A DEVASTATED dad today asked why his daughter’s taxi driver killer was allowed behind the wheel despite a catalogue of driving convictions.
As David Baillie begins a seven-year jail sentence for knocking down teenager Sarah Burke, her grieving dad Stephen asked “how could he have ever been on the road?”
Sarah, 17, died five days after she was hit by rage-fuelled Baillie as she crossed Ormonde Street in Sunderland on her way home from college last September.
After a jury yesterday found the 40-year-old guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, it was revealed Baillie had served prison sentences in the past for his bad driving and has a shocking record for motoring offences – but was still able to work as a taxi driver.
He was yesterday put behind bars for seven years at Newcastle Crown Court.
Now, Sarah’s heartbroken dad said more must be done to stop dangerous road menaces from getting back behind the wheel again and again.
Mr Burke said he could not understand how Baillie, who was off duty from his taxi job when he killed Sarah, was allowed to drive when he has such a shocking record.
Mr Burke said: “How could he have been on the road? His barrister said people make mistakes, but how many mistakes can you make?
“He has been in prison before, banned before and taken the re-test before.
“As a family we have said he will get back on the roads, it is in his character.
“We feel he is going to be a danger again once he is allowed back on the roads.
“There has to be a deterrent now. I am not just speaking for us as a family, I am speaking for everyone who has suffered and everyone who is going to suffer. People are being killed on the roads every day.
“The majority of drivers are good drivers, it’s the minority.”
Baillie – who has 12 convictions for theft and attempted theft of vehicles, six for taking without consent, eight for driving while disqualified and has been banned from the road nine times – was banned from driving for seven years yesterday, but Sarah’s family believe life-time bans are needed for some drivers.
The grieving family have been working with road safety charity Brake and call for tough minimum sentences to try to stop more families going through what they have as a result of more road deaths.
The court heard Sarah, a student who was excelling in her art and design course at Sunderland College, suffered multiple fractures and brain injury when she was hit by Baillie’s Volvo.
The dad-of-three had been “consumed by determination to overtake at all costs” as he dangerously drove into the wrong side of the road to get past a Vauxhall Corsa in front of him.
Jurors took just over an hour to find Baillie, of Magdelene Place, Sunderland, guilty.
At the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Nick Dry read extracts of the victim impact statements made by Sarah’s mum Theresa and her older sister Melisa, who was her “best friend” as well as her sibling.
Mr Dry said Sarah came from a strong and loving family, who described her as “happy and full of laughter and fun”.
The court heard this year would have been her 18th birthday, her sister’s 21st, and both her parents turn 50. The family were due to have a holiday together to celebrate their special milestones but the remaining members were forced to go alone.
Sarah’s mother and father were at court every day during the trial and said they wanted to thank the witnesses who came forward and who helped their daughter at the scene.
Sarah saved and improved the lives of five people when her organs were donated after her death.
Her proud dad said it had been Sarah’s own idea to become a donor and she signed the register when she was only 15.
Mr Burke said: “Melisa and Sarah came down and said they had signed up for the organ donation.
“As parents, you think it is never gong to happen.”
Mr Burke said Sarah’s decision has prompted other family members to sign up to become a donor.
Judge Paul Sloan QC told Baillie: “No sentence I pass could ever begin to ease the pain they have suffered, the pain they continue to suffer, for it is a life sentence they will have to endure as a result of your callous disregard for the safety of others.”
The court heard Baillie, formerly known as David Wilson, has been out of trouble for more than a decade and had been trying to work hard to support his partner and children.
A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: “An application for a Hackney Carriage driver’s licence from David Mark Wilson was considered and approved by members of the city council’s Regulatory Committee on September 2, 2013.
“The council’s guidelines are based on Department for Transport advice that expects applicants to be free of driving or motoring convictions for a period of between one to three years.”
“His last reported conviction was 2000.
“On notification of his arrest, his licence was suspended.”