Bus driver criticises sentence for drunk 4x4 driver who killed friend in Darlington town centre crash

Bus driver criticises sentence for drunk 4x4 driver who killed friend in Darlington town centre crash

Emergency services at the scene of the crash

Darrel French

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Darlington)

A BUS driver who says he is lucky to be alive after a drunk 4x4 driver ploughed into the side of his bus, killing the car’s front-seat passenger, last night demanded tougher penalties for people who drive over the limit.

Darrel French was almost three times the drink-drive limit when he slammed a stolen Isuzu Trooper into the side of a bus, killing his friend and passenger, James Reddington, 19.

The force of the impact tore off the front of the bus and left its unconscious driver, Wilf Graham, hanging out of the wreck.

Since the collision, which happened on the busy Stonebridge roundabout, in Darlington, just days before Christmas, Mr Graham has suffered recurring nightmares, as well as headaches and blurred vision, arm injuries, whiplash and cuts and bruises.

The 57-year-old, of Bishop Auckland, was also off work for eight weeks with broken ribs, and has had to spend more than £12,000 upgrading his car.

He said: “It was horrible. I have seen the CCTV of it and somebody was looking down on me that day. 

“It could have been a lot worse. It could have been a bairn and his mother or father.”

French, of Haughton Road, Darlington, was jailed for six years and four months at Teesside Crown Court after admitting causing death by dangerous driving, aggravated vehicle-taking, drink-driving and driving without insurance. He was also banned from driving for four years.

Mr Graham, a father-of-one, said the sentence was too short.

“When you drive a car drunk, it is like a loaded gun,” he said.

“Somebody has got to stand up and say hang on a minute, this isn’t right.

“He (French) says that he is sorry, but he has never made any attempt to say sorry to me. He has got no interest in anybody else but himself.”

Mr Graham believes there should be a zero-tolerance policy to drink-driving, as well as tougher punishments and fewer leniencies on sentencing.

Darlington MP, Jenny Chapman, said she would support a review of the drink-drive limit, which is currently 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

She said: “It is often very difficult for anyone to judge whether they are over the limit and many people take a zero-tolerance approach themselves.

“There is widespread concern about sentencing guidelines for drink drivers and dangerous drivers.

"Sentences should reflect the impact on the victim.”

Road safety charity Brake echoed Mr Graham’s comments and the charity’s campaigns officer, Ed Morrow, said: “Drink drivers who kill face a 14 year maximum sentence, but in practice many get off with far less.

“Sentencing guidelines for drivers who kill and injure are in need of urgent review, to ensure they more appropriately reflect the suffering that has been caused, and to provide an effective deterrent to other risky drivers.

“Tackling the menace of drink driving needs to start well before someone loses their life, with higher sentences – up to two years – for repeat drink drivers, and a zero-tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood.”

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists said maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years’ imprisonment but it is rarely used.

He said: “Society is changing and the support for tougher sentences is growing. In our view we don't need longer sentences or new offences just more consistent use of currently available sanctions.”

Comments (14)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

2:42am Wed 30 Apr 14

SirLance says...

I agree totally with the bus driver! The drunken driver needs a public flogging a the place where the accident took place! Let him get over the flogging with 8 years of hard labor to follow! Zero tolerance is the way to go!
I agree totally with the bus driver! The drunken driver needs a public flogging a the place where the accident took place! Let him get over the flogging with 8 years of hard labor to follow! Zero tolerance is the way to go! SirLance
  • Score: 70

7:12am Wed 30 Apr 14

stevegg says...

6 years is a ludicrously lenient sentance for this crime it should have been 20 years with no remission. Our 'justice' is a joke and protects criminals, why are judges never held to account for their weak sentancing as all other public bodies are held to account??
6 years is a ludicrously lenient sentance for this crime it should have been 20 years with no remission. Our 'justice' is a joke and protects criminals, why are judges never held to account for their weak sentancing as all other public bodies are held to account?? stevegg
  • Score: 64

8:40am Wed 30 Apr 14

Homshaw1 says...

Won't even serve anything like the full sentence. The British "justice" system is a joke.
Won't even serve anything like the full sentence. The British "justice" system is a joke. Homshaw1
  • Score: 50

9:02am Wed 30 Apr 14

RealLivin says...

When I served in Germany in the forces the German police dont need a reason to stop you, possibly over the top but included in this is the ability to sit out side every bar and breathalyse every one coming out and getting int a car, over here thats harassment. However whats is the difference between getting in your car drunk/drugged and walking down the street with a knife or a gun, the answer is none, all scenarios have the potential for trouble and death to some one innocent, hence its illegal to do it. killing some one whilst in a car drunk/drugged is manslaughter, doing it in a stolen car means you should get sentenced for the killing plus theft, plus drunk/drugged driving and no chance of parole, after all what chance does the victim have to get back on with their normal lives, again euro human rights polices in force here you have to treat scum bags like royalty and forget the victims as they been compensated with this minimal sentencing .
When I served in Germany in the forces the German police dont need a reason to stop you, possibly over the top but included in this is the ability to sit out side every bar and breathalyse every one coming out and getting int a car, over here thats harassment. However whats is the difference between getting in your car drunk/drugged and walking down the street with a knife or a gun, the answer is none, all scenarios have the potential for trouble and death to some one innocent, hence its illegal to do it. killing some one whilst in a car drunk/drugged is manslaughter, doing it in a stolen car means you should get sentenced for the killing plus theft, plus drunk/drugged driving and no chance of parole, after all what chance does the victim have to get back on with their normal lives, again euro human rights polices in force here you have to treat scum bags like royalty and forget the victims as they been compensated with this minimal sentencing . RealLivin
  • Score: 39

9:10am Wed 30 Apr 14

thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth says...

I notice no comments were allowed on the other article regarding the sentencing. Why not?

These scum bags deserve everything they get - the occupants of that car all knew what they were getting into. They all had form and lots of it. It's a shame they weren't all killed.

And i feel sorry for the innocent people who were caught up in the incident - justice has most definitely not been done here!
I notice no comments were allowed on the other article regarding the sentencing. Why not? These scum bags deserve everything they get - the occupants of that car all knew what they were getting into. They all had form and lots of it. It's a shame they weren't all killed. And i feel sorry for the innocent people who were caught up in the incident - justice has most definitely not been done here! thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth
  • Score: 60

9:46am Wed 30 Apr 14

Rover13 says...

Darlington these days is like the wild west in the yarm road area ?
Darlington these days is like the wild west in the yarm road area ? Rover13
  • Score: 30

5:21pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Site Editor says...

In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action:

The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva.
In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action: The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva. Site Editor
  • Score: 11

6:39pm Wed 30 Apr 14

oliviaden6 says...

Site Editor wrote:
In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action:

The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva.
In that case then a better editing and confirmation of stories needs to be in place before opening up articles for comment?
[quote][p][bold]Site Editor[/bold] wrote: In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action: The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva.[/p][/quote]In that case then a better editing and confirmation of stories needs to be in place before opening up articles for comment? oliviaden6
  • Score: 2

10:17pm Wed 30 Apr 14

rat man says...

Readers comments were disallowed on the related article article, "Family's anguish as Darlington joyride pair crash pair jailed" when readers starting posting unsympathetic comments regarding the joy riding passenger that was killed. Did the Northern Echo honestly expect anything other than hostile comments. No mention was made in the article regarding the injuries sustained by the bus driver, the only innocent victim in this case.
Readers comments were disallowed on the related article article, "Family's anguish as Darlington joyride pair crash pair jailed" when readers starting posting unsympathetic comments regarding the joy riding passenger that was killed. Did the Northern Echo honestly expect anything other than hostile comments. No mention was made in the article regarding the injuries sustained by the bus driver, the only innocent victim in this case. rat man
  • Score: 17

10:43pm Wed 30 Apr 14

Daveindarlo says...

The calls to lower the limit will not prevent cases like this, the limit was irrelevant in this case, the 3 youths in the car had complete disregard for the laws they were 3 times over the limit, I'm pretty sure they took no notice of the limit, and broke several other laws. Yes the sentence was too soft but brake and jenny chapman are talking about criminalising millions of motorists who are currently within the law.
The calls to lower the limit will not prevent cases like this, the limit was irrelevant in this case, the 3 youths in the car had complete disregard for the laws they were 3 times over the limit, I'm pretty sure they took no notice of the limit, and broke several other laws. Yes the sentence was too soft but brake and jenny chapman are talking about criminalising millions of motorists who are currently within the law. Daveindarlo
  • Score: 4

9:05am Thu 1 May 14

Homshaw1 says...

Site Editor wrote:
In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action:

The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva.
Did they change there mind or did they never intend to take disciplinary action? Maybe the original poster could tell us why he thought it was an issue.
[quote][p][bold]Site Editor[/bold] wrote: In response to reader comments suggesting the driver will be facing disciplinary action: The Northern Echo understands that no disciplinary action will be taken against the driver by Arriva.[/p][/quote]Did they change there mind or did they never intend to take disciplinary action? Maybe the original poster could tell us why he thought it was an issue. Homshaw1
  • Score: 3

4:05pm Thu 1 May 14

pandorica says...

Yes and my truthful comment was one removed by the paper. Well why should it of been? The man killed was a criminal who knew what he was doing when he pinched the car and allowed French to drive it knowing he was drunk.
Of course its not nice for the family to read this, and to them I understand you are upset, but please lets be honest, 2 children have lost their daddy. It could of been a lot worse, but I stand by what I said, and perhaps the paper should think about running a story in the first place if we are not allowed to comment on the story.
Yes and my truthful comment was one removed by the paper. Well why should it of been? The man killed was a criminal who knew what he was doing when he pinched the car and allowed French to drive it knowing he was drunk. Of course its not nice for the family to read this, and to them I understand you are upset, but please lets be honest, 2 children have lost their daddy. It could of been a lot worse, but I stand by what I said, and perhaps the paper should think about running a story in the first place if we are not allowed to comment on the story. pandorica
  • Score: 8

10:43pm Thu 1 May 14

theWorkerScum says...

I bet the ban of 4 years driving really annoyed him. The scum bag should be put away for life. The justice system is crap, and no one can change it, even the government, Its designed that way to keep everyone down.
I bet the ban of 4 years driving really annoyed him. The scum bag should be put away for life. The justice system is crap, and no one can change it, even the government, Its designed that way to keep everyone down. theWorkerScum
  • Score: 6

12:48pm Mon 5 May 14

bafatimbi says...

burglary,car theft ,drink driving,causing death,endangering lives ,not to mention turning the bus drivers lives upside down and the distress and utter carnage these scumbags caused,and what do you get when one of them dies ,stories about what a good father and true gent the deceased was,ones dead the other two should have got six years for each of the crimes they committed in my opinion ,its a disgrace and i for one think the justice system should be redrawn so that the punishments fit the crimes
burglary,car theft ,drink driving,causing death,endangering lives ,not to mention turning the bus drivers lives upside down and the distress and utter carnage these scumbags caused,and what do you get when one of them dies ,stories about what a good father and true gent the deceased was,ones dead the other two should have got six years for each of the crimes they committed in my opinion ,its a disgrace and i for one think the justice system should be redrawn so that the punishments fit the crimes bafatimbi
  • Score: 5

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree