ACCORDING to official guidelines on court procedure: ‘Often victims can feel removed from the criminal justice process but making a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) enables them to explain the impact of the crime in their own words. It helps criminal justice agencies to gain an understanding of this impact and, just as importantly, may allow the offender to hear about the implications of their actions.’ (My emphasis.)
It was surprising therefore to hear that a victim impact statement by the parents of a four-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run driver was edited because it would upset the defendant.
Violet-Grace Youens died after a speeding car driven by Aidan McAteer struck her in St Helens, Merseyside, in March 2017. Her grandmother, Angela French, who was carrying her, was badly injured.
On Monday Marie Rimmer MP told a Westminster Hall debate that McAteer’s barrister at Liverpool Crown Court objected to the parents’ full statement, arguing that the defendant would find it ‘too upsetting’.
She said: ‘The judge accepted this and the CPS barrister gave the parents a copy of their impact statement with parts they could not read out in open court highlighted.
‘The whole purpose of the victim impact statement is about the impact on the victim and the survivor, not the defendant.’
So who is this sensitive flower who needed protecting from the grief of his victim’s parents?
McAteer, now 25, and Dean Brennan, now 29, had stolen a Ford Fiesta from a community worker who worked with young offenders. McAteer, who had no driving licence, took the wheel and drove at about 80mph in a 30mph zone.
He went through two red lights before losing control and hitting a kerb, then crashed into Mrs French who had her granddaughter in her arms.
The car hit a lamppost and the defendants, both from Prescot, Merseyside, got out and ran past the two victims on the ground, Violet-Grace close to death.
McAteer fled to Amsterdam, telling police later that he wanted to clear his head and ‘smoke some weed’. He said he found out only days later a child had been involved in the crash. He was arrested on his return to Britain.
Defence lawyer Lloyd Morgan said McAteer was ‘racked with guilt, shame and horror over his actions’.
McAteer pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was given a jail sentence of nine years and four months.
Brennan admitted aggravated vehicle taking and assisting an offender, and was jailed for six years and eight months.
Judge Denis Watson QC, told them: ‘You must have seen Mrs French and Violet lying desperately injured on the road.
‘Yet neither of you stopped, neither of you did anything to summon help, neither of you gave them a moment’s thought or gave them any assistance at all.
‘Your thoughts were for yourself, your escape and of avoiding responsibility for what happened.’
In that part of the personal statement which he was permitted to read, Violet’s father said he cuddled his daughter’s teddy bear, which ‘still smells of her’, every night. ‘I cry myself to sleep. I miss her so much,’ he said.
If only those callous joyriders had shown as much thought for the feelings of others as the craven Crown Prosecution Service.