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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Abi's killer gets 4 months

THE case of Jaswinder Singh, the man who killed Birmingham student Abigail Craen in a hit-and-run accident last October, has been handed to the Court of Appeal after he was jailed for eighteen months on April 3rd amidst national furore over the leniency of the sentence.

The case was handed to the Attorney-General on April 10th after the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service deemed the sentence ‘unduly lenient’. The Solicitor-General, North Warwickshire MP Mike O’Brien, asked to be personally briefed on the case and subsequently handed it to the Court of Appeal on May 1st after deciding it was not tough enough.

Currently, although he faces a four-year driving ban, Singh may only have to serve half his sentence and, because he has been on remand for five months already, could be released a mere four months from now. Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins, who delivered the sentence, has refused to respond to mounting criticism from Abigail’s family, the West Midlands Police Federation and prosecution lawyers. In response to what has been deemed an ‘insult’ to her daughter by Abigail’s mother Susan Craen, the Birmingham Mail launched a ‘Justice for Abigail’ campaign in an attempt to get Singh’s sentence extended.

Singh had had a drink-driving ban lifted only six months before he killed Abigail. The 45-year-old father from Ward End in Birmingham was driving an uninsured Mondeo on October 30th last year when he went through the red lights at a pedestrian crossing on the Pershore Road and hit Abigail, leaving her around thirty feet up the road. The 20-year-old medical student was going to the shops opposite Hunter Court, her halls of residence. He then hid the damaged car in a garage and waited eight days before handing himself in to the police.

Judge Pearce-Higgins asserted that although Singh pleaded guilty to offences including dangerous driving, failure to stop after an accident and failure to report an accident, he showed ‘genuine remorse’ and was thus due a softer sentence. The maximum sentence Singh could have received was ten years.

The case reached the national papers after Susan Craen decided to release pictures of her daughter lying dead in hospital in a successful campaign to find the driver. Mrs Craen said she felt the sentence ‘trivialised her life, as if she didn’t matter’, a sentiment shared by hundreds of people who have written to local papers expressing their disgust at what is seen as evidence of the legal system’s weakness.

A panel of judges at the Court of Appeal are now likely to increase Singh’s sentence.


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