There are times when I absolutely despair at our justice system. I am not, by nature, a hanger and a flogger and, in very general terms, believe in restorative justice, whereby, and here I quote from Wikipedia, “offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions to repair the harm they’ve done – by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service”. But sometimes, even I hang my head in disbelief. Justice must not only be done, but seen to be believed rather than done. The death of the young rugby player Dan Hickey says to me that justice has not been done, far from it.
You may remember this story. On 29 August 2015, Dan Hickey from Bishopston, Bristol, was struck by a vehicle driven by one Tayo Jones and then left for dead. A cowardly hit and run incident. On Friday, a life sentence was handed down, but a life sentence only for the family and friends of Dan Hickey. Jones was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment by Bristol Crown Court which, if he behaves himself, will probably end up being two years. Is that long enough?
Not only was Tayo Jones directly responsible for the death of a fine young man, at the time of the incident he disqualified from driving, as well as being uninsured and unlicensed. It gets worse. Two weeks before the crash, Jones had received a suspended prison sentence for possessing cannabis with intent to supply. And when he was on ball, he committed a public order offence with a member of staff at Bristol Temple Meads railway station. Mr Jones, it seems, was not a very nice person.
So, the question is this: what would a fair sentence have looked like? I’m struggling here, but I would suggest that a couple of years behind bars does not resemble what I would call a fair sentence. What happens in two years time? Jones leaves prison, hopefully rehabilitated and full of regret for what he has done. I certainly hope so. My immediate reaction, and indeed my considered reaction, is that he has almost got away with murder, although by legal definition this was not murder.
Dan Hickey was 24, that’s all. He was in a a good job, his life prospects were excellent, but now that has all gone and it’s gone forever. Not only is his life over, his family will have to live with the consequences of Tayo Jones’ actions for their rest of their lives. They are the ones with a life sentence.
I am not saying that Jones should have been put in prison and have the key to his cell thrown away, but I cannot get over the reality that the family and friends of Dan Hickey will have to live without their beloved son and what might have been and Jones will be soon be walking free.
Where’s the justice, here?