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Killer hit-and-run driver’s sentence and ban highlights need for legal reform

Current laws encourage drunk drivers who kill to flee the scene and escape justice, say campaigners

A jail sentence and driving ban handed down before Christmas to a motorist who had been drinking when he killed a cyclist then fled the scene highlight the need for reform of the law, say campaigners.

Milan Gugyel was sentenced to five years 11 months in jail at Derby Crown Court last month after admitting causing the death by dangerous driving of 15 year old Adam Barry from Sandiacre on Saturday 25 April 2020.

> Jail for driver who had been drinking at illegal lockdown party and left teen cyclist to die

Adam’s father, said that his son had been “left as roadkill by someone who should not have been on the roads,” with witnesses testifying that Gugyel had been drinking at a party that was illegal under lockdown rules in force at the time before driving home in his partner’s Audi A2.

Prosecutors said that Gugyel – an HGV driver by trade – fled the scene without “even calling for medical assistance” because “he was concerned he was over the legal limit and he knew he was on his phone.”

They added: “We also say he knew of the consequences of the offence.

“He knew it would lead to a disqualification and he would lose his employment as an HGV driver.”

Duncan Dollimore, campaigns manager at Cycling UK, told road.cc: “When a driver callously flees the scene of a collision, leaving their innocent victim to die on the roadside, the police have to piece together the jigsaw, as they did in this case, to firstly trace the vehicle involved and then identify the driver.

“But often there’ll be no independent witnesses, with drivers claiming that the victim appeared out of nowhere, was wearing dark clothing and couldn’t be seen, or was in some other way to blame.

“So, even when the police do trace the driver, they often can’t charge or secure a conviction for careless or dangerous driving because, whilst they can prove that a fatal collision occurred, they haven’t enough direct evidence about the standard of driving.

“Left with only a fail to stop offence, the court is limited to a six- month maximum prison sentence, with Minister’s repeatedly claiming that this is sufficient.

“They just don’t seem to grasp that, irrespective of the exact cause of the collision and whether dangerous driving can be proved in the absence of live witnesses, that the decision to drive off and abandon someone you’ve fatally injured, buying yourself time to produce a negative alcohol test the next morning, merits far more than a six- month sentence.

“We’ve now been told that the government are ‘scoping out’ a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act,” he added.

“That’ll be the call for evidence for the review they promised nearly eight years ago, which puts Guygel’s five- year driving ban into perspective.”

The national cycling charity is running an online action through which you can contact your local MP to urge them to take action on this and other issues related to, in Dollimore’s words, “fixing our failing road traffic laws.”

The issue of motorists driving away from a collision in which someone has been killed or seriously injured to avoid being breathalysed was raised in a House of Commons debate in November.

The debate was tabled after two petitions on the subject each exceeded 100,000 signatures, the point at which they are considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee.

The earlier of the two petitions was posted by the parents of two young men who were killed while riding motorbikes by drivers who fled the scene, and closed last January after being hosted on the Parliament.uk website for six months, attracting 104,324 signatures.

The petition said: “The maximum penalty for failure to stop after an incident is points and a 6-month custodial sentence. Causing death by careless/dangerous driving is between 5-14 yrs. The sentence for failing to stop after a fatal collision must be increased.”

The second petition, which received 167,640 signatures, closed in September last year and called for the introduction of what was termed “Ryan’s Law” – named after Ryan Saltern, who was left to die by a driver who struck him in his vehicle then fled the scene.

It called for the definition of causing death by dangerous driving to be widened to include “failure to stop, call 999 and render aid on scene until further help arrives.”

Once petitions hosted on the Parliament website reach 10,000 signatures, the government is obliged to give a response to the issues raised therein, and in the case of these two petitions, those came from different government departments – the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the former and the Department for Transport (DfT) for the latter.

Much of the wording of both responses was identical, or as near as makes no difference, with each stating that “the offence of failing to stop should not be used to punish an offender for a serious, but not proven, offence.”

Both highlighted that the vast majority of failure to stop cases relate to what were described as “low level incidents,” giving the example of a driver clipping the wing mirror of another vehicle in a narrow street, typically punishable on conviction by a fine.

The two responses acknowledged that in more serious cases that attracted charges such as causing death by dangerous or careless driving, failure to stop would be considered as an aggravating factor by the courts as an aggravating factor.

They also pointed out that where a motorist had taken steps to avoid detection, that could amount to perverting the course of justice, for which the maximum penalty on conviction is life imprisonment.

In its reply to the Ryan’s Law petition, the DfT added: “The Government takes this issue seriously. The Department for Transport is looking into the issue of such incidents of failure to stop resulting in death or serious injury, and exploring whether there are further options that can be pursued.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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24 comments

Avatar
OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
4 likes

It does make you wonder why a charge of manslaughter wouldn't be appropriate in this case? That can come with a  10 year sentence.

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Gus T replied to OldRidgeback | 2 years ago
3 likes

Manslaughter apparently is only appropriate if the victim is a member of HM Constabulary

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Sriracha | 2 years ago
18 likes
Quote:

giving the example of a driver clipping the wing mirror of another vehicle

I don't see the relevance, beyond misdirecting the debate. The argument is about failing to stop being used to evade a more serious charge - not a lesser charge.

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
19 likes

“We’ve now been told that the government are ‘scoping out’ a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act,” he added.

“That’ll be the call for evidence for the review they promised nearly eight years ago, which puts Guygel’s five- year driving ban into perspective.”

Enough said.

Except, both the petitions calling for realistic sentences for drivers who leave the scene of a collision got over 100,000 signatures, a bit more than the petition by the lower-than-a-snake loophole lawyer, but I don't recall the BBC featuring them.

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Jenova20 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
3 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

“We’ve now been told that the government are ‘scoping out’ a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act,” he added.

“That’ll be the call for evidence for the review they promised nearly eight years ago, which puts Guygel’s five- year driving ban into perspective.”

Enough said.

Except, both the petitions calling for realistic sentences for drivers who leave the scene of a collision got over 100,000 signatures, a bit more than the petition by the lower-than-a-snake loophole lawyer, but I don't recall the BBC featuring them.

Wouldn't surprise me if he lobbed the BBC directly for them to publicise it. He has no morals after all.

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eburtthebike replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
3 likes

Jenova20 wrote:

Wouldn't surprise me if he lobbed the BBC directly for them to publicise it. He has no morals after all.

Nor, apparently, does the BBC.

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Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
23 likes

I've said it a number of times but bears repeating: in many US states leaving the scene of an accident is automatically taken as an admission of DUI and drivers get the same sanction as if they'd tested positive at the scene. High time for the same presumption here.

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morgoth985 replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
14 likes

Agreed.  It's blindingly obvious that this would be abused, roughly analogous to the reason why ignorance of the law is no defence.  And even if someone hasn't been drinking, driving off after a collision, indifferent to the victim, is a despicable thing to do.  The law should be structured to protect the rest of us from despicable members of society, not give them a let out.

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hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
16 likes

Just used that Cycling UK form to inform my MP (just a matter of seconds to send the standard message).

I don't get why they dismissed the earlier petitions as the current law provides a perverse incentive to flee the scene and I doubt any lobby groups would be wanting to stick up for the rights of hit-and-runners rather than the victims' families.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
3 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Just used that Cycling UK form to inform my MP (just a matter of seconds to send the standard message).

Likewise, and shared it as well.  I also included a p.s. asking when I was going to receive a response about the email I sent him about the farce that was the COP26 transport day.

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morgoth985 replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
8 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

... I doubt any lobby groups would be wanting to stick up for the rights of hit-and-runners rather than the victims' families.

Nothing would surprise me.  Not stick up explicitly perhaps, but come up with spurious arguments to kick it into the long grass so as not to impose on motoring privilege?  I could well see that happening.

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eburtthebike replied to morgoth985 | 2 years ago
6 likes

Morgoth985 wrote:

Not stick up explicitly perhaps, but come up with spurious arguments to kick it into the long grass so as not to impose on motoring privilege?

Defend law-abiding motorists who would have yet another law imposed on them when all they want to do is drive as fast and far as they like without having any legal responsibility, surely?

That might be one or two oxymorons in one sentence, but hey, who worries about logic any more.

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morgoth985 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

Yes, please pardon the prejudicial phrasing of my comment.

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Rendel Harris replied to morgoth985 | 2 years ago
8 likes

I've seen pro-drivists on Twitter arguing that if a cyclist is at fault for an incident (and of course for them the cyclist is de facto at fault for being on the road) the driver can't be blamed for making bad decisions in a panic caused by the bad cyclist. 

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Mungecrundle replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
4 likes

I expect Nick Freeman or some other slimey lowlife would be all over it.

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
3 likes

My MP is Liam Fox - total waste of internet bandwidth even trying to get him to do *anything*...

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SimoninSpalding replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

Unless it is campaigning to curtail women's access to abortions if I recall correctly.
My MP is John Hayes who has a £50k per year consultancy with an oil trader, so I think we can guess where his sympathies will lie.

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wycombewheeler replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:

My MP is Liam Fox - total waste of internet bandwidth even trying to get him to do *anything*...

I'll raise you a Steve Baker

Actively working to make Britain a worse place since 2010

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brooksby replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
4 likes

wycombewheeler wrote:
brooksby wrote:

My MP is Liam Fox - total waste of internet bandwidth even trying to get him to do *anything*...

I'll raise you a Steve Baker Actively working to make Britain a worse place since 2010

OK, you win on that, wycombe  4

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eburtthebike replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
2 likes

wycombewheeler][quote=brooksby wrote:

I'll raise you a Steve Baker Actively working to make Britain a worse place since 2010

But making things better for him and his bosses; only us plebs are worse off.

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HoarseMann replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
1 like

I've just got a response back from my MP about this (impressively quick). He's supporting the exisiting Gov ammendments, but doesn't see a need to change the wording around exceptional hardship (disappointingly expected). He also stated it's important to consider many deaths on the road are tragic accidents. Ah well, democracy in action!

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GMBasix replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
2 likes

HoarseMann wrote:

He also stated it's important to consider many deaths on the road are tragic accidents. 

Such an MP needs a horse whip taking to them.  I'd like them to come up with a single death that was an 'accident'. I have heard of some deaths that were not avoidable by taking reasonable action.  They usually amount to unanticipated medically debilitating episodes... at least according to those who survived to tell the tale.  Anything else is preventable.

HoarseMann wrote:

Ah well, democracy in action!

To mangle an axiom, democracy is the least bad form of government, apart from all the less bad ones.

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hawkinspeter replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
1 like

HoarseMann wrote:

I've just got a response back from my MP about this (impressively quick). He's supporting the exisiting Gov ammendments, but doesn't see a need to change the wording around exceptional hardship (disappointingly expected). He also stated it's important to consider many deaths on the road are tragic accidents. Ah well, democracy in action!

I haven't even got a response back from Kerry McCarthy yet.

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hawkinspeter replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes

Just got a decent reply from Kerry:

Kerry McCarthy wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Amendments to the Government’s Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill to fix failing laws relating to dangerous driving.

I agree that our laws on road traffic offences need reform. Although this is primarily an issue for the Justice Department, having recently served as Labour’s shadow Green Transport Minister with responsibility for cycling and walking, and a cyclist myself, I do have a particular interest in this.

The Government was recently asked via a Written Question when it plans to review road traffic offences. Unfortunately, Transport Minister Rachel Maclean merely said “The Government takes road safety seriously and keeps the law under regular review.”, disappointingly failing to commit to a review or offer a timescale. I also raised this during a recent Westminster Hall debate on road traffic offences for fatal collisions.

I completely agree with Cycling UK’s points and think that the exceptional hardship rule, which allows dangerous drivers to avoid having their driving licence revoked, should be reviewed.

With regard to Amendments to the Government’s Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, I had previously contacted Labour MPs on the Bill Committee about Cycling UK’s campaign and I understand Cycling UK’s concerns were raised by these Labour MPs. Unfortunately, Ben Bradshaw’s Amendments, New Clause 20 and 21, which sought to increase sentences for hit and run drivers and reform the unfair ‘exceptional hardship’ rule that allows people to avoid driving bans, were not chosen. I would have voted for these amendments had they been selected.

I hope the Lords will be able to put pressure on the Government to get them to support these important amendments. If these amendments are put to be voted upon by MPs when the Bill comes back from the Lords, I will support them then.

In Parliament on Monday there will also be a petitions debate on Tom’s Law, which would give police the power to suspend driving licences from the moment an offender is caught drink, drug or dangerous driving until they appear in court. This follows a horrific case where Tom McConnachie was killed in a hit and run by a drink driver, who was able to continue driving for 11 months before being disqualified as only a court can disqualify a driver.

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