Parents attack hit-run sentence

PUBLISHED: 21:23 13 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

The parents of a teenager left for dead after a hit-and-run accident criticised the legal system after the drunk driver responsible received a ban and fine amounting to “a slap on the wrist”.

The parents of a teenager left for dead after a hit-and-run accident criticised the legal system after the drunk driver responsible received a ban and fine amounting to “a slap on the wrist”.

Moped rider Zac Ogle, 16, suffered a broken back and foot when Jaguar driver Stephen Overton ploughed in to him near King's Lynn last month.

He was thrown in the air and lay injured on the busy A149 in the dark while Overton, who was over the drink-drive limit, sped off and then abandoned his car a mile away.

Overton, 50, of Methuen Avenue, Gaywood, near Lynn, admitted drink driving and failing to stop after an accident at Lynn magistrates last week and was given an £800 fine and 18-month driving ban

He had 59mcgms of alcohol in his breath - the legal limit being 35mcgms - and was not ordered to pay any compensation.

Speaking to the EDP, Zac's parents Paul and Rea Ogle, of nearby Gayton, said they were astonished that a man who could have ended their son's life walked away from court with a “slap on the wrist”.

They believe Overson should have been charged with a more serious offence and the magistrates given sufficient information for them to gauge the full severity of the incident and its consequences.

“We walked out of the court in sheer disbelief, it was all over so quickly,” said Mrs Ogle. “When we got home, our son said 'what did he get for nearly taking my life?'”

Mr Ogle said that despite the crash being a heavy impact, Overton said he was unsure if he'd had an accident, and the magistrates were led to believe that to be the case.

“We are not angry with the magistrates because they have guidelines and could only go on what they were told, but he had actually left him for dead. It's the legal system; the magistrates didn't know the full story,” he said. “It was so frustrating because we couldn't stand up and say anything. If he had been charged with dangerous driving, maybe we would feel better.”

After leaving court, the couple tracked down Overton's written-off car at a Lynn recovery yard and took their own photographs.

Given the severity of the damage, they could not believe that he was unaware he had been in a crash. “How on earth could he not be aware he'd had an accident?,” said Mr Ogle. “He wasn't getting punished for what he did to our son; he got punished for motoring offences. There was no punishment for the pain, suffering and trauma that he's caused. He nearly destroyed our son who we've brought up for 16 years.

“There was a chance he could have been killed or crippled for life - the fact he is getting better doesn't take away what he went through. If it had been me behind that wheel I would have packed my toothbrush, thinking I was being locked up, not just a slap on the wrist and off you go.”

Zac was returning home with a night out with friends when Overton cut back in to the Lynn-bound lane near Castle Rising after overtaking a string of cars.

He hit Zac's Aprilla 50cc moped travelling in the same direction, virtually smashing off its rear wheel and carrying it up the road for several yards.

Zac spent five days in hospital with a fractured vertebrae and broken foot and had to miss his GCSE exams at Springwood High in Lynn because he cannot sit upright for any length of time in his spinal brace.

“The school is going to use his mock results, but he finds it frustrating because he is quite academic and wanted to do them because he's going to study in the sixth form,” said Mrs Ogle.

Chairman of the West Norfolk Magistrates Bench Ron Miller was unable to comment on the case itself but said magistrates were often frustrated by sentencing guidelines. He said: "We can understand the frustration of the victim and his family but you can only sentence on what has been charged and of the offences in this case, none of them are listed for anything more than a fine or a community penalty. That effectively means the bench are tied to how high they can go with the penalty, if they go too far, then the penalty is likely to be appealed.

"There are many, many times when the bench is extremely frustrated by the guidelines but you are really unable to go seriously beyond except in very, very serious cases."

The Crown Prosecution Service was unable to comment.

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