A local mum has launched a petition to fight for sentencing increases after her son was “killed by a drink driver” back in 2019.
It was Sunday 16th June 2019 when Paula Johnson received the phone call that changed her life.
A call from a police officer informing her that her only son, Kristian, had been killed after being hit by a car while out with friends in Bacup.
Kristian was raising a Father’s Day glass to his late dad – who had died suddenly when he was teenager – and was said to have told his friends that evening that after years of struggling to come terms his dad’s death, he felt that he could finally move on, but after taking a taxi to the Texaco petrol station in Bacup, Kristian was struck by drink-driver while crossing the road.
He suffered fatal head injuries and sadly died at the scene.
The driver of the car, 19-year-old Emily Rogers, had been drinking alcohol at two pubs prior to getting behind the wheel of her Suzuki Alto.
But despite the loss of life and devastation caused, Rogers was only sentenced to three years in jail, of which she is serving 18 months and disqualified from driving for 54 months. She can expect to be released from prison after serving half her sentence – 18 months – and spend the remainder on licence in the community.
It was this very decision that served as the catalyst for Paula Johnson’s mission to make a change.
Paula, 54, told the MEN that her “life is over” following the loss of Kristian.
But the grieving mum now wants to highlight what she views as “inconsistencies in sentences” given to those who have committed driving offences, which is why she has launched a petition calling for the UK government to increase the maximum penalty to life sentences for ‘Death By Careless & Dangerous Driving’.
She believes that those convicted should serve a minimum of 15 years.
“18 months in prison is not justice for killing someone and is unlikely to deter future drink-driving [and] the sentence does not fit the crime.
“The impact to the lives of the victim’s family is incomprehensible and a sentence of 18 months further damages the family. Kristian was 24, of good health and should have had a full life ahead of him [but] instead, it was cut tragically short.
“We are asking the government to increase the maximum penalty to life sentences for death by careless driving as they promised in October 2017 and those convicted should serve a minimum of 15 years”.
The petition has now over 13,300 signatures and counting, with Paula urging members of the local community, and across Greater Manchester and beyond join in helping make a difference.
She is already awaiting a government response following the petition surpassing the 10,000 signatures mark, but the goal is to reach 100,000 signatures, which will then see this petition “considered for debate in Parliament”.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has previously said that sentencing is a matter for independent courts who consider the facts of each case, with a spokesperson adding that a landmark White Paper – which was announced last September – will ensure that offenders who cause loss of life by careless driving, while under the influence of drink or drugs, could also face life in prison.
In addition, a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving is set to be created, with the MoJ saying that the new offence “seeks to ensure that careless drivers who ruin lives and leave their victims with long-term injuries are punished appropriately.”.
The proposed law changes would increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life, and create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, as well as also increasing the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life.
But with the proposals first mooted three years ago, Paula wants to see a timeline for the legislation and is fighting for change to be brought about sooner rather than later.
The Kristian Johnson’s Law petition is due to end on 17th February 2021, and you can sign and support the cause here.
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Manchester’s homeless community
Liam Fray is playing a one-off charity gig to raise money for Greater Manchester’s homeless population early next year.
Hosting just the second ‘Raise the Roof’ fundraising concert in over three years – the pandemic having put a pause on the initiative – the money generated will go towards providing a safe place to sleep to thousands in around the Manchester area.
The Middleton-born musician confirmed the date on Tuesday.
While Fray is currently the only name confirmed to be playing this year’s gig, his popularity in the city alone is sure to drive thousands to iconic Manchester venue for this great cause.
Most importantly, not only will all ticket sales go towards the A Bed Every Night drive, but so too will the proceeds from the re-release of the band’s debut album, St Jude, dropping on the same day as the gig.
The Mayor’s Charity has held a number of hugely successful campaigns already this year, including their annual 24 Run Against Homelessness as well as Mayor Andy Burnham‘s second night DJing at the one and only Warehouse Project.
Speaking in an official press release, Burnham spoke about the spoke about “the power of music to get people together and raise vital funds” for causes like combatting homelessness.
He went on to say that despite all the money already raised this year, “there’s more still to do and we know the cost of living crisis has started to impact on people’s housing”, adding: “We’re a musical city, so what better way to help those who need it but with a night with the incredible Liam Fray.”
Responding to Burnham’s thanks on Twitter, Fray had a simple message:
Over 4,000 unique individuals have been supported by A Bed Every Night since 2019, with more than 600 people now supplied with accommodation across the region who would otherwise be at risk of sleeping rough.
The Mayor’s campaign works with 21 different organisations across Greater Manchester helping provide a safe place to sleep to the homeless and those in needs on a regular basis. Wonderful stuff.
How to help in Manchester if you see someone homeless in the freezing cold
Whilst much has been done over the past few years to improve options for people who find themselves homeless in Greater Manchester, it’s still a huge problem – felt especially hard when the temperature drops.
The Met Office has forecast lows of -3 that will last across the weekend into early next week, whilst health officials have told people to put their heating on, despite rising costs. But some don’t even have the option to do that.
In the UK last year, 1,286 people died while homeless according to the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) Dying Homeless Project.
As a general rule, there are no legal protections for people sleeping rough in England. Most councils offer extra beds when temperatures are forecast to drop below 0ºC for three consecutive nights.
Fortunately here in Manchester, there is more support at hand.
What support does Manchester offer homeless people in freezing weather?
Manchester is the first major metropolitan area in the country to promise help as soon as the temperature drops below 0ºC.
Shelters are opened up in and around the city centre as soon as one night of freezing temperatures is forecast, and stay open until temperatures rise back up above zero, giving everyone a warm place to rest.
Accommodation varies from hostel ‘sit up’ spaces to an emergency shelter run by local charity Coffee4Craig for the council, where people are provided with sleeping bags, mats, armchairs and even a TV. And when space runs out in the hostels, people are given a hotel room for the night.
There is also the Mayor’s flagship A Bed Every Night scheme, which looks to offer a bed, hot meal and support for anyone sleeping rough in Greater Manchester at any time of year – regardless of the weather.
What can I do to help someone?
If you’re concerned about someone, you can contact your local authority via one of the numbers below.
Alternatively, you can use this tool to view the services on offer in your area.