Parents 'heartbroken' as court cuts sentence on drink-drive killer

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The Independent Online

The family of a young woman who died after being hit by a drink-driver as she crossed the road early on Christmas Day said last night they were heartbroken that the man responsible could be back in their home town within three years.

Speaking after Craig Smith had his six-year jail sentence cut to five years by the Court of Appeal, Kevin and Melanie Gonzales, the parents of 18-year-old Amy Gonzales, of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, described the appeal move as "obscene". Amy's mother said she did know how to cope with the possibility that Smith could be released from prison so soon.

After the hearing Mrs Gonzales, 43, said: "I just can't understand how somebody with such a callous disregard for human life can only be put away for five years. It's not even five years because, as Kevin's saying, he'll be out in two - he'll be out back in St Neots. We've got to face this and I don't know how I'm going to cope with that. How do you cope with that?"

The couple are campaigning for tougher penalties on drink-drivers who kill. They said they were both shocked that the law meant Smith, who pleaded guilty at Peterborough Crown Court in April to causing death by dangerous driving and to driving with excess alcohol in St Neots, could not be tried for manslaughter.

Mr Gonzales said changes needed to be made: "There's this sliding scale of culpability that at the top end should be treated as manslaughter when it's inevitable that it's going to happen and where you're guaranteed to kill people. Any one of us who drives a car can be involved in a collision. But when you're guaranteed to kill because of what you're doing, that's when it should be treated differently from a driving offence.

"We've been speaking to many families and the common theme is the lack of justice when lives are taken in this way. This just cheapens all our lives and we really need a champion to carry on this work because we are struggling to cope with it at the moment because of the grief we are still going through.

"We keep thinking back to Christmas morning. At one o'clock on Christmas morning Craig Smith destroyed our family in front of us. Now it's our town, it's where we raised our family, and in two years' time he is going to be back among us and I think we're all a lot less safe because of that."