04:27PM, Thursday 16 July 2020
A drug driver who knocked down and killed 13-year-old Max Simmons in Switchback Road North last December has been sentenced to six years and nine months in prison.
Max Simmons died in hospital from his injuries after being hit by a car being driven by James Lavine on December 21 last year.
Lavine, of Boundary Road, Wooburn Green pleaded guilty to death by careless driving under the influence of a drug at a hearing on May 19 and was sentenced at Reading Crown Court today (Thursday).
The 34-year-old’s prior driving convictions and level of intoxication influenced his sentence, which was classed by the judge as in ‘the top category’ for careless driving.
He was also banned from driving for 10 years.
Before the sentencing, Max's mum Emma gave a victim impact statement to express to the court how she and her family have been affected by the Furze Platt Senior School pupil's death.
She said: “[Lavine] has shown no remorse. Knowing he thinks he has the right to be free makes me so mad. He isn’t the only one facing a life sentence. My life will never be the same. He should be held responsible.
“I spend every waking moment thinking of Max,” she added.
“I have Christmas presents he will never open – I don’t know what to do with them now. He was a vibrant loving, caring teenager. I miss him so much.”
Emma Simmons was joined by friends and family for a peaceful protest outside the court before the sentencing.
During the sentencing, the prosecution outlined the probable speed that Mr Levine was driving on the night of the 21st, according to analysis and witness accounts.
Two witnesses attested to seeing Lavine's car, a red Audi TT, being driven at between 65-70mph along Switchback Road North, about 400m away from the place where Max was knocked down.
“Your driving was at such a speed that it caused [the witnesses] to gesticulate and post an angry message on Facebook before learning of Max’s untimely death,” said Judge Angela Morris.
“That speaks volumes.”
At an earlier hearing, Lavine claimed that his last usage of cocaine was three days before the incident, even though body camera footage from police showed him telling them that he had taken cocaine the night before.
Judge Morris harshly criticised Lavine for his 'prevarications and lies' causing delays in the case.
Abigail Husbands, prosecuting, described the results of the toxicology report from blood taken from Lavine 90 minutes after the incident.
The results found a 'cocktail' of drugs found in his system, including 252 micrograms of BZE (metabolised cocaine), more than five times the legal limit of 50 micrograms.
It also showed the presence of alcohol, THC (cannabis) and diazepam.
Defence counsel Zaki Hashmi asked Judge Morris to consider the fact that metabolised cocaine does not have any psychotropic effects, unlike cocaine that has been recently consumed.
“Being at five times the level of BZE is not like being at five times the level of alcohol," he said. “[BZE] has little known pharmacological effects itself.”
However, Judge Morris rebutted the defence’s claim that the collision was caused, not directly by the substances themselves, but from 'drug-induced exhaustion', calling this a ‘distinction without a difference’.
Lavine's prior offences were also counted as an aggravating feature.
On December 7, two weeks before Max was killed, he was caught on camera speeding at 50mph on a 30mph road. He was tried in his absence and received six points on his licence.
This joins other driving offences committed in 2008 and 2009.
Judge Morris described the defendant’s driving record as 'nothing less than appalling' and indicated an ‘utterly selfish and thoughtless attitude to other drivers.’
Emma Simmons (centre) outside Reading Crown Court.
Outside the court, Emma Simmons said: “We're pleased with [the sentence]. A 10-year driving ban is a result. Nothing can replace the life of my son, but at least [Lavine] won't be on our streets.”
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