Family of Wisbech boy Jamie Butcher - killed by speeding driver in 2011 - react to Government plans to toughen up sentences for killer drivers
- Credit: Archant
Tina Butcher was scanning through Facebook when she saw the news. The campaign she had dedicated her life to, after the death of her son Jamie, had been won. They had listened. It was over.
It had been six years since the 22-year-old student had been killed; knocked down on a pedestrian crossing in Wisbech by a driver who was doing twice the speed limit.
It had been five years since she had found the strength to speak out about how justice was failing families who had lost their loved ones to recklessness on the roads.
But when the Government finally announced plans to toughen up sentences for killer drivers last month, there was no celebration in the Butcher household. Tina sat down and cried.
“It was just really emotional to hear it,” she said. “After all this time, something positive had actually happened. It was a huge thing for our family.
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“That was why we did it. It was for Jamie.”
Tina was forced to confront her worst nightmare in February 2011.
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Jamie hadn’t returned from a trip into the town centre to withdraw some money. A police car pulled up outside the family’s home. Officers sat them down in the kitchen to deliver the news.
Tina had to phone her daughter Hollie to tell her that her big brother was dead.
Steve Green, Jamie’s stepfather, had to identify the body.
He had to ring Manchester University to tell them that the promising psychology student who had just been accepted onto their post-graduate course wouldn’t be coming.
Overwhelmed by grief, none of them ate for days.
But it wasn’t until months afterwards that the full horror of what had happened became clear.
The man behind the wheel was Michael Moore.
Prosecutors said he was travelling at a minimum speed of 58mph and had run a red light in a bid to get to one of the shops before it closed.
His Chrysler Cruiser hit Jamie with such force that his body was found 44 metres from the crossing.
Moore, who was then aged 40 and from Parson Drove, appeared at Cambridge Crown Court in April, 2012. He was jailed for just 43 months.
Judge Gareth Hawkesworth told the court that the “tragic case” had “shattered” people’s lives. “Nothing I can do, in terms of the sentence, can bring him back,” he said.
The family were devastated and furious.
“We have got to live with this for the rest of our lives because we knew him,” said Jamie’s tearful sister Hollie moments after the sentence was passed. “We knew his laugh, we knew his voice and that man has destroyed that.”
That afternoon, sat in a courtroom with RoadPeace charity badges fixed to their clothes, the family of Jamie Butcher made a promise to themselves.
They vowed to do everything they could to change a system which had let them down; to toughen up the punishments imposed on dangerous drivers.
“When we started they asked us whether we just wanted to appeal Jamie’s case,” said Steve. “But we said we wanted the whole system to change.
“Nothing is going to bring him back but when you think that your son is gone and people are still out there suffering the same thing, it’s too much to bear.
“We emailed every MP in the House of Commons. We spent all our time trying to make progress with it.
“At one stage our daughter said she felt like she’d lost us as well because we were working so hard on this.”
At first, the campaign grew quickly. Steve and Tina found the courage to relive their heartbreaking story on national television and in the papers, thousands signed an online petition and they even met with the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
In 2014, road safety charity Brake named the family as its ‘Campaigners of the Year’.
But as the years ticked by, the MP discussions and press stories dried up. On the surface, the campaign had faltered.
Jamie’s family didn’t stop. They put up posters across the country, took their petition to businesses, supermarkets and even car-boot sales and raised thousands of pounds for charity.
And then, six years after they first launched ‘Justice for Jamie’ in their local newspaper The Wisbech Standard, an announcement was made.
“Ministers confirm plans to introduce tougher sentences for those who drive irresponsibly and devastate lives,” read the headline.
The Government’s proposals include raising the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life and creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
For Steve and Tina, it was a landmark moment but not one which will put an end to their road safety campaigning.
“I think this campaign actually helped us get on with life,” said Tina.
“Without it, I don’t know how we would have gone on. I don’t know how we would have coped with the anger and the grief. It was a focus for us.”
Steve said they were now thinking about going into schools to talk about road safety.
“It is still hard to talk about what happened, I’m emotional whenever I try to. But if you can do something good, if you can stop just one family going through what we did, then it’s got to be worth it.
“Nothing is going to make our personal situation right again. Hollie is getting married next year and there will be a big hole on her wedding day, where Jamie should have been.
“It will always have an impact on us – but at least now we’ve helped make a difference.”