Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Three and a third years for Steve Smith’s life

If I spent a day drinking, and then killed your nephew by smashing him with a lump of metal, you’d expect me to go to prison for a long time.

My oldest friend, Matt, was the only member of his family who could face going to court for the sentencing of the man who killed Steve Smith, his nephew. Steve was twenty when he was killed by Simon Kelly, aged 47, of Charlton Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Steve had spent the day with his girlfriend of two years, and was riding home on his motorbike when Simon Kelly killed him with his Toyota Rav, which he was driving on the wrong side of a country lane.

Kelly had spent the day drinking at home, and in pubs with his wife. Instead of getting a lift home with his wife in her car (she wasn’t drunk), he chose to drive. He had 147 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80 micrograms.

Why he ignored the warning signs on the road and decided to overtake her car on a blind bend, less than a mile away from their home, is unknown. “There’s no suggestion of competitive driving”, said Kelly’s lawyer, and I certainly wouldn’t want to imply such criminal, irresponsible, stupid and selfish behaviour of Kelly (who was previously banned for 27 months for drink-driving in 2001).

Steve’s girlfriend, Jenny, said in court,

There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think about him. Our future life together has been taken away.

I’ve no idea what our future would have been, but I know I now have to face it without him.

A year afterwards, Steve’s mum still cries herself to sleep sometimes.

Simon Kelly was sent to prison for three years and four months. He’ll be out in two years.

I didn’t know Steve, but I’ve met his mum and his sister a few times, and I’ve known his grandmother and uncles and aunts forever. Three years and four months for his life doesn’t seem fair to me.

Does that seem like justice to you?

(Report in the Gloucestershire Echo)

16 Responses to “ Three and a third years for Steve Smith’s life ”

Comment by Weiran

Surely drink driving is akin to manslaughter? They should have much tougher sentences, especially when someone has been banned before for it.

Comment by Bruce

At least a decade. And a lifetime driving ban. He’s a serial drink driver.

I don’t know, though, really. I’m not trying to suggest that there’s some formula for how long your punishment should be for taking someone else’s life like that. But to be out after two years feels like it trivialises the crime.

Comment by holly

i like to think that the driver will punish himself as well. The knowledge that you have taken a life through a purely selfish act must be awful. That sentence has no end. This reasoning assumes the person has a conscience, however.

I cannot think as to how much time would be appropriate; it is hard to equate time imprisoned with a life taken. I do completely agree on the lifetime driving ban. He had an easy, available option to driving drunk and he refused to take it. Awful.

Comment by IanSp

I was once driving home from Cardiff, along the M4 at night, with my two little girls and my wife in the car, when I saw some lights coming that didn’t look right.

I was amazed when they flew past me, going in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the M4 at what must have been over 70.

Even now I get shivers when I think that my entire family could easily have been wiped out by one idiot. A driving licence must become far more of a privilege that it is at the moment.

Comment by Matt Hardy

I am the Matt that Bruce mentioned and I know that the number of years Simon Kelly spends in prison is never going to bring Stevie back to us. His Mom and Dad, sisters and girlfriend have been devastated by his death.

What I cannot understand about this is that the judge told us that the maximum sentence he could pass was fourteen years. Yet because of the guilty plea this is reduced by a third(even though he originally tried to lie his way out of the situation). So bearing in mind that this was Simon Kelly’s second drink driving offence and that he killed a completely innocent young man. What does someone have to do to be given the maximum sentence? Kill a judge?

I personally think that the legal system is pathetically soft in this regard! What do you think?
What sort of deterrent is this sentence?

Comment by Brian

This guy, and others like him, should be in jail for a minimum 15 years. They should not be let out at anytime before that and any time served after that should be those years until the girlfriend passes on. After all, she has to live HER life without a prospective husband of as many years as they would have been together. He ruined that because of a selfish, couldn’t care less attitude. So he should suffer the consequences.

There is absolutely NO excuse for drinking and driving. It is no good saying ‘Well I didn’t know what I was doing because I was drunk’! And what about his wife? She knew he was driving under the influence. Why was se not punished for that? That in itself is a crime or should be. It’s a bit like leaving the scene of an accident. ‘Oh well I didn’t know’!

Absolute rubbish. Ignorance is no defence in the law and she should have been banned from driving too for at least five years for allowing her husband to kill.

I have no sympathy for either of hose two whatsoever. This young lady who lost a boyfriend deserves all the help and comfort she can get. This couple should be made to pay a huge compensation sum whether or not they can afford it. They ruined several lives and took away another. Throw the book at them!!!

Comment by Matt Hardy

Thanks for your comments Brian, I agree totally.

Mrs Kelly got off scott free even though she initially lied and said her husband was not overtaking her. The only reason Simon Kelly eventually entered a guilty plea was because the police forensic evidence was so strong.

I feel the police did an excellent job gathering the evidence, its such a shame the sentencing is so ridiculous. One of the police officers told me on the day of the trial/sentencing that if the judge gave too harsh a sentence the length of the sentence could be appealed and if the appeal was successful the sentence reduced and the judge shown to have erred!!!! This may be why the judge did not have the bottle to do the right thing and impose a stiffer sentence, nobody likes to be told they were wrong do they?!

Comment by Robert Nyman

The legislation in Sweden is, if not weaker, at least as weak as they seem to be in the UK. There are articles almost weekly in the newspaper of someone who have driven drunk and killed/maimed someone, and gotten a couple of months in prison for it.

Take something like fraud, for example, and compare it, where you’re bound to spend multiple years as a minimum in jail. I agree with you, Matt, that the length of the punishment won’t bring him back nor stop the pain for everyone who loved Steve, but we can at least hope that a stronger punishment would at least make some people think yet again if it’s really worth the risk.

Comment by Matt Hardy

I feel you have a good point there Robert, it does seem that crimes against property ie. fraud, theft etc do have stronger punishments. The guys in charge of the legal system need to realize that property is less important than a life.

Maybe a financial penalty should be imposed. How about confiscating the drink drivers vehicle and selling the vehicles to donate the money to a victim compensation fund. If they knew they would lose their vehicle if caught over the alcohol limit it may make them think again. Especially if it was a company car and the driver had to pay the company for the vehicle. They can crush cars without a road fund licence now so…

Comment by Peeter

3+ years in prison and a driving ban for life should be the sentence for drunk driving without killing anyone.
Manslaughter should be manslaughter, no matter if you were drunk in a car at the time. As Bruce says, If I were drunk and hit someone over the head with a hammer I wouldn’t get 3 years in prison.

Comment by Steven

Well, two years of prison aren’t exactly a breeze.
Of course, no punishment can ever be appropriate for taking away someone’s life, but then, how could it be?

Peeter, if you kill someone by hitting him on the head with a hammer – whether you’re drunk or not – it means you killed him _intentionally_, that’s why you probably will get more years.
Although I really despise this Kelly guy for driving while drunk, I can’t ignore that this is still an _unintentional_ kill. Which doesn’t make it less serious, of course, but what if he wasn’t drunk and still killed Steve while driving? Would he deserve a shorter or longer sentence then? Or, more likely to happen, almost no punishment at all?

I agree: this guy should never be allowed driving again, but it doesn’t matter how long he stays in jail.

Comment by Andrew

Steven, it doesn’t matter how long he stays in jail? Paul, more years in jail does not equal justice? I think there is no way to, even with the death penalty (which I know is not available in the UK anyways) to make real justice out of this situation. People will still suffer, no matter how many years in jail this guy would get. But to just say “Well, no punishment could ever be just, let us be lenient because it doesn’t matter anyways” is just giving up on the current societal structure. I realize prison may not be a solution, but society needs a system to distance itself from people who would endanger others through their selfishness and stupidity. At our current time, prison is that system. That is the punishment, you have taken somebody off this planet, something you had no right to do, and you did it through your carelessness and apathy for others, you deserve to be put into a place where you can be with others who have made similar bad calls, and you deserve to stay there for a while. Do I think 10 years is better than 3? I don’t know, prison is supposed to be bad, I hope it sucks for him. You can call this an _unintentional_ kill, but it’s not the same as me accidentally running somebody over because they were sleeping under my car is it. All I’m saying, as with all law systems, there are different levels of different crimes and intent is always taken into consideration. A repeat drunk driver may have only killed one person so far, but he has endangered 100 times more. Hitting a pedestrian by accident is an accident. Typically it’s not something you are consciously deciding to risk every time you go out. You do your best NOT to hit them. But making the decision to drive drunk, is a decision that affects all those around you, you made the decision to risk EVERYONES life and you meant to endanger them regardless of your intention of “not hitting anyone.” You meant it because you knew (if you had been sober) that you couldn’t drive as well as you typically can. I guess my point on this rambling is that he deserves something more than the unintentional manslaughter, give him murder 2, he knew what he was doing was stupid, he took a risk, and lost, and he should pay not just for this time, but for every other time he didn’t kill someone out of pure dumb luck.

Comment by Jade

I understand that people are hurting, sad and very angry at the driver, as would anybody in this situation. But sometimes you need to realise that people do stupid things, and will learn from their mistakes just by their conscience alone. I’m sure he wakes up every day regretting the pain and hurt he caused this family, and if he could go back in time, he would have done things very differently. He clearly didn’t do it on purpose, but I’m not going to sit and justify what he did as being right, because it wasn’t. He could’ve got into the other car, and no he shouldn’t have lied. But he is probably going through hurt aswell because he is the one who has to get out of bed every morning knowing what he done was very wrong.
I’m so sorry to the family who’ve lost a member. I’m also especially sorry to his girlfriend because I understand you must be going through so much hurt and heartache.

Aged 15

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