Appeal Granted in R v Nathan Schultz: Analysis of Sentence for Death by Dangerous Driving

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1335
Judgment on

Introduction

The appellate case of R v Nathan Schultz before the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) revolves around the applicant’s appeal against conviction and sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. Notably, the appeal against conviction has been dismissed, but permission to appeal against the sentence of 10 years imprisonment has been granted. This article dissects the key topics discussed and elucidates the legal principles applied, referencing the relevant parts of the provided case law summary.

Key Facts

Nathan Schultz was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and sentenced to a 10-year term of imprisonment by His Honour Judge Leeming at the Crown Court at Chester. Schultz’s appeal, represented by Adam Watkins and opposed by Maria Masselis for the Crown, highlights disputes over both the conviction and the sentence imposed. The appeal hearing was held on 7 November 2023, and while the appeal against the conviction was dismissed summarily, the permission to appeal the sentence was reserved pending further evidence assembly.

Leave to Appeal Against Sentence

Permission to appeal against sentence, as discussed under paragraph 10.2.7 of the Criminal Procedure Directions 2023, emphasizes that in cases involving fatalities, the court considers an adjournment post granting leave to appeal. This adjournment allows an advocate to be instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the victim’s family to be notified and given the opportunity to attend the hearing.

Quality of Driving and Sentencing Level

Central to the discussion of the sentence appeal are Judge Leeming’s sentencing remarks in which he attributed “a flagrant disregard for the rules of the road,” leading to the classification of the offense as Level 1 in sentencing terms. The Court of Appeal sought to meticulously review the evidence related to the quality of Schultz’s driving before and at the moment of the fatal accident, reinforcing the notion that evidence about the defendant’s conduct at the time of the offense is imperative in determining the culpability level for sentencing purposes.

Categorization of the Offense

The determination of whether the trial judge correctly categorized the case in Level 1 is a pivotal point of consideration. The penal framework suggests that Level 1 offenses encompass cases reflecting the highest level of culpability and harm. If Schultz’s driving at the time of the incident does not demonstrate flagrant disregard for the rules of the road to a Level 1 standard, then his sentence could be deemed excessive.

Right to Representation

The Court granted a representation order for junior counsel on the appeal, ensuring that the appellant has legal representation in the proceedings, which is a fundamental right in a fair trial according to principles of the common law and the UK’s judiciary system.

Outcomes

The immediate outcome is that the application for leave to appeal against the sentence was granted. The granting of leave does not indicate any expression of view on the merits or probable result of the appeal against the sentence. The substantive review of the evidence and the arguments on the appeal will be conducted at a later hearing.

Conclusion

The court’s decision to grant leave to appeal against the sentence while not reflecting on the case’s conviction is significant. It underscores the importance of assessing the degree of culpability per the standards of evidence pertaining to the quality of driving in relation to the offense. The upcoming hearing and further arguments will potentially refine the application of sentencing principles to the case at hand and clarify the extent to which external factors can influence the categorization of an offense at sentencing. The case reiterates the careful examination required by appellate courts in dissecting trial court narratives and emphasizes the vital role of evidence assembly and fair representation in the appeal process.

Related Summaries