The seventeen year old son of two police officers walked free from court today despite hitting and killing two men while driving his parents’ powerful Audi when he was high on cannabis.
Last August in Ascot he hit John Shackley, 61, and Jason Imi, 48, as they crossed the road shortly before 11pm. The pair were thrown over the top of the car and died instantly on impact with the road.
Mr Imi’s wife of 18 years and mother of his three children told the youth court in Reading their future had been ‘stolen’.
The young man was arrested at the scene and found to have 3.3 microgrammes of cannabis in his bloodstream – the legal limit for driving is 2 mcg.
The drug-driver also had five convictions for seven offences between 2013 and 2018, mainly for drugs, including one just eight weeks before this offence when police who pulled him over for bad driving discovered he smelled of cannabis and later found he had 5.7mcgs in his blood.
Sarah Imi (left) and Jason Imi (right) had been together for 22 years. The couple had three children and were weeks away from their 18th wedding anniversary. She said: ‘We had so many plans for our future together and I feel that has been stolen from us’
Thames Valley Police officers arrested him on the day of the accident on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving but the CPS only prosecuted for drug-driving.
Today the youth was merely sentenced to 100 hours of community service, a rehabilitation order with a safe driving component, and a six month curfew which is effective five days out of seven, after he admitted drug-driving.
The young man, who is four months away from his 18th birthday, cannot be named despite the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) joining with the press in asking magistrates to lift a ban on naming him.
The youth magistrates court in Reading heard today that the young man, who lives with his family in a £1 million home in Ascot, Berkshire, had been ‘smoking weed’ with friends before borrowing his parents’ Audi A5 and taking friends out for a drive in nearby Sunninghill on the evening of August 2.
He hit and killed the two men on the A329 London Road, as they crossed the road after a meal out with colleagues.
In a statement, a friend of the driver’s who was in the back seat said the driver saw the men but did not steer away.
In his witness statement read by the prosecutor he said: ‘About six to ten minutes through our journey, he was driving fine and then he said something about how there were people on the road.’
Prosecutor Sobia Ali added: ‘From the moment the person said something to the point that there was a bang, was about two seconds.’
The statement continued: ‘He already knew there was someone in the road, he was already braking before anyone said anything. Other than applying the brakes he didn’t do anything, no steering or anything.
John Shakley was 61 when he was hit and killed by the drug-driving teenager. His wife said ‘He was able to drive a powerful car and perhaps the family should have been more alert to the warning signs’
‘A window smashed and I knew we were hitting a person. I could see two bodies on the floor curled up, they were behind the car to the left. I went home on foot, I ran, I ran because I was scared, probably scared of my mum finding out to be honest.’
Sarah Imi was Jason Imi’s partner of 22 years. The couple had three children and were weeks away from their 18th wedding anniversary.
In her victim impact statement she said: ‘We had so many plans for our future together and I feel that has been stolen from us.
‘Why was he driving a car that powerful? It seems like no lessons have been learned.’
The prosecutor said Mr Shackley’s wife said: ‘My husband was killed after a meal out with colleagues. He said he would be back around 11 o’clock.
‘He was killed instantly only five or ten minutes’ walk from the restaurant. Our only hope is that they felt no pain or fear. That is our only consolation.
‘He was able to drive a powerful car and perhaps the family should have been more alert to the warning signs.’
Mrs Shackley added that she had chosen not to take medication prescribed to help her deal with the devastation of her husband’s death because the label warned: ‘WARNING. Driving may be impaired.’
She asked the court: ‘How could I be so irresponsible?’
Flowers have been laid by the scene of the crash in London Road in Sunninghill, Ascot
The prosecutor asked for a custodial sentence, revealing the young man had five convictions for seven offences between 2013-2018.
The most recent was in June 2018 – just eight weeks before the double tragedy – where police stopped the defendant over concerns about his driving and discovered he smelled of cannabis smoke.
He was found to have 5.7mcgs of cannabis compounds per litre of blood, over twice the legal limit.
But the defence argued there was no case to answer which deserved jail time.
Defending lawyer, David Todd, told the magistrates: ‘If the Crown could show evidence of unacceptable driving, we’d know about it, because the charge would be causing death by dangerous or by careless.’
He said that as unpalatable as it might seem, an investigation had shown blame for the crash could not be laid at the feet of the defendant.
Section 49 Order
Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (CYPA 1933) places an automatic restriction on reporting information that identifies or is likely to identify any person under the age of 18 who is concerned in youth court proceedings as a victim, witness or defendant.
But the order can be waived in cases where identifying the defendent is deemed in the public interest.
In this case the Crown prosecutor joined forces with the Press in appealing to magistrates to lift the anonymity on the teenager.
After an application was submitted from INS News Agency, the magistrates invited representations from interested parties, and Ms Ali argued for lifting the order.
Ms Ali said: ‘The prosecution say that it is in the public interest. The public should understand that having drugs in your system can lead to devastating consequences.’
Defending, Mr Todd pointed out that the charge the teenage defendant was facing was just drug-driving and not causing death by dangerous or careless driving and that charge was not serious enough to merit lifting the teenager’s automatic anonymity granted in youth court.
Charlie Moloney, representing the Press, argued that although the charge in court was relatively less serious, in reality the crime had still led to the deaths of two people, and the seriousness was therefore increased.
The magistrates, after hearing legal advice, said: ‘It is important to raise awareness of the dangers of drug driving. The Press can report the facts and the case fully. We see no reason to lift reporting restrictions in this case.’
The anonymity remained.
He said there was no evidence he had driven in a dangerous fashion, even though he was over the drug drive limit,adding: ‘Since the date of the incident there has been a lengthy police investigation involving specially trained officers and accident reconstruction. The charge being simply drug driving, there is no factor that increases the seriousness of the matter.’
The young man, who passed his test only two months before the fatal collision, told the court: ”I had smoked four or five hours prior to that. Now I would never go near a car. I genuinely thought I wasn’t impaired. I had no idea I was over the limit, otherwise I wouldn’t have driven a car at that time.’
He added: ‘I had tears in my eyes when I was listening to the families’ statements. I can’t describe in words how I feel about it. It is the most unfortunate thing. It really has affected my mental well-being.
The teen promised he had stopped smoking weed and was focusing on his B-techs at college and hoping to go to university.
His mother said: ‘I think he really needs to learn a lesson that this can’t go on. But I think he has.’
She said he had been ‘nicer at home’ and that saw no evidence of him taking drugs ‘at the moment’ describing the two deaths as ‘a real wake-up call’.
She said the family had hidden the keys to the Audi.
Sentencing, presiding magistrate Penny Wood said JHs’ ‘initial thinking’ was to jail the young man, adding: ‘It can’t be right to drive your car and knock down two people, innocent pedestrians and kill them.’
However, she added: ‘There are no charges in relation to the standard of your driving on that day. But we can begin by saying so it can be heard by anyone in the court, that we take this extremely seriously.’
The youth admitted a charge of driving a motor vehicle with a proportion of a specified controlled drug above the specified limit.
He was not accused of any offences in relation to the deaths of pedestrians John Shackley and Jason Imi.
The magistrates put the teenager on a new youth rehabilitation order, which included a supervision requirement of 24 months, a programme requirement with a ‘thinking skills programme’ of 20 days, an activity requirement for a programme of safe driving, 100 hours unpaid work, and a curfew lasting for six months from 7pm to 7am, excluding Mondays and Thursdays when he attends college.
The teenager was also disqualified from driving for 24 months and charged £105 in costs, which his parents said they would pay. The magistrates suggested he could pay them back by doing odd jobs about the house.