Teenager spared jail after killing Northamptonshire rugby coach while drug-driving his parents' Audi A5

A teenager who killed a Northamptonshire man while driving his parents' powerful Audi A5 after smoking drugs with friends, walked free from a court today.

The 17-year-old boy had even been stopped by police just weeks before the tragic crash and had also been at the wheel after taking cannabis.

John Shackley was killed crossing the road

John Shackley was killed crossing the road

The youth was awaiting a court appearance when he knocked down and killed pedestrians John Shackley and Jason Imi who were crossing a road to return to a hotel.

Mr Shackley, a former rugby coach, lived in Deanshanger.

Today, youth court magistrates rejected an application for the teenager to be publicly named because of the seriousness of his crime and the fact he was only four months away from becoming an adult.

The JPs were told that the boy, who lives with his family in Ascot, had admitted a charge of driving a motor vehicle with a proportion of a specified controlled drug above the specified limit. He was not accused of any offences in relation to the deaths of pedestrians Mr Shackley and Mr Imi.

However, the court heard that the youngster had been "smoking weed" with friends before borrowing his parents' Audi and taking friends out for a drive in nearby Sunninghill. He struck 61-year-old Mr Shackley and 48-year old Mr Imi with such force as they crossed the road that they died instantly on impact with the road.

His parents told the court in Reading, Berks, that they had hidden the keys to their car at the family home and that Thames Valley Police were investigating the youngster for disqualified driving since the fatal crash on August 2, 2018.

Prosecuting, Sobia Ali said that the crash happened on the A329 London Road in Sunninghill in the dark.

"The defendant came to a point where he collided with two innocent pedestrians, causing them substantial injuries from which they died."

The prosecutor said that the boy driver was arrested at the scene and she revealed he had had 3.3 mcg of cannabis in his bloodstream - above the legal limit of 2 mcg. She read out a statement from one of the defendant's friends, who had been in the back seat of the Audi, which said the defendant had seen the men in his path.

The friend had said: "About six to 10 minutes through our journey, he was driving fine and then he said something about how there were people on the road. From the moment the person said something to the point that there was a bang, was about two seconds," said the prosecutor.

"He already knew there was someone in the road, he was already braking before anyone said anything. Other than applying the brakes he didn't do anything, no steering or anything.

"A window smashed and I knew we were hitting a person. I could see two bodies on the floor, they were behind the car to the left. I went home on foot, I ran, I ran because I was scared, probably scared of my mum finding out to be honest."

Ms Ali also read out a victim impact statement from Mr Shackeley's wife.

She wrote:: "I previously worked in a school setting. I know that some kids need extra discipline. To assist them to choose the right life path is something that parents need to do to get them to avoid getting into dangerous situations.

"He was able to drive a powerful car and perhaps the family should have been more alert to the warning signs. My husband was killed after a meal out with colleagues. He said he would be back around 11 o'clock. He was killed instantly only 5-10 minutes walk from the restaurant. Our only hope is that they felt no pain or fear. That is our only consolation."

The prosecutor, who asked the magistrates for a custodial sentence, pointed to the boy's previous history of drug offences and revealed to magistrates that he had five convictions for seven offences between 2013-2018.

The most recent was in June 2018 - just eight weeks before the double tragedy - where police stopped the defendant over concerns about his driving. He smelled of cannabis smoke. When they tested him he showed positive for cannabis and was found to have 5.7mcgs of cannabis compounds per litre of blood, over twice the legal limit.

Addressing the presiding magistrate she said: "Ma'am, you might ask yourself why it is, despite the defendant having been arrested in June and in August on this matter, he was still able to drive and have access to a vehicle in October? It is my understanding that he was using his parents' car.

"Clearly there is a concern in relation to whether this behaviour is being heard. There seems total disregard, the prosecution say."

Defending lawyer, David Todd, told the magistrates: "If the Crown could show evidence of unacceptable driving, we'd know about it, because the charge would be causing death by dangerous or by careless."

He said that as unpalatable as it might seem, following the investigation the apportion of blame could not be laid at the feet of the defendant.

The teenager was asked by magistrates to explain how the incident had affected him especially as he had only passed his driving test two months before the fatal collision.

The boy responded saying: "I am very nervous. I had tears in my eyes when I was listening to the families' statements. I can't describe in words how I feel about it. It is the most unfortunate thing. It really has affected my mental well-being.

"I had smoked four or five hours prior to that. Now I would never go near a car. I genuinely thought I wasn't impaired. I had no idea I was over the limit, otherwise I wouldn't have driven a car at that time."

The teenager told the magistrates how he had stopped smoking weed and how he was focusing on his B-techs at college and hoping to go to university to study communications.

His mother also addressed the court and told how sorry she was for the families affected.

"I think he really needs to learn a lesson that this can't go on. But I think he has. His behaviour is so much nicer at home. I know he's really sorry for what happened. I don't see any evidence of him taking (drugs) at the moment. I think this has been a massive shock to him as it should have been, a real wake-up call.

"There is no way he could get hold of the family car now. The keys for the car are hidden," she said

Returning to sentence the boy, presiding magistrate Penny Wood said: "We need to tell you that our initial thinking was to sentence you into custody. It can't be right to drive your car and knock down two people, innocent pedestrians and kill them.

"However, there are no charges in relation to the standard of your driving on that day. But we can begin by saying so it can be heard by anyone in the court, that we take this extremely seriously."

The magistrates put the teenager on a new youth rehabilitation order, which included a supervision requirement of 24 months, a programme requirement with a "thinking skills programme" of 20 days, an activity requirement for a programme of safe driving, 100 hours unpaid work, and a curfew lasting for six months from 7pm to 7am, excluding Mondays and Thursdays when he attends college.

The teenager was also disqualified from driving for 24 months and charged £105 in costs, which his parents said they would pay. The magistrates suggested he could pay them back by doing odd jobs about the house.

The defence lawyer for the boy told the court that there was no evidence he had driven in a dangerous fashion, even though he was over the drug-drive limit.

Mr Todd went on: "Unlike the guidelines for drink-driving, the guidance for drugs driving focuses mainly on the driving, on the level of the driving."