Amy Hofmeister death: Jail term doubled for fatal car chase driver Leanne Burnell
A driver involved in a high-speed car chase in Somerset which killed a 13-year-old girl has had her sentence more than doubled by appeal judges.
Leanne Burnell, 21, was jailed for 18 months for causing the death of Amy Hofmeister by dangerous driving after encouraging a chase through Taunton.
But at the Court of Appeal in London yesterday, Burnell’s sentence was increased to three-and-a-half years.
Sir John Thomas said the original sentence had been “unduly lenient”. Amy died during a chase between Burnell and her ex-boyfriend Leonard Jones, 42, in June 2011. Her family had appealed to have Burnell’s sentence increased.
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They were racing in separate cars through Taunton town centre at more than twice the 30mph speed limit after leaving a pub. Jones struck the schoolgirl, who was out cycling with a friend, after overtaking Burnell. His car overturned and mounted the pavement.
He admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for seven years. Burnell denied the same charge, but was found guilty and handed an 18-month jail sentence at Taunton Crown Court.
But the Court of Appeal judges agreed with Attorney General Dominic Grieve that the sentence had been “unduly lenient”.
Sir John, announcing the decision of the court, 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 of this terrible tragedy was that of Mr Jones in overtaking in the way he did” the “significant underlying cause was that of the offender”.
The judge said the court had taken into account mitigating factors, including the fact that Burnell had “no relevant previous convictions” and that she was “relatively young” – aged 19 at the time of the offence.
Sir John added: “We consider that the sentence passed was unduly lenient.”
Chief Superintendent Daimon Tilley, of Avon and Somerset police, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this appeal.
“We hope the sentencing of Jones and Burnell brings some comfort to Amy’s family. Amy’s death was totally unnecessary. She was doing everything right wearing reflective clothing, a helmet and cycling on a proper cycle path.”