Drunk driver escapes prison sentence

A motorist who ploughed his car into four pedestrians, whilst twice the drink drive limit, has escaped a prison term. A woman who was critically injured in the accident has said there is “no justice”.

Sakiasi Ratu, a Devon commando, had been on a night-out with his girlfriend when he decided to drive home. His blue Peugeot 306 mounted the payment outside the Two Trees pub on Union Street, Plymouth, in the heart of the city’s clubland, in the early hours of 9 September 2007, knocking down four people.

Tracey Rowe, 28, and her friend Louise Crane were sitting outside the pub with two men waiting for a taxi when Ratu’s car hit them. All four were thrown into the air and across the road. Plymouth Crown Court heard how Miss Rowe spent weeks in a critical condition in hospital with severe head injuries; she suffered a fractured skull, bruising to the brain and blood clots. She was given just a 30% chance of survival by her doctors.

Miss Crane suffered a broken back. Of the two unnamed men involved, one suffered minor injuries whilst the other, a serving Royal Marine, was unable to train properly because of injuries sustained and had been stationed to a desk job.

23 year old Ratu, born in Fiji, was serving with 29 Commando Royal Artillery in Plymouth when the crash happened. He has since been accepted to join the elite Special Boat service and will soon be serving in Afghanistan. He pleaded guilty to all charges made against him and was banned from driving for 18 months and fined £750 for dangerous driving and £250 for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Miss Rowe, of Plymouth who lost her hair in the accident and now must wear a wig, postponed her wedding due to the stress caused. She said that Ratu should have been jailed.

Judge Francis Gilbert QC presiding over the case said when sentencing that Ratu was a man of previous good character, had an impeccable military record and financially supported his disabled father and brother who live in his home country of Fiji. He said: “What you did was totally out of character. I accept that you very much regret what you did and to send you to prison is in nobody’s interest.”

Upon hearing the sentence, Miss Rowe said: “He should have judged on what he did at the accident, not what he has done for his county. What would have happened to him if we had been killed? He should go to prison and think about what he did – he’s got away with it.”

Judge Gilbert said in court that if he had ordered Ratu to pay the victims compensation it would reduce the amount they would get by claiming from the insurance.

All four people injured by Ratu’s stupidity have now lodged claims for compensation with his insurance company.

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