Drunk driver who killed rickshaw passenger in crash gets sentence increased

Drunk driver who killed rickshaw passenger in crash gets sentence increased
Drunk driver who killed rickshaw passenger in crash gets sentence increased

A drunk driver who was jailed for ramming a rickshaw and killing a passenger has had his prison sentence increased after it was challenged by the Solicitor General in the Court of Appeal.

Luis Balcazar Soto, 25, did not have a license and was over double the drinking limit when the silver Kia he was driving crashed into the pedicab, throwing Sophie Strickland, 31, out of the vehicle.

Ms Strickland – who died in the collision at Elephant and Castle, south-east London, in the early hours of July 10 last year – was out to celebrate her birthday.

After pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and other offences, Soto was jailed at Southwark Crown Court in November for a total of nine years and nine months, and banned from driving for 10 years and nine months.

Senior judges on Wednesday increased his full prison sentence to 12 years and nine months after his case was sent to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) under an unduly lenient sentencing regime .

His driving ban was increased to 14 years and four and a half months, the court heard.

Sophie Strickland died after being thrown from the rickshaw she was in after being rammed by Luis Balcazar Soto (Metropolitan Police/PA)

But at the hearing in London, Solicitor General Michael Tomlinson failed in his bid to challenge the conviction of another drunk driver jailed for a fatal collision with a pedestrian in Norfolk last July.

Malcolm Waite, 68, was sentenced to a full eight years at Norwich Crown Court in November after he swerved his Lexus car onto the pavement of the A149 Wayford Road in Stalham, killing Fenella Hawes, 20, July 31.

A Norfolk police officer described Waite, a retired engineer formerly from Meadow Drive, Hoveton, as “the most drunk person I have ever seen driving a car”.

The court heard on Wednesday that the two cases concerned the effect of the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving being increased from 14 years to life thanks to a change in the law in June.

Lord Justice William Davis, sitting with Judge Sweeting and Judge Heather Norton, said that when sentencing Soto, Judge Deborah Taylor did not consider the increased maximum sentence.

But in Waite’s case, he said Judge Alice Robinson was “well aware” of the law change and there was “nothing patently wrong” about her sentencing.

Lord Justice Davis told a full courtroom that “nothing about the outcome” of the decisions “can begin to recover the appalling tragedy that has befallen both those associated with Fenella and those associated with Sophie”.

He added: “We fully appreciate that. We do our best to convict by referring to sentencing guidelines and principles.

Southwark Crown Court had heard that Soto, whose former partner and friend was in the car with him, had been described by witnesses as “driving like crazy” as he reached speeds of up to 70mph.

The rickshaw driver, Tanzir Ahmed, who is in his thirties and was seriously injured, had stopped at New Kent Road so that Ms Strickland and her friend Jade Redford, who was not injured in the crash, can use an ATM.

Ms Strickland, from Hay-on-Wye in mid Wales, had traveled to the capital to celebrate her birthday with friends and had just gotten back into the rickshaw before the collision.

Soto, of Elephant and Castle, tried to flee the scene but was stopped by members of the public whom he threatened to beat up and offered money to let him go.

He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, breaching a restraining order – seeing his former partner – and breaching a suspended sentence. .

Mr Ahmed described the incident as “the worst thing that has ever happened to me”, while Ms Strickland’s family and friends recounted their devastation.

Mark Butler, defending, said Soto “apologies profusely”, adding: “His remorse is shown by his guilty pleas”.

Waite, whose car had a half-empty vodka bottle inside, failed to stop after hitting Ms Hawes and a 16-year-old – who suffered cuts and bruises – walking the along the way, Mr Tomlinson told the Court of Appeal. in written submissions.

He continued for 800 meters before veering off the road again, hitting a road sign and lamp post, before being found inside with glassy eyes and slurred speech.

Waite, who told hospital staff he drank ‘two bottles’, later admitted to causing death by dangerous driving, his sentence including an 11-year disqualification until an extended test be successful.

Ms Hawes’ mother, Margaret, previously said in a statement that ‘her bright future was swept away in seconds by someone who didn’t think or care’ and that she ‘wouldn’t had never had the opportunity to say goodbye”.

In his written arguments, Mr Tomlinson that in Soto’s case, “in light of the change in the law, the sentence is unduly lenient”.

For Waite’s sentence, he said the judge failed to give “enough weight” to aggravating factors, including hitting two vulnerable road users and failing to stop.

Waite’s lawyer, Andrew Campbell-Tiech KC, pointed to his “genuine remorse” and “substantial deterioration in mental health” during a marital breakdown.

Lord Justice Davis gave a brief reasoning for the appeal judges’ decision, with a more detailed written judgment expected on Thursday.

Mr Tomlinson said after the ruling: “Today my thoughts are with the family and friends of Sophie Strickland, whose life was so tragically cut short by the criminally dangerous driving of Luis Fernando Balcazar Soto.

“I want to pay tribute to Sophie’s family, who have shown immense strength and courage during such a desperately difficult time.”

He added that he was glad Soto was “serving a prison sentence that better reflects the appalling harm he has caused”.

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