Anastasia Watson, sentenced in February to 12 months’ imprisonment for causing death by careless driving, was granted a three-month reduction in her sentence in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
Attorney Amelia Fosuhene argued that the sentencing judge, Justice Philip St. John-Stevens, did not give Ms. Watson enough credit for her personal mitigating circumstances.
The three-judge panel agreed and also noted the court’s lack of power to impose a suspended sentence.
The appellant was sentenced in February this year after pleading guilty to causing the death of Kimberly Bush by driving carelessly in the early hours of April 15, 2015. Ms. Bush was 23 at the time and Ms. Watson was 22.
As Justice George Newman summarized in delivering the court’s decision, Ms. Watson was driving a BMW on Rum Point Drive, which she was familiar with. Ms. Bush was her passenger.
At a point where there was a slight bend in the road, Ms. Watson lost control of the vehicle. The car left the road, hit a sign, a wall and a pillar. Ms. Bush died almost immediately.
When police arrived, Ms. Watson was sitting on the ground and said she did not know what had happened, that she must have blacked out. She was tested with a breathalyzer, but alcohol was not a factor. The speed of her vehicle was calculated at 80 mph; the highest speed at which the bend could be negotiated was 69 mph. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 50 mph.
Justice Newman said the case turned on whether the judge had given Ms. Watson sufficient credit by way of a discount for what could be described as “very impressive personal mitigation.”
There was no argument about the judge’s starting point of 21 months, with one-third off for the guilty plea, resulting in 14 months, with another two months’ reduction for mitigating circumstances.
Justice Newman then referred to the social inquiry report, which Ms. Fosuhene had detailed in her submissions. Ms. Watson had grown up in the foster care system and had conquered her difficulties. After reaching adulthood, she had returned to the foster home to look after younger children. She turned her life around and got a job she was committed to.
There was no doubt Ms. Watson had shown remorse for causing her friend’s death, Justice Newman said. It seemed to him her character was borne out by the written note she had submitted to the sentencing court. In it she expressed not only her remorse and pain, but also recognition of the pain caused to Ms. Bush’s family. She accepted that she had responsibility for her passenger and accepted the consequences of her actions that night.
The judge said these factors showed her care for others.
There was no way in an offense like this, under the law as it is at present, that the court had any real “amplitude of power” to reflect what could be an appropriate result – such as a suspended sentence.
Crown counsel Scott Wainwright had earlier confirmed that the law does not permit a sentence to be suspended in the case of causing death by dangerous or careless driving.
Justice Newman suggested that if a suspended sentence were available, it could be a way of dealing with such matters.
“I’m bound to say there are reasons why this area of sentencing, and the way it is legislated for, calls for attention,” the judge remarked.
The appeal court concluded that the sentencing judge did not give sufficient credit in this case for Ms. Watson’s personality, character and lifestyle, and that a discount of two months was too little. The discount was extended a further three months, so that the revised sentence is nine months.
Hearing the appeal with Justice Newman were court president Sir John Goldring and Justice John Martin.