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Family of hit-and-run victim Lewis Knapp call for tougher sentences

Lewis Knapp
Lewis Knapp

The heartbroken family of hit and run victim Lewis Knapp say life sentences for those found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving cannot come soon enough.

Connor Emms was sentenced to four-and-half years behind bars on Monday for killing popular Lewis, of Boldon, on Good Friday last year after hitting him in a Vauxhall Vectra.

Connor Emms.

Connor Emms.

Emms, 21, of Sycamore Avenue, South Shields, pleaded guilty to causing his death by dangerous driving.

The 21-year-old also admitted failing to stop after a road accident, having no insurance, driving otherwise in accordance with a licence and driving with a proportion of a specified controlled drug above the specified limit.

Following his sentencing, many readers have used our Facebook page to hit out at the time Emms will have to spend behind bars.

Last year this newspaper’s owner, Johnston Press, launched a Drive for Justice campaign - revealing the scandal of lenient sentences, after it emerged drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just five years, with many escaping jail altogether.

Lewis Knapp with his girlfriend Caitlyn Hardy.

Lewis Knapp with his girlfriend Caitlyn Hardy.

Related: Girlfriend of hit and run victim ‘devastated’ by his death

Not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence from 10 years in 2004.

Government ministers have since confirmed maximum sentences will be increased to life for those who kill on the roads.

However, the legislation has not yet come into force.

Mr Knapp’s loved ones say that, although the man responsible for killing him will not face a tougher sentence, they are pleased that future defendants will.

“The sentence that he has been given is not long enough,” said Mr Knapp’s mum Michelle Norton, 46.

“Lewis will never come back to us, but Emms could be out of prison in 18 months or two years and that just isn’t right.”

Ms Norton added: “Everyone I know has said since the sentence was passed down to him that it isn’t long enough. We don’t blame the judge because he said his hands were tied.

“It’s a shame that this case we have missed the new sentencing guidelines coming in. It isn’t going to help us, but it will help other people in the future.”

Mr Knapp was making his way home from a nightclub on Good Friday last year with friends when he was struck by a Vauxhall Vectra car driven by Emms.

Newcastle Crown court heard how Emms, then 20, carried on driving and only handed himself in to police hours later after discovering the 20-year-old victim had died.

Prosecutors told the court how Mr Knapp was walking along Anderson Street in South Shields with a group of friends and his partner Caitlyn Hardy after leaving Roxanne’s nightclub at 4am on April 15.

Emms, who had been driving at an excessive speed having consumed a cocktail of alcohol and cocaine, hit Mr Knapp while he was standing in the road.

Despite receiving CPR from his Ms Hardy and then paramedics, Mr Knapp died after sustaining “catastrophic, un-survivable injuries”.

The court heard how Emms had been driving along the road at 60mph - double the speed limit - before slowing down just before the collision.

After the hit-and-run, Emms met up with a friend and visited to the house of another friend before returning home to his parent’s house at 7am.

He was driven to the police station by his father three hours later.