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Stiffer sentence for woman in car chase death

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 25, 2012

  • Death race driver Leanne Burnell

  • Victim Amy Hofmeister died after being struck by a speeding car

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A woman who started a high-speed car chase which ended in the death of a 13-year-old schoolgirl had her sentence more than doubled yesterday.

Three Court of Appeal judges upped the original 18-month term imposed on Leanne Burnell, 21, of Smithy, Bishop's Hull, Taunton, Somerset, to three-and-a-half years' custody.

The judges agreed with Attorney General Dominic Grieve that the sentence handed out in July at Taunton Crown Court for causing death by dangerous driving was "unduly lenient".

Lord Justice Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, sitting in London with Lord Justice Kitchin and Lady Justice Cox, described the case as a "terrible tragedy" that must have had a "devastating impact" on the family of victim Amy Hofmeister.

The teenager died during a chase between Burnell and her now ex-boyfriend Leonard Jones after they left a pub in separate cars.

They were driving through Taunton town centre at more than twice the 30mph speed limit one evening in June 2011.

Jones hit the schoolgirl, who was out cycling with a friend, after overtaking Burnell. His car overturned and mounted the pavement.

He admitted causing Amy's death by dangerous driving and was jailed for seven years.

Burnell denied the same charge, but was convicted after a trial.

Lord Justice Thomas said: "There can be little doubt that the underlying cause of what happened was her [Burnell's] decision to begin the chase."

He said that although the "actual final cause" was Jones "overtaking in the way he did", Burnell was responsible for the "significant underlying cause".

The judge said the court had taken into account mitigating factors, including Burnell's lack of previous convictions and the fact she was 19 at the time.

Lord Justice Thomas added: "We consider that the sentence passed was unduly lenient."

The judges quashed the 18-month sentence and replaced it with the longer jail term.

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