37-year-old Gary Smith of Byram, Knottingley was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment
37-year-old Gary Smith of Byram, Knottingley was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment

Prison sentence for drink and drug driver who killed 12-year-old girl

27 April 2019

A man has appeared at York Crown Court today (Friday 26 April 2019) and pleaded guilty to causing the death of 12-year-old Kaitlin Mitchell.

37-year-old Gary Smith of Byram, Knottingley was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment for driving with both drink and drugs in his system and hitting Kaitlin with his red Vauxhall Astra on 28 September 2017. He was also handed a seven and a half year driving ban.

The collision occurred as Kaitlin was crossing the road, after getting off her school bus on West Acres in Byram.

A red Vauxhall Astra, driven by Smith, collided with her, leaving her with serious head injuries. Smith then drove off, failing to stop at the scene.

Kaitlin was taken by air ambulance to Leeds General Infirmary where she underwent emergency brain surgery. Very sadly, due to extent of her injuries she never recovered and she died in hospital a week later.

After hitting Kaitlin, CCTV cameras captured Smith driving through Knottingley and parking his car in a car park behind Yorkshire Bank.

He then made a false 999 call to police, reporting that his car had been stolen from his driveway, which was just a few metres away from the scene of the collision.

Smith claimed that a few minutes before the collision he had been unpacking his boot and had left the keys in his car, when an unknown person had got in and driven it away. After making the false report, CCTV cameras captured Smith making his way over to the local supermarket and ordering a cab to take him home.

An officer who had attended the collision was directed to Smith’s address, to take a statement about the alleged stolen vehicle.

On arriving at Smith’s home address the officer suspected Smith had been drink driving and breathalysed him. On failing the breath test, Smith admitted he was the driver of the car which had struck Kaitlin.

When taken into custody Smith was also tested for drugs. He was found to have 170ug benzoylecgonine in his system, a derivative of cocaine.

12-year-old Kaitlin Mitchell
12-year-old Kaitlin Mitchell

Following a full investigation Smith was later charged with;

  • Causing death by due care while over prescribed limit for alcohol
  • Drive motor vehicle when alcohol level above limit – 53ug per 100ml of breath (35ug per 100ml is the legal limit)
  • Drive motor vehicle with a proportion of a specified controlled drug above the specified limit – 170mg benzoylecgonine – a derivative of cocaine
  • Driver of a vehicle involved in a road accident fail to report that accident
  • Driver of a vehicle fail to stop after a road accident
  • Commit an act / series of acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice

Commenting on the case and the sentence passed today Inspector Dave Barf, Senior Investigating Officer said:

The decision Smith made on that day in September 2017 has caused an utter tragedy.

To drive with both alcohol and illegal drugs in your system is an inherently selfish act. That this led to the death of a young girl with her whole life ahead of her is horrific.  To then lie to police in an attempt to cover up the crime is not only selfish, but also despicable and cowardly.

The sentence passed today will not bring Kaitlin back. To have a child, and sister, loved so much by her family cruelly taken away is completely heart-breaking. However, I do hope that today provides Kaitlin’s family with some form of closure and allows them to begin to move forward with their lives.

I hope that these tragic events remind drivers of the huge responsibility that they hold when they get behind the wheel of a car. If you choose to drink or take drugs and drive you put the lives of everyone around you at risk – not just your own. You will not set out to kill someone, but sadly this case proves that you may.

If you know of someone who is drinking or taking drugs and driving – call the police and report it on 101. If it is happening there and then and there is an immediate threat to life – always dial 999. By picking up the phone, you could save a life.

A commendation was awarded by the Judge to Traffic Constable Mark Mullins for his role in the investigation.

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