THE justice system is not working for families of people killed on the roads.

That is the view of Warrington North MP Helen Jones who led a debate on dangerous driving in Parliament yesterday, Monday.

The debate was scheduled by the Petitions Select Committee, which the MP chairs, having secured more than 160,000 signatures.

The petition calls for life sentences for causing death by dangerous driving.

It was sparked by the parents of Violet-Grace Youens, Glenn and Becky.

Four-year-old Violet was killed in a hit-and-run in St Helens in 2017. The men responsible, Aidan McAteer, then 23, and passenger Dean Brennan, 27, had ran past Violet-Grace as she lay injured on the ground after the car had struck her on Prescot Road.

Both could be out by 2020 or 2021.

Warrington Guardian:


Mrs Jones said: “The law doers not cope well with such offences. It leaves families believing they have not had justice and the public looking on in amazement seem to be unduly lenient sentences. I met some of the families today and heard their stories. They told me that they felt they were treated as though they were criminals.

"They were not allowed to show emotion in court and were sometimes told not to sit in the court. They were not allowed to read out all their victim statement in case it upset the perpetrator. They sometimes felt that they were the ones on trial,

“Families have told me this afternoon of seeing people cheer in court because their sentence was so light.

“Our justice system is simply not working (for bereaved families).”

She said that governments of all colours have tried to fill in the gaps in the law so that it operated properly.

The MP went on to argue that a simple one-clause Bill could make the changes necessary to increase the maximum sentence and that this could be done quickly before.

Along with a public education campaign, she said: “It is clear that we should get on with increasing the maximum sentence. The Government would have the support of the public and widespread support among all parties in the House, and such action would rebuild confidence in the law and recognise the campaigning of bereaved families. Most importantly, it might save lives – and surely saving even one life makes this worth doing.”

Describing the moments she learned Violet had been seriously injured, Becky Youens, 31, who was working at Warrington Hospital at the time said: "Glenn phoned me at about 3.25pm at work, when I heard him crying on the phone I knew something bad had happened.

"When I got to Whiston Hospital I went into shock. They had to put me in a bed and gave me anti-sickness and a nurse had to keep coming and liaising with me.

Warrington Guardian:

Becky and Glenn Youens

"They said: 'Violet has had another cardiac arrest but we have got her back and we need to get her to Alder Hey now, we are going to bring her through and she's going to have lots of tubes and wires coming from her'.

"We were escorted to Alder Hey and they said that they 'didn't think she was going to survive'.

"We didn't believe that. We thought she was going to be our miracle, so we asked to see the surgeon because they said she had brain stem death and, in the end, it took for him and a neurologist to show us the scans which showed (the extent of her injuries).

"We had a bedside vigil, and then we went down to theatre and we said goodbye and myself and Glenn were in bed with Violet. She battled, but in the end, they took her tube out and she didn't breathe.

"I will never forget this bit sinking in for the final time, just thinking please breathe sweetheart, please breathe."

In the subsequent criminal case, Liverpool Crown Court heard how Aidan McAteer, then 23, and passenger Dean Brennan, 27, had ran past Violet-Grace as she lay injured on the ground after the car had struck her on Prescot Road.

McAteer, who fled to Amsterdam within hours of the collision, pleaded guilty to causing Violet-Grace's death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to her grandmother Angela French, who suffered life-changing injuries.

Brennan was jailed for six years and eight months after admitting the aggravated taking of a vehicle and assisting an offender.

Becky added added: "Before they were sentenced we were pulled to one side and told 'don't expect double figures'.

"I was like: 'Don't expect double figures for my baby's life, a four-year-old girl's life? Don't expect double figures?' Then it got worse because the nine years and four months is halved (due to parole).

"We were told we couldn't read our victim impact statements out (in full) because it would be too upsetting for McAteer to hear.

"When we came out we said this has got to stop. When we got to January, 2019 we said we need to do this now (Violet's Law).

"I'm in the middle of doing a degree, we both work full time, we are grieving parents and we are trying to bring up our son. But this has to stop because families are being torn apart by this crime and we are the ones with a life sentence.

"They will be out in 2020 and 2021, no time at all.

"We don't want Violet's name to be in vain or for others to suffer.

"This is about people's lives and a car in the wrong hands becomes a lethal weapon."

Warrington Guardian:

Helen Jones chaired the debate