Teenage driver from Gorleston sent to young offenders’ institute for causing death by dangerous driving
Norfolk's most senior judge has raised concerns about the increasing prevalance of people driving while under the influence of drugs, after a teenager who caused the death of a 15-year-old while high on cannabis was sentenced to four years and three months in a young offenders institution.
Judge Peter Jacobs said that he had dealt with 'case after case' of people being killed due to drivers getting behind the wheel while under the influence, but that his previous messages had been ignored.
Norwich Crown Court heard how Luke Barnes, 18, of University Crescent, Gorleston, was driving a stolen car without a licence and under the influence of cannabis, when he crashed into a wall during a police car chase.
The front seat passenger Ryan Youngman, 15, of Middleton Road, Gorleston, died at the scene of the crash and Barnes also suffered serious injuries. The two back seat passengers did not need hospital treatment.
Barnes admitted causing death by dangerous driving at an earlier hearing.
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In sentencing Barnes, Judge Jacobs said: 'In the eight years I have been resident judge here I have dealt with case after case of this description.
'Every year I get case after case like this, often when cars have been taken, people are under the influence of drinks or drugs, and sometimes people die and sometimes they don't. Each time I say the same thing, but whether people don't read it or don't listen, it happens again.'
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Mr Youngman's family criticised the sentencing and said that Barnes could be free in two years, while they had been given 'a life sentence'.
Speaking on behalf of the family, the teenager's uncle, Simon Hughes said: 'It has devastated the family. No matter what the sentence was we have still lost Ryan, and it's not going bring him back.
'But the sentence will mean him just doing two years in an open prison. They might as well as have just put him under house arrest. 'At the end of two years he will be walking free, while we have still got to live with the loss of Ryan.
'We just hope he can show more remorse and that it never happens again.
'He showed no remorse in court and he will probably be the same when he gets out of prison. He never once told us that he was sorry.'
Ryan's mother Lesley Hughes said they hoped that Barnes was thinking about her son every day as they were.
She added: 'We were stunned and shocked when we found it. You never think you are going to lose your child in those circumstances.'
Meanwhile, Steve Flynn, Lesley Hughes' partner, said they would always remember Ryan.
The court heard that police had followed Barnes' Ford Fiesta car, which was travelling at about 85mph in a 30mph, along Caister High Street before it crashed into a wall shortly after midnight on February 2.
Prosecuting, Martin Ivory said that just after midnight officers in a marked vehicle on the Caister bypass and Yarmouth Road roundabout, became aware of a silver Ford Fiesta. They began following the car and, after briefly losing it, began a pursuit.
The pursuit continued on to Yarmouth Road, where the Fiesta hit a brick wall.
Mr Ivory said that Barnes had cannabis in his blood although it was impossible to say how much it affected his driving, although Judge Jacobs said it was an aggravating feature.
John Farmer, for Barnes, said: 'My client accepts, as he has always done, that he is 100pc responsible and has never looked to blame others. He is deeply affected by the consequences of his actions, Ryan Youngman was a friend of his and someone he had known most of his life. He also feels responsibility towards his own family for the consequences of his actions. This was a life-changing event for him and it will be there for the rest of his life.'
Afterwards, Chief Inspector Chris Spinks said: 'This was a tragic incident which has affected many people and claimed the life of a teenage boy. Our thoughts remain with Ryan's family.
'This incident should serve as a warning to young drivers to ensure they consider the consequences of their actions when getting behind the wheel of a car.
'We continue to work closely with our partners in the casualty reduction group to educate and increase awareness of road safety among young drivers.'
Barnes was also banned from driving for four years and will have to take an extended driving test.
Norfolk police were cleared of any blame over the deaths following an investigation into the circumstances. Sarah Green, commissioner at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said that the force had followed national guidelines and officers had been properly trained and equipped.
She said: 'Tragically a young boy lost his life and in such circumstances it was appropriate for the IPCC to undertake an independent investigation.
'We found that Norfolk Police officers acted appropriately and in accordance with their guidelines and procedures in the way in which they conducted their pursuit.
'The events leading up to the pursuit justified police officers' decision to attempt to stop the Fiesta and speak to the occupants, and officers liaised correctly with the police control room.'