THE heartbroken partner of a father-to-be killed by a dangerous driver on the M6 says the punishment for the cowardly motorist was “an insult”.
Chris Smith was on the Thelwall Viaduct M6 when John Yates crashed into him after reaching speeds of around 128mph.
Yates, who was under the influence of drugs, fled the scene by jumping over a barrier immediately after the incident.
The 28-year-old appeared at Chester Crown Court on Friday January 20 after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and failing to produce a specimen for analysis.
The horrifying incident happened on November 15 last year at around 00:30am on the M6 between Junction 20, Lymm, and Junction 21, Woolston.
This part of the motorway had been reduced from four lanes to just one lane due to construction work, which is why a speed limit of 80 km/h applied.
Yates attempted to fit into a gap between Mr Smith’s car and another driver’s car, but as he was traveling at over 100 mph he could not and cut off one of the cars before crashing into the rear of Mr. Smith’s Peugeot hit.
This caused both his and Mr. Smith’s vehicles to swerve “multiple times” and land on the shoulder.
He was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison, two-thirds of which he must serve.
Chris’ partner Mandy McKechnie, 39, of Sutton, St Helens, who is expecting her baby boy, told the St Helens Star: “We have been told by police that we could face a life sentence or a significant prison sentence.
“I was advised not to appear in court due to the blood pressure and heart problems I had during my pregnancy due to the stress caused by the loss of Chris, but when they told me I was floored .
“Violet Grace’s family [Youens] I fought for the law to be changed, so now it’s a maximum life for dangerous driving kill, which should have applied in Chris’ case because it happened after the law went into effect, but the Judge decided to impose such a short sentence and I can’t understand why.
“Not only was this man under the influence of drugs and running away, he also had a prior traffic offense in addition to causing Chris’s death at 125 mph.
“He may have killed Chris, but he sentenced me to life in prison by driving like that that day.
“Our unborn son is already irreparably damaged growing up without the dad he stole from him, not because of an accident but because he was drugged and driving at high speeds.
“It’s an insult and a shame Chris didn’t get justice, that’s injustice.
“All Chris and I did was choose our son’s name, he missed scans, bought strollers, decorated the nursery, all because of this man that day.
“The judge had every opportunity to apply these new laws but decided against it, so I have to focus on my son for now, but I will investigate this further.
“With Chris’ family, I hope to get more information on how we can help Chris get the justice he deserves because eight years isn’t enough.”
The law change Mandy is referring to is often referred to as “Violet’s Law” and refers to Violet-Grace Youens, from Eccleston in St Helens, who was hit by a speeding car in March 2017.
Her parents, disgusted by the short sentence the murderer driver received, ran a successful online petition that resulted in 167,000 signatures and a parliamentary debate for the maximum sentence for those found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving to have to increase from 15 years to life imprisonment.
This change in the law was passed in June 2022 and gives hope to the families of victims killed in dangerous driver incidents after the June date when the change in the law would apply.
However, the sentence imposed on Yates has been called into question.
Sentencing guidelines for the stronger powers are still being worked out, but in the meantime judges can take into account the fact that the law has changed to allow for maximum life sentences in the worst cases.
The Star reached out to the Sentencing Council to challenge Yate’s verdict, and a spokesperson issued the following statement: “Due to changes in the law, the Sentencing Council is revising its guidelines on sentencing for traffic offences, including the cause of death from dangerous driving.
“The new guidelines are expected to come into force later this year.
“Meanwhile, the existing guideline on homicide by dangerous driving draws the courts’ attention to the change in the maximum penalty.
“Courts must follow the guidance unless it is not in the interests of the judiciary and can take into account the availability of the higher maximum penalty when sentencing offenders.”
READ: Pregnant partner of father killed in M6 crash pays tribute to him
The star also contacted the Justice Department, who said: “Our thoughts remain with Chris Smith’s family.
“Dangerous drivers ruin lives, and although individual judges decide sentences, our new laws have increased the maximum sentence to life imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving.”
https://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/23282658.pregnant-partner-man-killed-driver-labels-sentence-an-insult/?ref=rss Pregnant partner of man killed by car driver calls sentence “insult”