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‘Small justice’ for grieving family

Clinton Smith arrives in Supreme Court flanked by two prison officers (File photograph)

The mother of a 21-year-old model killed in a road crash described the sentence handed to the man who caused her daughter’s death as “small justice” yesterday.

Lisa Fraser-Smith was speaking after Clinton Smith, 41, was jailed for 18 months for killing Sophie Fraser-Smith by driving carelessly on Middle Road, Southampton, on July 18 last year.

Ms Fraser-Smith said: “In light of everything that has gone on, I feel that a justice was served, a small justice.”

She added: “I felt that the sentence was adequate and I feel that the courts were fair.”

Ms Fraser-Smith said she would “probably” be able to forgive Smith “in time”.

She added: “It’s just very difficult. Nothing anyone does or says is really going to make it better. Nothing will bring my daughter back but I feel he was genuinely remorseful.

“I don’t think he meant it to happen but it did happen and he was the cause of it, so I did feel that something had to be done.”

A Supreme Court jury convicted Smith of causing the death by a majority verdict last month.

Smith claimed during his trial that he had “dozed off” at the wheel of his Dunkley’s Dairy truck but woke while he was still in his lane.

He said the truck did not respond to steering input and there was nothing he could do to avoid the collision.

The prosecution accused him of making up the steering problem.

Smith said yesterday that he was “sorry for what has happened, for my part that I played in the death of this young lady”.

He said he wanted Ms Fraser-Smith to know that “that I never meant this to happen, that I never want it to happen to anyone”.

Smith added: “I hope that she can find it in her heart to forgive me. It is not easy for me to forgive myself.”

Prosecutor Nicole Smith called on the court to impose a harsher sentence “than has ever been imposed”.

She said Smith should spend at least 24 months in prison, coupled with a five-year driving ban, for the offence, which attracted a maximum prison term of eight years on indictment.

Ms Smith, who added that “something must be done about the bad driving culture in Bermuda”, said previous penalties for traffic offences “don’t seem to be deterring anyone”.

She added that this offence showed how life could “be altered or snuffed out in a matter of seconds”.

Ms Smith, who said the defendant was solely to blame for the collision, also said he had only shown “half-hearted remorse” during the trial.

“He expressed remorse about the position he found himself in. Genuine remorse was never expressed in that same way for the victim of her family.

Ms Smith also read the victim impact statement of Ms Fraser-Smith’s mother in which she described her daughter’s death as an “immeasurable” loss.

Lawyer Elizabeth Christopher said yesterday that her client had no intention of causing the death of Ms Fraser-Smith and insisted that the community did not have to be protected from Smith.

She said: “He has voluntarily stopped driving because he doesn’t understand what caused the part that he played in this accident to happen.

“He thinks the best thing for himself to do is not to drive. That is his way of ensuring that it never happens again.”

Ms Christopher also told the court that her client had struggled with drug addiction but had been leading a “law-abiding life” with the help of the authorities at the time of the crash.

She added that six months’ imprisonment would be appropriate.

Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said he found Smith to be “genuinely remorseful” but added that in the circumstances, the offence warranted a custodial sentence.

Mr Justice Wolffe said he did not need to be reminded that “the manner of driving on Bermuda’s roads is deplorable — there is so much carnage on the roads as a result”.

He agreed that a message had to be sent to persons “that they must take their driving more seriously” and if they failed to do so, they would be treated harshly by the courts.

Mr Justice Wolffe, who also noted that Smith went through a full trial, added: “This was obviously a tragic case, one in which the life of a budding young individual was ended.”

He sentenced Smith to 18 months behind bars, with time already served to be taken into account, and banned him from driving for five years.