Family of Eastbourne crash victim hit out at driver’s jail sentence

Maria Smith pictured with her three daughters
Maria Smith pictured with her three daughters

The family of an Eastbourne woman killed alongside her partner by a drug-driver on the seafront in the summer have spoken of their upset at the sentence handed out.

Maria Smith, 48, and Richard Lewis-Clements, 46, died on August 12 when Jodan Hunt smashed into their car when 16 times over the legal drug-driving limit close to Bolsover Road in Meads.

Twenty-four-year-old Hunt was jailed for six years for two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, to run concurrently, and disqualified from driving for eight years.

But Maria and Richard’s families do not feel that justice has been done.

In an interview with a national newspaper, Maria’s daughter Rebekah Dowell, 24, said, “Mum was like a best friend to me and my sisters Chloe, 18 and Lucy, 14. We were all so close – like a little unit – so it’s a big blow to lose that.

“As a family, we’re very angry with the sentence. It’s essentially three years for each life he took away. How does that adequately reflect how dramatically this has changed our lives?

“He also has the privilege of being able to drive again in eight years’ time. It’s all wrong. He could do the same thing all over again.”

“In my mind, there’s not a huge line between what he did and manslaughter.

“He knew the risks and got behind the wheel anyway, with absolutely no regard for anybody else. A car is a weapon at the end of the day.”

Maria and Richard’s families jointly launched an online petition calling for a review of the sentencing guidelines around driving offences, for stronger penalties for offenders and an introduction of permanent lifetime bans for anyone convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

The petition has more than 3,300 signatures and the families hope to lobby MPs in the coming weeks.

Paying tribute to her mother and Richard, who met through mutual friends, Rebekah said they were a ‘lovely couple’ who had a ‘lot of fun.’

“Mum was our rock. She always wanted the best for us,” she said.

“She worked as a carer, which suited her personality perfectly. Everyone wanted to be around her. She was an all round good person.

“My family and friends have been amazing, everybody has really banded together. The girls are incredible too, they’re so grown up. We make sure we talk about Mum all the time and share happy memories.”

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