Bethany Fisher, pictured, died outside her mother’s home in the horror crash
The mother of a teenager killed on her 19th birthday says she’s ‘disgusted’ at the government’s failure to enforce harsher penalties for killer drivers.
Isabel Easson lost her ‘beautiful’ daughter Bethany Fisher in August 2017, when uninsured, driver Jordan O’Donnell lost control of his Ford Mondeo, smashing passenger Bethany into a row of parked cars just outside her home in Bedlington, Northumberland.
O’Donnell is set to leave prison next year, half way through his six-year-sentence and three years to the day from his crime.
On Monday, MPs gathered in parliament to debate the introduction of ‘Violet-Grace’s Law’, which would open up the possibility of life sentences for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, like O’Donnell.
Violet-Grace Youens was just four years old when she was killed by a speeding driver who hit 83mph in a 30mph zone, then stepped over her body to flee the scene in Merseyside in 2017.
Her parents, Becky and Glenn Youens, launched a petition calling for tougher sentences after learning the killer would receive just nine years and four months jail time, half of which could be spent outside on licence.
In 2017, the Government confirmed plans to increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life and boost sentences for other ‘death by’ driving offences – but the change still hasn’t been made.
Raising the motion to introduce life sentences in Parliament on Monday, Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, said: ‘I do say to the minister, please can the government now get on with this?
Bethany’s mother Isabel Easson, pictured, said it was ‘absolutely disgusting’ MPs had found time to debate their own salary increases but not tougher sentences for dangerous drivers
Bethany Fisher, right and left with her friend Meg McBurnie who was injured in the crash
‘I know that they are looking at other things to be included in a road safety bill… but they are delaying action on something that many of us believe need action on now.’
For Isabel, the delay in the change is an insult to grieving families.
She said: ‘I watched the whole debate first thing and I think the justice minister should either be sacked or resign. As families we don’t want condolences any more, we want something to be done.
‘All he can come up with is that there hasn’t been enough parliamentary time to discuss it. They seem to have enough time when they want to discuss their pay rises. I think it’s absolutely disgusting.’
She echoed a point made by one MP within the debate about the need for greater support for those bereaved by dangerous driving.
Uninsured Jordan O’Donnell, 20, killed his passenger Bethany Fisher, 19, after racing at 60mph in a 30mph zone weeks after passing his test. He is set to stay in prison for just three years
There are no government or voluntary organisations which specifically support the loved ones of people killed on the roads and she called for more dedicated support for those whose lives have been ‘ripped apart’ by killer drivers.
She added: ‘I don’t think the government are doing anything for the families of victims: I thought victims and their families were meant to be a priority, but it feels like it’s all about the perpetrator.
‘If you take a life, you should be given life, you shouldn’t be getting out, being found somewhere new to live, while their family still gets nothing.
‘The perpetrator gets out, and what does the family get? Nothing. The victim is still six feet under in their grave and the family’s life is still destroyed.’
Speaking in the debate on behalf of the government, Robert Buckland, Minister for Prisons, said it was a matter of ‘bitter regret’ that he could not offer a date for the new legislation, but said the testimony shared in the debate would be used to illustrate the urgent need for the change.
Responding to the petition, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘No sentence can make up for the loss of a loved one but we are focused on getting the law right, to ensure the changes we make are comprehensive, proportionate and, we hope, might help avoid some further unnecessary deaths on our roads.
‘In October 2017 we published the government response to the consultation on driving offences and penalties relating to causing death or serious injury and confirmed proposals to: increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years’ imprisonment to life; increase the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years’ imprisonment to life; and create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
‘Increasing the maximum penalty to life will enable the courts to impose a life sentence or any lesser sentence, including a determinate sentence of any length…We will bring forward proposals for reform of the law as soon as parliamentary time allows.’