Campaign to get tough on killer drivers

A COUPLE whose son was killed in an horrific car crash are launching a nationwide campaign for a change in the law to target drivers who kill.John and Joan Osborne, of West Wratting, near Newmarket, want a new charge of vehicular manslaughter to be introduced, and intend to appeal directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair to try and save other parents from the horror of losing their children in needless road accidents.

A COUPLE whose son was killed in an horrific car crash are launching a nationwide campaign for a change in the law to target drivers who kill.

John and Joan Osborne, of West Wratting, near Newmarket, want a new charge of vehicular manslaughter to be introduced, and intend to appeal directly to Prime Minister Tony Blair to try and save other parents from the horror of losing their children in needless road accidents.

The Osbornes' lives were wrecked by the tragic death of their 28-year-old son, Christopher, in an accident near Haverhill last year and the couple have vowed his death shall not be in vain.

Following a harrowing court case in July, Paul Ager, 21, of Horseheath, whose out-of-control car hit Christopher's vehicle, was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.

He was found guilty of the lesser charge of careless driving, fined £1,650 and given a one-year driving ban – and the Osbornes say they will fight until their dying day to get the law changed.

Mr and Mrs Osborne said they did not want any further lives to be "swept under the carpet" by laws which allow careless drivers to get off "virtually Scot free" and fail to address the true cost of innocent human life.

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Mrs Osborne said: "No parent should lose their child. We realise we can't bring Christopher back, but we will not rest until we have changed the law.

"We want there to be a new charge of vehicular manslaughter. A car is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands and thousands of people are being killed each year on our roads, which means thousands of families are going through what we are going through and then being told that the person responsible was being 'only' careless.

"What we want is for the sentence these people receive to reflect what they have done.

"When our son died, it was as if he ceased to matter. Who will speak for the dead if we don't? The emphasis in court is on the perpetrator, but there is no-one to speak for the victims."

Her husband said: "What we want is to introduce a sentence which reflects the severity of the crime, which would not only achieve some sort of justice for the victims and their families, but would act as a deterrent to people who drive irresponsibly and hopefully prevent further deaths.

"There are 3,500 people killed on our roads each year, and each of those deaths will affect 10 people who were close to them friends and family, in a severe way, and 10 further people who know them, when you do the calculations, the numbers are staggering."

Mrs Osborne said: "If 100 people were killed in a train crash, I don't think it would not just be put down to carelessness. Imagine if there were 35 train crashes in a year and 3,500 people were killed, there would be a national outcry and no-one would travel on trains, so why should it be any different for people travelling on roads?

"Our politicians have a duty to act on this matter and to get the judiciary to be much tougher."

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not against cars, but they have to be used responsibly, and at the moment there is no deterrent to people not doing so."

Mr Osborne said he would also like to see the term "anti-social driving" adopted for people who drove in an irresponsible or careless manner.

The couple have now decided to write to every newspaper in the country in an attempt to gather support for their campaign to Reclaim Our Roads from drivers who cause the deaths of pedestrians and other road users.

Mrs Osborne said: "We are setting up a PO Box for our campaign and we are starting a petition which we will give to the Prime Minister. We have to reclaim our roads from these people. I have two other sons and I would not forgive myself if anything happened to either of them and I had not tried to do something to prevent it."

Her husband added: "We can't do anything about Christopher's case, but this is about all the other families whose lives are wrecked, whose children are killed when they are completely innocent and their lives are just brushed under the carpet as the result of someone else's careless action.

"We must all take responsibility for our actions and expect to be duly punished if we fail to drive in a responsible manner.

"A car is as dangerous as a gun in the wrong hands and we must all act to protect the innocents of the road; the child killed on the pavements, the motorcyclist and the cyclist and the car driver who is doing no wrong - it is for these people and their families that we all have a duty to speak out."

Their campaign has been given the immediate support of Denise Downing of Ipswich, whose son Marc was killed while on holiday in Cornwall by a hit-and-run driver who later received a fine of just £83.

Mrs Downing has already supported a campaign to clamp down on hit-and-run drivers and wholeheartedly backs the Osborne' case for a change in the law.

She said: "I think there has to be some sort of change, something to find and convict theses drivers. I heard of a case only recently were a young girl had been hit by a hit-and-run driver and I heard her uncle on the radio saying he hoped they would get some sort of justice and I just thought 'no they won't, not with the law as it is'.

"Drivers are just getting away with it. It's coming up for two years since my son was killed and the driver who was charged will be coming to the end of her driving ban now. She may be able to get her life back together and go back to normal but I never will. I completely back the Osbornes."

A spokesman for the Home Office told the EADT: "The Government recognises that dangerous drivers who kill should be properly punished and the devastation they can cause is immense, not only for the victims' families but for whole communities.

"We have already acted and increased the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving from 10 to 14 years.

"There are cases where drivers can be charged with manslaughter, which carries the maximum sentence of life imprisonment."

Anyone who would like to support the Osborne's cause is asked to contact them via e-mail at Joan_Osborne@Tiscali.co.uk while their campaign PO box address is being arranged.

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