Seven-year sentence for joyrider who killed girl: Judge attacks 'folly' of giving repeated bail to youths who ignore conditions

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The Independent Online
A TEENAGE joyrider who was on bail when he killed a 13-year-old schoolgirl in a high-speed car was sentenced to seven years' detention yesterday.

Passing sentence at Stafford Crown Court, Mr Justice Rougier said the case illustrated the 'folly' of giving repeated bail to young men who 'showed not the slightest inclination to abide by its conditions'.

He told Carl Sherwood, 17, that the 'epidemic and menace of shiftless young men showing off in cars for kicks has got to stop'.

Sherwood admitted the manslaughter of Donna Cooper, 13, as she crossed the road on her way home from school for lunch in January this year. He also admitted aggravated vehicle taking.

Mr Justice Rougier, who ruled that juveniles involved in the case could be named, said: 'There is a need to deter other like-minded louts from this sort of behaviour.'

Sherwood, of Walsall, West Midlands, stood with his head bowed as the judge said that the way he drove the Ford Escort XR3i car that struck Donna was little short of murderous.

With Sherwood in the dock was Nigel Button, 26, of Walsall, who admitted aggravated vehicle taking and failing to stop after an accident. He was sentenced to four-and-a-half years' jail.

Stuart Rollinson, 15, David Teale, 14, and Shaun Brockhouse, 13, all of Walsall, admitted aggravated vehicle taking. Each was made the subject of a two-year supervision order.

Earlier, when considering sentencing for one of the younger defendants the judge appeared to suggest that he was restricted from imposing a stiffer sentence. He remarked: 'Sentencing policy is almost entirely the province of the feeble-minded these days.'

The court heard that Donna, of Pelsall, West Midlands, had been on her way home from school at lunch time on 6 January when she was struck by the car driven by Sherwood.

Button was sitting in the front passenger seat and the other three were in the back of the car, which had been taken by Sherwood and Button the night before. At the time both were on bail in relation to other alleged offences.

Donna was carried along on the bonnet of the vehicle for almost 50 yards before she slid off into the gutter. She died soon afterwards in hospital.

Antony Palmer QC, for the prosecution, said shortly before the accident the car had been spotted by police in a patrol car who followed it at speeds approaching 70mph.

Despite damp conditions and school warning lights it overtook other vehicles at speed before hitting Donna.

The girl was struck with such force that part of her body went through the windscreen and her shoes and socks were torn off by the force of the impact.

Mr Palmer said one witness spoke of seeing the driver grinning, and another claimed to have heard Button shouting at Sherwood to put his foot down.

After the accident the car was abandoned and the five occupants ran off, but all were arrested within a few hours.

When interviewed by police, Sherwood allegedly told them: 'The girl was in the middle of the road and I couldn't stop.'

(Photograph omitted)