Two youth jailed for death by dangerous driving

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Two men were yesterday jailed for causing death by dangerous driving in two separate accidents.
Both matters were dealt with by High Court Justice Iain Morley who emphasised the seriousness of the offences.
Caleele Thomas was sentenced to 12 months in prison and banned from driving for 10 years from the date of the offence which was September 2015, while Ruan Roberts was sentenced to six months in prison and banned from driving for five years from the date of the offence which was July 2016.
The sentences go against the norm where adjudicators have, for the past 15 or more years, been imposing fines and compensation as punishment for this offence under the Vehicles and Road Traffic Act.
Justice Morley said, “There is a public interest in safety on the roads. Sentences for this menace should deter. Folk must know that dangerous driving is a serious offence, easily avoided by paying full attention to the road and showing consideration for other road users.”
He said drivers ought to be even more conscientious given that the challenges of driving on the island of Antigua are known to all behind the wheel  – “in that the road surface is sometimes uneven with holes; there are few pavements, road markings are often only faintly visible, if at all. There are many blind hills and corners, and there is often little street lighting so that pedestrians in the road are without illumination.”
Judge Morley said it is important for drivers to understand that these features do not make collisions the fault of government. He stressed that every road user is responsible to every other, “in full knowledge that the conditions are tricky. And in this knowledge drivers must adapt to ensure they drive safely.”
Shakeel Roberts, who was Thomas’ friend, died on September 2 when Thomas lost control of the Toyota Vista he had rented, R2522, and crashed into a utility pole.
The court noted that Thomas, who was 20 years old, had only gotten his driver’s licence three weeks before the tragedy, and on the day of the incident, he was driving from Heritage Quay to the Halcyon Hotel with two passengers, the deceased and Tassim Christian.
Christian, according to the judge’s remarks, saw the speedometer reading at 103kph (64mph) and told Thomas to slow down. He did not.
The judge noted, “Nonchalantly, at this terrifying speed on the uneven road surface of Anchorage Road, he used only one hand on the wheel. He was showing off. Shakeel [Roberts) also told him to slow down, exclaiming what are you doing, by saying ‘yo, what you ah deal with boss’. Inevitably, he then lost control of the car, it drifted to gravel, wobbled, he overcompensated, braking hard, the wheels locked, and the car broadsided into a lamppost.”
The medical evidence showed that the base of Shakeel Robert’s skull was shattered and he later died in hospital. The judge said that while Thomas pleaded guilty, he did not have the advantage of good character, having three offences of dishonesty since 2016, including having been imprisoned for two years for burglary. Specifically, he was on bail for ‘attempted house breaking’ and ‘house breaking’ at the time of the fatal accident. Moreover, shortly after release from the two-year sentence, he forged a document to get money, for which he received three years’ probation, which is still active.
The judge explained why compensation was not considered applicable in this case.
He said, “[Thomas] is a man of no means, and so I order none, knowing no monies can ever replace someone lost, and expecting that there should be a separate claim on the car’s insurance, through the hire company ‘Melissa’s Car Rental’.”
In the case of Ruan Roberts who caused the death of U.K. tourist Teresa Cummins in July 2016, the judge said he again opted not to impose an order for compensation to be paid because the 27-year-old is a man “of no means.”
He noted that Ruan Roberts’ car had slightly faulty brakes and an illegal front window tint which was too dark and too low, meaning it was not in a safe condition to be driven at night in wet conditions.
Another point of note was that he was driving in excess of 40 mph, as evidenced by the colossal skull injuries, by impact damage to the windscreen, bonnet and nearside front light, and “by how he scooped Cummins high above and ahead of her companions rather than simply shunting her to the side.”
Justice Morley highlighted that the convicted driver did not brake immediately and instead swerved and “the reason he did not brake was because he suffers from ‘the bends,’ as a fisherman diver, whose legs are permanently partially numb, meaning he could not move his right foot speedily from the accelerator to brake like other motorists.”
The combination of the state of his car and legs, and his speed, meant that it was “obvious to the competent and careful driver” that Ruan Robert’s driving “fell far below the standard expected, as an objective test” the judge said.
At the same time, the judge noted that he found that the driver did not however subjectively realise this. The convict had pleaded not guilty but was found guilty by a jury in December 2017.
In outlining his rationale for incarcerating the Urlings man, one of the things the judge said was, “The starting point for any offence of dangerous driving should be imprisonment, and a fortiori if it causes death. This is because the offence is often a selfish or arrogant one, while potentially lethal, and yet is utterly avoidable simply by being considerate.”

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