A DRUNK driver who was jailed for crashing into a rickshaw and killing a passenger from the Herefordshire border has had his prison sentence increased.
Luis Balcazar Soto, 25, did not have a licence, was over twice the drink-drive limit and “driving like a madman” when his silver Kia smashed into the pedicab, throwing Sophie Strickland, 31, from the vehicle.
Ms Strickland – who died in the collision in Elephant and Castle, south-east London, in the early hours of July 10 last year – had been out celebrating her birthday. Her killer has now had his sentence extended after it was challenged by the Solicitor General at the Court of Appeal.
After pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and other offences, Soto was jailed at Southwark Crown Court in November for a total of nine years and nine months, and banned from driving for 10 years and nine months.
Longer jail sentence for Elephant and Castle killer ‘driving like a madman’
On Wednesday, senior judges increased his total prison term to 12 years and nine months after his case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.
His driving disqualification was increased to 14 years and four and a half months, the court heard.
Lord Justice William Davis, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeting and Judge Heather Norton, said that in Soto’s sentencing Judge Deborah Taylor had failed to take account of the increase in the maximum term.
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Southwark Crown Court had heard that Soto, whose former partner and friend were in the car with him, was described by witnesses as “driving like a madman” as he hit speeds of up to 70mph.
Death crash victim in London to celebrate birthday
The rickshaw’s driver Tanzir Ahmed, who is in his 30s and was seriously injured, had stopped in New Kent Road so Ms Strickland and her friend Jade Redford, who was not harmed in the crash, could use a cash machine.
Ms Strickland, from Hay-on-Wye in mid-Wales, had gone to the capital to celebrate her birthday with friends and had just got back into the rickshaw before the collision.
Soto, from Elephant and Castle, tried to run from the scene but was stopped by members of the public who he threatened to punch and offered money to let him go.
He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, acting in breach of a restraining order – by seeing his former partner – and breaching a suspended sentence.
Mr Ahmed described the incident as “the worst thing that has ever happened to me” while Ms Strickland’s family and friends told of their devastation.
Mark Butler, defending, said Soto “apologises profusely”, adding: “His remorse is demonstrated by his guilty pleas.”
Lord Justice Davis gave brief reasons for the appeal judges’ decision, with a more detailed written judgment expected on Thursday.
Mr Tomlinson said after the ruling: “Today all my thoughts are with the family and friends of Sophie Strickland, whose life was so tragically cut short by the criminally dangerous driving of Luis Fernando Balcazar Soto.
“I want to pay tribute to Sophie’s family, who have shown immense strength and courage during such a desperately difficult time.”