The Birmingham Evening Mail scored a success in its “Justice for Isobel” campaign when Prime Minister Tony Blair supported calls for tougher sentences for drivers who kill while under the influence of drinks or drugs.
The campaign was launched after heroin user Gary Clarke was jailed for five years for running down and killing three-year-old Isobel Appleton.
Forty-year-old Clarke, who was also banned from driving for 10 years, had clocked up 93 previous convictions before ploughing into the child. He could be out of prison in two years, and the sentence caused uproar.
The Evening Mail campaign, run in conjunction with Trinity Mirror’s Evening Chronicle and The Journal in Newcastle, whose campaigns are based on a similar tragedy in the North East, calls on Home Secretary David Blunkett to order drink and drug killer-drivers to be jailed for life.
During a visit to Birmingham, Blair said he hoped the courts would recognise public outrage when sentencing killer-drivers.
“I hope very much the courts take into account the genuine public anxiety about these issues, especially as many of these people have a string of convictions,” he said.
Blair was given a copy of the Evening Mail by the paper’s crime correspondent Mark Cowan as he toured the city’s Steelhouse Lane police station.
A petition launched by the newspaper has already attracted over 4,000 signatures, with messages of support flooding in from around the world.
The Northcliffe-owned North Devon Journal also joined the fight, running a front-page splash about the Evening Mail’s campaign and carrying the petition form inside.
By Jean Morgan