Mark Slater, aged 47, was convicted of murder on 29 July 2014.
It was suggested that the victim, Trevor Allen, aged 56, spotted Slater using his mobile phone whilst driving his 17T HGV. It is thought that Mr Allen indicated to Slater that he should stop using his mobile. What followed was a road rage incident which involved Mr Allen getting out of his vehicle and approaching Slater’s HGV. At that point, Slater drove over Mr Allen.
Slater pleaded not guilty on the basis that, whilst he was responsible for the killing, he did not see Mr Allen and therefore lacked the requisite intent for the offence of murder. The jury did not believe him and convicted him of murder.
The jury had heard evidence of previous road rage incidents involving Slater in which he had exited his HGV and proceeded to kick and punch another vehicle.
The BBC reported that Slater faces an automatic life sentence. That is not quite the case. Our explanation of what an automatic life sentence is, can be read here.
The true position, as you are no doubt aware, is that Slater will receive a mandatory life sentence. That is the only sentence available for murder.
The judge must set a minimum term and in doing so will refer to Sch.21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which sets out the starting points for murder tariffs.
As avid readers of the blog will know, a 25-year starting point is usually appropriate where a knife or other weapon is taken to the scene. In R v Beckford 2014 EWCA Crim 1299, the Court of Appeal held that a judge was correct to find that the 25-year starting point applied on the basis that the car was used as a weapon and was taken to the scene for the purposes of Sch.21 where, in his car, the defendant had chased the victim (who was riding a push bike) and driven into him.
In this case, it would appear that due to the spontaneity of the road rage incident, that would not apply. Consequently, the starting point is most likely going to be one of 15 years.
The judge will then take account of the aggravation (such as the nature of the death, the use of a vehicle as a weapon and the events leading up to the death) and mitigation (such as a lack of intent to kill, and the lack of premeditation). On the bare facts we have available, we’d expect a minimum term of just under 15 years – however that could of course rise depending on facts we may be unaware of.