Fife man who drove car into garage and set it aflame successfully challenges lifelong driving ban but not length of prison sentence

Fife man who drove car into garage and set it aflame successfully challenges lifelong driving ban but not length of prison sentence

A man who drove his car into a garage attached to a house in Fife and then set it on fire has lost an appeal against the length of his prison sentence but successfully challenged a lifelong ban on holding a driving licence.

Michael Reddington was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment, discounted from 10 years on account of his guilty plea, for the offence of culpable and reckless driving. He argued that the headline sentence was excessive given the character of the offence, and that a lifetime ban would prevent him from gaining employment as a plumber on his release from prison.

The appeal was heard by Lord Pentland and Lord Boyd of Duncansby. Brannigan, advocate, appeared for the appellant and Miller, advocate depute, for the Crown.

Hinder his rehabilitation

On 8 February 2023, the appellant drove a vehicle into the home of complainers MB and KB, who lived there with their three children aged 6 to 11. The complainers awoke from sleep at around 10:45pm having heard a loud bang from the garage. On looking out they saw a car had collided with their garage and was on fire, with the flames spreading to the timber frame of the garage.

CCTV from the premises showed a car being driven at speed into the garage door. A male got out of the vehicle and poured petrol into it before using a cigarette or a lighter to cause an explosion and a large fire before running away with his left hand on fire. The appellant was later found with injuries to his hands and singed eyebrows and stubble, and the following day he was shown a news story about the fire and made a comment which was a clear admission of his guilt.

The appellant had a limited previous record with no convictions on indictment and no substantial offences committed for 5 years, with his longest previous period of imprisonment being 135 days. It was submitted on his behalf that the headline sentence of 10 years was excessive for a charge of culpable and reckless conduct, rather than attempted murder.

Addressing the lifetime driving ban, it was submitted that the inability to hold a licence would significantly impact the appellant’s ability to get a job and thus hinder his rehabilitation on his release. There was no evidence to suggest that he would indefinitely pose a danger to the public through his use of a motor vehicle.

Substantial planning

Lord Boyd of Duncansby, delivering the opinion of the court, began: “While we accept the charge is not one of attempted murder the fact is that the appellant’s conduct put the lives of a family, including children, in danger. It was not impulsive but required a substantial amount of planning. Had it not been for the quick thinking of the householder in driving his own car through the closed garage door pushing the burning vehicle away from the house the damage to the property might well have been much more substantial.”

Noting the appellant’s personal circumstance, he added: “While this is the appellant’s first conviction on indictment, and there has been a gap in offending in recent times, his record includes a conviction for assault using a stun gun, four periods of imprisonment and two including restriction of liberty orders. The sentencing judge took into account his personal circumstances, including the expressions of remorse and the progress that the appellant considered he had made in addressing his addiction issues while in custody.”

Turning to the lifetime driving ban, Lord Boyd said: “The appellant has three rather old convictions for breaches of section 143(1) and (2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, one of which resulted in a disqualification of 6 months. While relevant, the main consideration is the fact that a motor vehicle was used in the commission of the offence.”

He concluded: “We are satisfied that a long period of disqualification is merited but while the offence was very serious we consider that in this case disqualification for life was excessive. We consider that the interests of justice would be served by limiting the disqualification to a period of 15 years.”

The appeal was therefore allowed solely to the extent of quashing the lifelong disqualification from driving in place of a 15-year disqualification.

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