Labours Baron Ahmed was sentenced at Sheffield Magistrates' Court to 12 weeks. Last year he pleaded guilty to driving dangerously on the M1 near Rotherham, South Yorkshire. In 1998 he was appointed to the House of Lords, becoming the first Muslim life peer as Baron Ahmed, of Rotherham, and only the second Muslim peer.
He is quite a controversial figure, skating close to the edge. He was much criticised when he hosted a reception at the House of Lords for the anti-Semitic writer Israel Shamir, who used the occasion to accuse Jews of wanting to set up a world empire! In 2007 he said of a proposal to award a knighthood to Salman Rushdie that 'he was appalled', stating that Rushdie had 'blood on his hands'. I wish he had said that about Blair, it would in that case have been true.
Slovakian Martyn Gombar, 28, who was living in Leigh, Lancashire, died when Baron Ahmed's Jaguar hit an Audi car, which had stopped in the fast lane of the motorway after a separate crash. The court heard how Baron Ahmed sent and received a series of five text messages while driving in the dark at speeds of, and above, 60mph along a 17-mile stretch of the motorway. The peer received three text messages and sent two while driving on the southbound carriageway of the M1, between junctions 40 and 35. His elderly mother and his wife were passengers in the car at the time.
Steve Smith, Baron Ahmed's solicitor, told the court that the peer was "rendered momentarily unconscious" by the impact of the crash and suffered a serious head injury. Smith told the court that 'nothing happened as a result of Lord Ahmed sending and receiving the text messages and stressed the fatal accident was unconnected'. But the court was told that Lord Ahmed sent his last message about two minutes before colliding with the Audi!
Does anyone really believe the crash was unconnected with his texting? The man was in the fast lane of a motorway going at high speed, he has just sent a text and was still distracted, perhaps putting the phone away, or reading other texts. Smith thinks the Barons prominence has lead to him being treated harshly in this case, but most commentators think he has got away far too lightly.
David Cicak, Mr Gombar's cousin, said: “We’re not happy with this. He could be out in six weeks, that’s nothing. [My cousin] left behind two small kids now with only their mother.”
Baron Ahmed will serve half the sentence behind bars and the rest on 'licence'. His solicitor said he would appeal against the sentence, claiming the peer was being made a "scapegoat" because of his profile.
It isn't easy to compare different cases, but here is a recent one that is similar. A motorist (Philippa Curtis) sent and received more than 20 text messages before she crashed into another car killing its driver. She has been jailed for 21 months. The Judge said he hoped the case would send out a warning to other drivers not to use their phones when behind the wheel. Sergeant Bill Sykes of Thames Valley Police said: "The court has rightly judged that such acts do amount to dangerous driving and those responsible are being held accountable for that. There is no phone call or text message that is so important that you cannot stop or wait until you can pull over and it's safe to receive or make that text message."
In another case the driver got 4 years in prison. Kiera Coultas was also banned from driving for five years. She was doing 45mph in a 30mph zone, had just gone through a red light while texting and then killed a cyclist she hadn't seen. Sgt Alyson West, of Hampshire Constabulary, said the ruling would hopefully discourage others from using their mobile phones while driving. The "sentence will not bring back Jordan Wickington. However, it will hopefully help to deter drivers who continue to flout the law by using their mobile phones while driving."
Clearly these judges thinks its is a terrible crime to kill by not being in controll while driving. Baron Ahmed was very 'lucky' to get a more sympathetic judge. I think Baron Ahmed, along with other disgraced peers such as Jeffrey Archer and Mandleson, should be thrown out of the house of Lords. I've even got a new name for taking this action, lets 'denoble' those without honour. I would include all those who 'coincidentally' gave millions in donations at the same time as their enoblement.
Judges were told that for motorists who read or write text messages on a mobile phone should face jail sentences of up to seven years if they cause a death, under new guidelines from a sentencing watchdog last july. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said that the use of mobile phones is also treated “robustly”, with advice that if an offender is distracted by a hand-held mobile phone when the offence is committed, it will be treated as “particularly” serious. The guidelines state that a driver with no previous convictions who causes an accident leading to death because they were using a mobile phone can expect a prison sentence of 15 months or more.'
See also where Labour people debate this.
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