A hit-and-run driver who killed a girl aged six while banned from the road was jailed yesterday for nine and a half years, one of the longest prison sentences imposed for causing death by dangerous driving.
Ian Carr, who had 89 convictions and was disqualified from driving for life, had been out of jail for only two months before the crash on New Year's Eve that killed Rebecca Sawyer and critically injured her 18-month-old sister, Kirsty in Ashington, Northumberland.
Carr, 27, had been driving his friends to a party in a stolen Vauxhall Astra when he sped through a red light and crashed into the Sawyer family's Citroen Saxo hatchback as the girls and their father returned from a relative's house.
Judge Hodson, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, told Carr: "Nothing I can say can adequately describe the revulsion that the community feels at what you have done."
Rebecca's father, Stephen Sawyer, who was sitting less than 10ft from Carr, said later that he, his wife, Sharon, and Kirsty were trying to rebuild their lives "for Kirsty's sake". He said: "Nothing but a life sentence will stop Ian Carr from getting behind the wheel of a car in future and no doubt he will. It is too late for my daughter now but he will do this again unless he is somehow stopped. He needs a life sentence – nothing but a life sentence will stop him from getting behind the wheel again."
The maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 10 years, the term being served by Peter Noble, from Sheffield, who killed six people after drinking 13 pints of lager and then tried to blame a friend. So heinous was Noble's crime that the judge attempted to sentence him to 15 years, though this was reduced to the statutory 10 on appeal last year.
The Sawyers' MP, Dennis Murphy, has asked the Home Office to reconsider the sentencing for motoring offences when death is involved and Northumbria Police is helping with information on other cases.
Judge Hodson insisted he had no powers to sentence Carr to a much longer term. "I hope that everyone will understand that this court can only work within the parameters that have been set by Parliament," he said.
It has been impossible to tell whether Carr had been drinking before the New Year's Eve incident, though others in the stolen Vauxhall Astra had been.
The court was told yesterday that a pedestrian, Stephanie Ramm, was nearly hit by the Astra as she crossed the road. Her boyfriend, who pulled her to safety, estimated Carr's speed to be 60mph to 70mph. The wheels appeared to lift as the car negotiated a corner seconds before the impact.
After the crash Carr fled the scene, just as he had done in 1990 when, aged 15, he was crashed a stolen car, killing his friend Mark Wren, 16. He propped up his friend's body against a fence and claimed it was Wren who had been driving. The crash happened just two miles from the scene of the New Year's Eve tragedy.
He was ordered to serve a 12-month sentence, but, in 1993, he was involved again in car crime, leading police on a 100mph, 25-mile chase through Stranraer, prompting a four-year sentence for dangerous driving.
Carr, who stared ahead impassively throughout the hearing, admitted causing death by dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, driving without insurance and taking a vehicle without consent.