After pleading guilty to causing the death of medical student Richard Martin by dangerous driving last November, Patrick Brooks-Dixon was sentenced on Thursday to three years imprisonment. His driver’s licence was suspended for seven years.
In passing sentence, Justice Richard Williams cited evidence that Brooks-Dixon was driving between 100 and 110 mph in a 40-mph zone on Esterley Tibbetts Highway and his alcohol-blood level was .173. The legal limit in Cayman is .100.
The judge noted the alcohol level was not at the top of the scale, “but it is clearly of a sufficient quantity to significantly impair a driver of a vehicle, especially one driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour. This is, by all accounts, an atrocious and shameful piece of driving.”
Crown Counsel Candia James provided details of that driving during the court hearing and Justice Williams delved further into the accident reports provided by police. The incident occurred in the early hours of 30 November, when Brooks-Dixon was travelling towards George Town in the vicinity of Lakeside Villas.
Accident reconstructionist Colin Redden summarised what happened. “The collision is as a result of the driver of the Chevrolet Trailblazer attempting to negotiate the left-hand bend at a high speed and lost control of the vehicle, which went into yaw travelling a total of 538 feet before finally coming to rest after impacting the real estate sign, palm trees, utility pole, PVC pipe, the Honda [driven by Mr. Martin} and going airborne twice.”
The Chevy’s right front tyre rode up onto the fender and hood of the Honda, pushing it backward more than 75 feet. The Honda then rotated 180 degrees, separating from the Chevy and travelling another 165 feet before coming to rest.
Mr. Redden put the Chevy’s speed at 100 to 110 mph. PC Lenford Butler provided a report in which he put the critical speed for that bend at 105.88 mph. The critical curve speed is the maximum at which a curve could be negotiated without going off the road.
Mr. Martin, 52, was a graduate student at St. Matthew’s School of Medicine. He was taking another student home after a study session. He died from loss of blood due to cardiac rupture and the tearing of a vein that carries blood to the heart. His passenger received serious injures, but survived.
Brooks-Dixon escaped serious injury, but his wife was airlifted to Miami with an injury to her arm that has since required extensive treatment overseas.
The Crown handed up victim impact statements. Justice Williams read them and said, “What jumped out of all these statements is that the late Dr. Richard Martin will be greatly missed by those who had the privilege of knowing him and being related to him … The community lost an educator from whom future generations could have benefited.”
In taking these factors into account, Justice Williams considered mitigating features, as put forward by Attorney Lucy Organ. She agreed Mr. Martin’s death had a profound impact on his family, but said it had a profound impact on Brooks-Dixon and his family also. At the scene, he had tried to assist but was told to move away. Mr. Martin’s passenger said Brooks-Dixon told him, “I’m very sorry.”
In his interview with a social worker he expressed remorse and said if he could put himself in the position of the deceased, he would. He also stated he had four to six beers, but felt he was “fully conscious”. There was no evidence that his course of dangerous driving was persistent or prolonged.
Ms Organ said Brooks-Dixon has had trouble sleeping. He has undergone counselling and has abstained from alcohol since the incident. He initially told police he was driving no more than 45 mph, but that was because he could not remember, Ms Organ told the court. Once expert reports provided evidence of speed, he pleaded guilty. Now 32, Brooks-Dixon had nine years driving experience and no driving offences. Character references described him as conscientious, honest and hard-working.
The judge pointed out that no prison sentence for the offender can restore a victim’s life or cure his family of their anguish. He also considered that an offender sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving did not intend to cause death or serious injury.
“Importantly, I must also consider the deterrent factor, to ensure that those who consume alcohol and then drive dangerously on our roads, and unfortunately there are many, should think twice before they do so, realising that if their case comes before this court they can expect a hard line to deter it,” Justice Williams said.
Having regard to guideline cases, he said he was satisfied a sentence of four years would be appropriate on a not guilty plea. Although pleading guilty was the only sensible course for Brooks-Dixon to take, Justice Williams said he would give significant discount for it and imposed three years.