the car.

Clements was also fined £40 for the defective tyre and had his licence endorsed for that offence and driving without a licence.

He was ordered to pay £65 toward court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

SARAH Gaecke's heartbroken mum today called for harsher penalties for people who drive without a licence.

Vici Gaecke said she felt like Samuel Clements had got off “scot-free” after he was sentenced.

She welcomed the impending introduction of a new law which could see drivers charged with causing the death of another whilst driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured but said until it was in place other families could face a similar misery being endured by hers.

“This new law might change a few things but right now they're still doing it. Until that message is got across to these youngsters that it's not just their life they're messing with, nothing is going to change,” she said.

“If he (Clements) had got a harsher punishment last year he may have never got in that car with Sarah,” she said.

“It would have impacted on him more if he had got community service. What does he care about having a ban because he hasn't got a licence anyway?”

And a senior road traffic policeman with Suffolk police today warned that inexperienced drivers getting behind the wheel without a licence was as deadly as arming them with a gun.

Inspector Trevor Sharman, from the roads policing unit at Suffolk police's Martlesham headquarters, said: “Driving a car without the appropriate licence is like putting a gun into an inexperienced person's hands. A car is a weapon, this case demonstrates the results that weapon can inflict on other people.”

He added: “He (Clements) was driving unlawfully and therefore he has presented the occupants of his vehicle with the risks that he took. The long-term consequences of his actions will be borne by Mr Clements.”

SAMUEL Clements was caught driving without insurance and driving without a licence for the first time in March last year.

In September he had six penalty points put on his licence and was fined £60 for the offence of not having insurance. For driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence he was fined £20.

Since the eight penalty points placed on his licence after the latest offence of driving without insurance pushed him over the threshold for a ban, he received an automatic disqualification yesterday but the magistrates chose to make this for a year rather than the minimum six months.

Afterwards Clements warned others not to make the same mistakes.

Speaking publicly about the crash for the first time, he said: “Anyone that drives without a licence shouldn't do it.

“It's been a nightmare. I'll never forget about it.”

He said Sarah Gaecke had been a friend and that after the crash he had visited the crash scene to lay flowers in her memory.

He warned other young drivers: “Don't sit behind the wheel unless you've got a full licence and insurance.”