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Dad slams ‘ridiculous’ nine-year sentence for drunk van driver who killed his children


Gracie-Ann Lucas, four, and her three-year-old brother Jayden-Lee Lucas died within days of each other after a crash on the M4 caused by Martin Newham

The children who were killed
Jayden-Lee amd Gracie-Ann Wheaton died after a crash on the M4 near Newport

A dad has slammed the nine-year prison sentence given to a drunk van driver who killed two of his children.

Four-year-old Gracie-Ann Lucas and her three-year-old brother Jayden-Lee Lucas, were travelling home from a birthday party with their mother Rhiannon Lucas and a friend when their car was hit by a van on the M4.

Both siblings, also known by the surname Wheaton, died within days of each other.

It was later heard in court how Newman, 41, was high on drink and drugs when he smashed into the stationary vehicle on the M4 in Newport, Wales.

Newman was found by police to be more than twice the drink-driving limit after going out with colleagues the night before the crash, and had drunk 10 cans of Strongbow and taken cocaine once he returned to his hotel room.

Newman told police he was shattered during his drive back to Wales the next day, and had “nodded off” a few times.







The family at the Sirhowy Valley Crematorium in Pontllanfraith, Blackwood, Wales
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Image:

WalesOnline/ Rob Browne)

At a sentencing hearing Newman – who admitted two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, and one of causing serious injury to the children’s mother Rhiannon Lucas by dangerous driving, and charges of drink-driving and drug-driving – was jailed for nine years and four months.

He will serve just over four years and the rest of his sentence will be on licence.

The family of the siblings are appealing to have the law changed.

Joseph Wheaton, 24, said, “This has been the worst year of my life. From having the phone to say my kids have been in a car accident, to going into the hospital room, I looked at both of my children and it just didn’t seem right, it broke my heart.”

Mr Wheaton said that they were told by doctors initially that Jayden was stable, but Gracie-Ann was not. Gracie-Ann died the day after the crash on February 6 while Jayden-Lee died five days later.







The children were killed by a dangerous driver in a collision that seriously hurt their mother
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Image:

PA)

Mr Wheaton. said: “I blew raspberries on his belly thinking he would come around a bit and instead he farted, and I thought ‘he must be in there’ because he was always a funny boy and that lifted the tension a bit.

“Before Jayden passed away we all had to have a sit-down and talk about it and switching it off and I just kept saying “no I’m not ready to let him go yet. I can’t do it. He can’t go yet, I’m not ready’.

“He breathed for about 10 minutes after it was taken away and that was it then. And it just snapped us all to pieces then. It has ruined us.”

The Attorney General’s Office has confirmed that an appeal to Newman’s sentence has been received under the “Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme”.

“It’s ridiculous how they can only give him what, nine-and-a-half years, and it will get split in half,” said Mr Wheaton.

“That man in court said ‘I just want to go and see my children’ and I thought, ‘how disrespectful, I can’t see my children’, on birthdays and Christmas I have to go up to a graveyard to see my babies’.”

The family are calling for Newman to be given a life sentence for the crash.

Newman was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison. He was also disqualified from driving for 10 years with an extension of four years and eight months while he is in custody. He will be required to pass an extended driving test before being able to regain a licence.

“It’s killed me, it’s absolutely snapped me in half, knowing I will never see them again,” said Mr Wheaton. “The amount of times I’ve nearly said ‘how are the kids’ and it hits you.”

During sentencing, Judge Williams said his sentencing powers were restricted by guidelines set by Parliament. He said: “The aggravating features are you have previous convictions for motoring offences including drink-driving and using a mobile phone whilst driving and secondly the gravest aggravating feature is you caused two children’s deaths and the serious injury of their mother who is left bereft.

“There’s no real mitigation in this case. Any remorse you feel rather than self-pity does not affect the sentence this court must pass.

“You have a limited understanding of wider consequences to others affected by the collision. As this was a single incident the court is bound to impose concurrent sentences but to reflect the extent I can the totality of your offending in the sentence passed.

“The maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment. Many think such a sentence is inadequate to reflect what you have done and there will be many who will call for that maximum sentence to be re-examined.

“That is not a matter for any court but Parliament. You pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and a reduction cannot be withheld because of an inadequate maximum sentence.”

The children’s grandfather and Rhiannon Lucas’ father, Jason Lucas, 52, said of the driver: “He deserves two life sentences. We want the law to change, not just for us but for other families too so they don’t have to go through this. He should be banned for life and should be in prison for life.”

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