Drink-driver's sentence for death crash 'an insult'

Kaylan Hippsley
Kaylan Hippsley suffered a “catastrophic head injury" after being hit [Family photo]

The family of a 13-year-old boy who died after being hit by a drink-driver have criticised the "gut-wrenching" and "disgusting" sentence handed to his killer.

Kaylan Hippsley was struck by a car driven by Harley Whiteman, 19, as he walked with friends to a youth club in Hirwaun, Rhondda Cynon Taf, on 29 February.

Whiteman was sentenced last week to six years and nine months detention after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

The UK government said those convicted of this crime were going to jail for longer than ever.

But Kaylan’s family said it was not enough, with a petition calling for tougher sentences having gathered almost 5,000 signatures and the support of Senedd politicians.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard Whiteman had been drinking and taking drugs on the day of the crash, before driving a car from Aberdare to Hirwaun with two passengers.

Witnesses saw him veering dangerously through the village, before hitting Kaylan as he mounted the kerb to avoid an oncoming vehicle.

Whiteman then drove away, before later returning on foot to the scene, where he abused onlookers who were trying to help Kaylan.

Sarah Edwards, whose son Lucas had been with Kaylan at the time of the incident, said it was immediately apparent Whiteman was somehow involved.

"I actually stood up and confronted him and he gave me a few harsh words, and I asked him if he was the driver," she said.

Harley Whiteman
Whiteman had been drinking and taking drugs [South Wales Police]

"And he made a cocky comment to me 'well if I'm the driver, where’s my car?' and laughed.

"It was devastating, an absolutely chaotic scene which Harley Whiteman made 10 times worse with his presence.”

The court heard he continued to behave abusively towards police officers who arrested him, and refused to give a breath and blood sample.

Later, Kaylan’s mother Lisa Hippsley arrived at the scene.

"All I could remember was just blue lights everywhere, cordoned off the road. So I knew it was bad, I really knew it was bad," she said.

After he was taken to hospital, the family were told that he had suffered a "catastrophic head injury" and they should prepare for the worst.

Kaylan died three days later, on 3 March.

Julie Craig, Tracey Lewis, Sarah Edwards
Aunts Julie and Tracey, and family friend Sarah, say the death has affected "so many people" in the community [BBC]

Kaylan’s grandmother Kay, with whom he lived, has still not been able to return to the family home since the night of the incident.

"The effect it’s had on her and the rest of the immediate family has been devastating," said Kaylan’s great aunt, Tracey Lewis.

"I don't think Kay is ever going to come back from this."

Sarah added there was a "sense of eeriness" around the community, with her son Lucas among those "completely traumatised" at having lost someone he considered a "brother".

"He feels like a piece of him has been taken, and he longs for his friend every day," she said.

Lisa said the image of her son lying in the road "constantly" plays over in her mind, adding: "That’s all I see before I go to sleep in the night. And I can't think of any happy memories anymore."

Chloe, Ron, Lisa & Tia
Kaylan's sister Chloe, grandfather Ron, mum Lisa, and sister Tia feel justice was not served with the sentence handed out [BBC]

During Whiteman’s sentencing, Judge Jeremy Jenkins said his behaviour had been "abhorrent and heartless".

Despite deeming it a Category A offence, Whiteman was handed a sentence towards the lower end of the scale for such a conviction.

With time deducted for a guilty plea, and a release on licence midway through, it could mean Whiteman spends less than three-and-a-half years locked up.

Julie Craig, another of Kaylan’s great aunts, was among almost two dozen family and friends in court to hear the sentence, which left them feeling "absolutely disgusting".

"I feel like we've lost Kaylan all over again," she said.

Tracey described the "gut-wrenching" feeling of having to relay the outcome to Kay, who could not bear attending.

"We’ve got to go back and say to his nan that Kaylan’s life was worth nothing – three years, four months," she said.

"I can’t believe how angry I am. We believed in the system, and I really thought we’d get some kind of justice, and that’s just a joke.

"It’s an insult to Kaylan’s memory."

Kaylan Hippsley
Kaylan would have had a "bright future" in rugby, say his family [Family photo]

Grandfather Ron Griffiths – who Kaylan affectionately called "dad Ron" – was among those most visibly emotional in court when the sentence was given.

"That sentence was a Mickey Mouse sentence. We want the judge to have a look at it and give what he should have."

The family are considering an appeal against the sentence, and have also launched a petition calling for harsher punishments for causing death by dangerous driving.

Kaylan Hippsley
There "wasn't a bad bone" in Kaylan's body, said his grandfather Ron [Family photo]

"The leniency of this sentence will sicken many people," said Andrew RT Davies, Member of the Senedd (MS) for South Wales Central, who called for a review of sentencing guidance.

Cynon Valley MS Vikki Howells said she understood the family’s "frustration at what they feel is an inadequate sentence" and hoped the UK government would listen "to the family’s heartfelt pleas".

Heledd Fychan, who also represents South Wales Central, added she understood the family’s desire for a "sentence which reflects the seriousness of the offence".

Kaylan Hippsley

Although the family have not had the closure they hoped for yet, efforts are already under way to leave a lasting legacy in memory of Kaylan.

Money has already been raised for health charities, with Kaylan’s rugby team also planning a way to commemorate him.

His family helped nurture his love for the game, including Ron who took him to Scarlets matches, and elder sister Chloe who’d help him hone his talents.

Mum Lisa remembers him as a "clown" and a "joker" who would constantly entertain his friends and family.

"He’d always have a smile on his face, and he just lit up a room," she said.

Julie added: "He’ll be forever 13, and that’s just sad."

The Ministry of Justice called Kaylan's death "a terrible crime" and said its thoughts were with his family and friends.

It said: “While independent judges decide sentences, we increased the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving to life imprisonment so that punishments can fit the severity of the crime."