Calls made for tougher sentences after dangerous driver caught speeding 11 years after killing someone in a crash
The sentence handed out to a man caught driving at 121mph has been blasted by the parents of a teenager he killed in a high-speed accident a decade ago.
Robert Atkinson was sent to a young offenders’ unit for three years and four months in 2011 – only serving 22 months – and given a five-year driving ban following the death of Jamie Watters in a crash in Dudley Lane, Seaton Burn, in October 2010.
Jamie, who was 19, was the front seat passenger in a Ford Fiesta being driven by Atkinson as he raced another driver when it struck a road sign and planter. Another friend was seriously injured.
Despite the tragedy, Atkinson was again caught driving at 121mph on the A189 Spine Road in March last year, when he only narrowly avoided causing a catastrophic collision.
Police saw Atkinson, from Ashington, speed over the Moor Farm Roundabout and moments later almost crashed into another vehicle while travelling at more than 100mph. The 30-year-old slammed on the brakes with such force, sparks could be seen sparks flashing underneath his car.
Atkinson appeared at Newcastle Crown Court where he admitted dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and banned from driving for three years and nine months.
But Jamie’s parents Caroline and Ian believe the sentence is not tough enough.
Caroline said: “He obviously has not mended his ways, so my son died needlessly for nothing. He should be banned for life, and put in prison for much longer.
"I would hate to see some other family go through what we did. Robert has his whole life ahead of him, but our son never got that chance.
"The system is all wrong.”
Ian said: “It beggers belief. We nearly fell over backwards when we saw once again he had been done for dangerous driving.
"He hasn’t learnt his lesson and shows the sentences are too lenient.
"He could have killed somebody yet again so we need tougher sentences.
"We lost Jamie 11 years ago but it’s still very raw and this has raked it all up again. We still feel it, especially in the run-up to Christmas.”
He added sentencing guidelines needed to be overhauled as they were not acting as a deterrent.
“The system needs to be sorted out quickly, people are currently taking no notice,” he said.
"You see accidents on the TV all the time – accidents caused by dangerous drivers are constantly happening and something has to be done. Young lives are being lost and families are being destroyed.
"A powerful car is like giving a young person a weapon, and when they can’t handle it, it’s dangerous for other people.”
Speaking after the most recent case, PC Kevin Paskin of Northumbria Police said: “There is little doubt that Atkinson could have killed somebody that night.
“He reached speeds of up to 121mph on a 70mph carriageway, showing a total disregard for other road users – and it is sheer luck that he managed to slam on the brakes just in time to avoid smashing into the back of another vehicle.
"Quite frankly, he should be ashamed of his actions and proved he cannot be trusted to be behind the wheel of a car.”