Six-year sentence upheld for death by dangerous driving

Court of Appeal urges new sentencing guidelines

Jessie Perry

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of six years for causing death by dangerous driving.

The judges dismissed the appeal on behalf of Conroy Nairne, who had pleaded guilty to causing the death of his passenger, Jessie Perry. Ms. Perry, 21, died a week after the one-car accident; she had sustained second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of her body.

The accident occurred around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2015, when Mr. Nairne was driving an Audi A4 on West Bay Road toward West Bay at speeds that reached 127 mph. The maximum limit on West Bay Road is 40 mph.

Where the road turns sharply to the right at the public beach, the car hit the curb and went airborne. It collided with a sign, boulders and a tree. When it hit the tree, it was 14 feet off the ground.

The car burst into flames and came to rest on its roof, with both occupants inside. People in the vicinity pulled them from the burning car. Mr. Nairne was also injured.

Attorney Nicholas Dixey submitted that the sentence should have been around three and a half years. He said Justice Marlene Carter had “double counted” the speed by using it to determine the level of seriousness of the offense and then using it again as an aggravating factor in the offense.

With a maximum sentence in Cayman of 10 years for causing death by dangerous driving, Mr. Dixey said the judge’s starting point should have been five years, with credit then applied for the guilty plea and mitigating factors.

In response, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran pointed to other aggravating features, such as the sustained speeding and the fact that it occurred on one of the busiest roads in Cayman, with restaurants and hotels in the area.

Court president Sir John Goldring heard the appeal with Justice John Martin and Justice Sir Richard Field.

Justice Martin delivered the decision. He said the sentencing judge was entitled to take the view that the offense was so serious that it warranted a higher starting point than the basic tariff.

“We do not consider that her starting point of eight years was wrong in principle or manifestly excessive,” he said.

The judge then did give a 25 percent discount, which was appropriate, the appeal court indicated. Mitigating factors had considerably less effect on sentence when the driver’s culpability was so high, the judges said.

In his submissions, Mr. Dixey had referred to the chief justice’s sentencing guidelines of 2002, a U.K. case of 2003, and a Cayman case from 2008.

The court found this state of affairs to be less than satisfactory.

“We understand that the guidelines are under review, but until new ones are promulgated it is difficult for a sentencer to know which ones to apply.

The chief justice’s guidelines are still in force and set a basic tariff, but the approach to identification of relevant sentencing considerations, and the public attitude to offenses of causing death by driving, have advanced considerably since 2002, the court declared.