1. ITV Report

Car chase woman's sentence is doubled

Leanne Burnell will now serve three and a half years behind bars Photo: Rod Minchin/PA Wire

A Somerset woman involved in a high-speed car chase which ended in the death of a 13-year-old schoolgirl has had her sentence more than doubled by leading judges.

Three Court of Appeal judges have upped the original 18-month term imposed on 21 year old Leanne Burnell from Taunton, to three-and-a-half years custody.

The judges agreed with Attorney General Dominic Grieve that the sentence handed out in July at Taunton Crown Court for causing death by dangerous driving was "unduly lenient".

Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, sitting in London with Lord Justice Kitchin and Mrs Justice Cox, described it as a "terrible tragedy", which must have had a "devastating impact" on the family of victim Amy Hofmeister.

Amy died during a chase between Burnell and her now ex-boyfriend Leonard Jones after they left a local pub in separate cars. They were driving through Taunton town centre at more than twice the 30mph speed limit one evening in June 2011.

Jones struck the schoolgirl, who was out cycling with a friend, after overtaking Burnell. His car overturned and mounted the pavement.

He admitted causing Amy's death by dangerous driving and was jailed for seven years. Burnell denied the same charge, but was convicted after a trial.

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".

We consider that the sentence passed was unduly lenient."

– Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division