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Family ‘devastated’ after drunk driver who killed children sentenced to just nine years in prison

08 Apr 2022 4 minute read
3-year-old Jayden-Lee Lucas and 4-year-old Gracie-Ann Wheaton. PA Media

The family of two young children killed in a motorway crash caused by a drunk driver have said they are “devastated” and “angry” after he was sentenced to just nine years in prison.

Judge Daniel Williams acknowledged that many will feel the sentence he passed on Martin Newman, 41, from Croeserw, at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday is “inadequate”.

But said he was unable to impose a harsher term due to sentencing laws set by Parliament.

Newman admitted causing the deaths by dangerous driving of Jayden-Lee Lucas, three, and his sister Gracie-Ann Wheaton, four.

He further admitted seriously injuring their mother, Rhiannon Lucas, being twice over the drink-driving limit and having traces of cocaine in his system after partying the night before.

The painter-decorator and father-of-two had been travelling home from Leicester on the M4 in his white Ford Transit van when he veered into the hard shoulder at around 1.45pm on Saturday February 5 and hit the family’s stationary red Ford Fiesta.

They had pulled over to allow Gracie-Ann to go to the toilet after she had complained of a bad stomach.

The court heard Newman crashed into the rear of the car, where the children were sat, at 57mph, causing them “catastrophic brain injuries”.

He had been seen to be driving erratically prior to the collision, and was witnessed by other motorists talking on his phone.

Judge Daniel Williams said Newman’s offending was the “most serious level of dangerous driving”.

But said he was unable to impose a higher sentence than the law allowed.

“Parliament set the maximum sentence at 14 years’ imprisonment,” he said.

“Many will think such a maximum sentence inadequate to reflect what you’ve done. Many might call for the maximum sentence to be re-examined.

“That’s not a matter for the court, but for Parliament.”

‘Law needs to change’

Judge Williams said he was bound by the law to reduce Newman’s sentence by a third because he had entered a guilty plea at the first available opportunity.

Also due to the guidelines, he could not impose separate sentences for each charge of death by dangerous driving, and could only impose concurrent sentences for the further charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Newman was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison. He will only be expected to serve half the term in custody.

He was also banned from driving for 14 years and eight months.

Ms Lucas’s uncle Darren Lucas told PA news agency: “We’re just absolutely devastated. He should have got a lot longer than that.

“The sentence wasn’t harsh enough for taking the lives of two children while drunk and on drugs and everything else.

“The law needs to change.

“The family will be appealing to get a heavier sentence. We’re going to start campaigning to get the law changed and do the best by the memory of these children so that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

In a statement released by the family after the hearing, they said: “Martin Newman devastated our family by taking our two beautiful children, Gracie-Ann and Jayden-Lee.

“Our family home now feels like an empty shell without them and the love and happiness they brought us cannot ever be replaced.

“Our lives have been destroyed.

“He chose to drive his vehicle under the influence of drink and drugs and these actions displayed a total disregard for anyone’s safety and we have paid the ultimate price for his unlawful and unsociable acts.”


They went on to thank those who had tried to save the lives of the children, those who investigated Newman, and their community of Tredegar and South Wales for the support they had been shown.

Gwent Police said: “This is a tragic case that has resulted in the needless loss of two young lives.

“Newman’s reckless actions highlight the real dangers of irresponsible driving, which can have such a devastating impact on other innocent road users.

“He was left with no option but to plead guilty owing to the overwhelming amount of evidence gathered by our investigation team.

“Our thoughts remain with the family at this time.”

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