A CAR in the wrong hands is like a "lethal weapon" and dangerous driving laws need to reflect that , say the parents of Violet-Grace Youens.

Speaking ahead of a parliamentary debate today where MPs will consider an 164,000 name e-petition calling for Violet-Grace's Law, Glenn and Becky Youens spelled out how they feel the justice system is letting down victims.

They will be joined by other families, who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances, at Westminster this afternoon. The parents are calling for sentencing powers to be increased so that judges can impose life jail terms for dangerous drivers who kill, with a minimum tariff of 15 years.

Violet-Grace, aged four, died in March 2017 after being hit by a stolen car that was speeding at 83mph on the 30mph limit Prescot Road, St Helens.

The driver of the Ford Fiesta, Aidan McAteer, then 23, and his passenger Dean Brennan, ran away from the scene after striking Violet-Grace and her grandmother Angela French, who were on the pavement waiting to cross the road.

St Helens Star: Aidan McAteer, 23, running from the scene of a crash which killed four-year-old Violet-Grace Youens in St Helens, who has been jailed for nine years and four months at Liverpool Crown Court following her death.

Aidan McAteer, caught on CCTV fleeing the scene

McAteer, who fled to Amsterdam within hours of the collision, pleaded guilty to causing Violet-Grace's death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury to her grandmother Angela French, who suffered life-changing injuries.

Brennan, then 27, was jailed for six years and eight months after admitting the aggravated taking of a vehicle and assisting an offender.

However, it is likely they will serve only half those jail terms before being released from prison on licence.

Glenn and Becky say they felt the sentencing was "an insult as it is less time than Violet was alive".

They described how prior to sentencing they were told by prosecution lawyers "not to expect double figures".

St Helens Star: Rebecca and Glen Youens (both centre), the parents of Violet-Grace Youens who was killed in a hit-and-run crash, speak to the media outside Liverpool Crown Court after driver Aidan McAteer was jailed for nine years and four months Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Becky and Glenn Youens speaking to the media after the sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court in 2017 (Picture: PA)

Glenn said: "For that solicitor it was a normal thing: 'don't expect double figures'. It's become the norm that a person can go out and kill a child and spend single figures in prison.

"It's accepted, and it shouldn't be.

"That's why we got 164,000 signatures in four weeks, because it’s not just us outraged by this – it's everybody.

"If I have a knife in my kitchen cutting vegetables it is not a weapon – once I take it on the street then it is.

"A car driven legally is not a weapon. (If I'm) speeding and driving at 60mph in a 30mph then it is a weapon and I'm responsible for that weapon and what happens then. The same as a knife on the street or drink driving.

"We need to change people's minds."

"The judge even said that if he could have given McAteer any more time then he would have done but the law means his hands were tied."

Glenn added: "They didn't go to a trial when the evidence showed what he'd done. They played the system. But for us and Violet the sentence he's serving is less than she lived and there's no justice at all for Angela.

"So, we ask for 15 years (minimum tariff).

St Helens Star: Pictures of Violet-Grace provided by her parents

Violet-Grace Youens

"We have a four-year-old son (Oliver) at the moment and nearly at the point where our second born child is going to be older than our first-born child. We will have to explain to him what has happened and bring him up to follow the law but teach him that the person who killed your sister is out (of prison)."

The government has previously said it will introduce stricter sentencing guidelines but those guarantees were made more than 20 months ago and more bereaved families continue to suffer the pain of seeing dangerous drivers handed what many regarded as lenient sentences.

Glenn and Becky met with the then Justice Secretary Rory Stewart in May to discuss the campaign, which was also raised with Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons in February.

Becky added: "On Monday we want an official timeline, that they will pass it (Violet-Grace's Law) and we will both fight till our last breaths to get this done. But we want a timeline on Monday and the go ahead and for this to be in place as soon as possible, not 'when parliamentary time allows' because this is an important issue.

"This is about people's lives.

"A car in the wrong hands becomes a lethal weapon so we hope that bringing this in will deter people from driving like idiots."

Setting out how they feel let down by the justice system, Becky said: "When we got to court, they obviously pleaded guilty, as there was plenty of evidence. Also, McAteer's blood and saliva were on the airbag.

"So, they played the system and got lenient sentences and before they were sentenced we were pulled to one side and told 'don't expect double figures'.

"I was like 'don't expect double figures for my baby's life, a four-year-old girl's life? Don't expect double figures?'

"Then it got worse because the nine years and four months is halved.

"Judge Watson did actually quote in court that he was trying to give as much as he could, but he had to follow his guidelines with the law as it stands.

"They (McAteer and Brennan) wouldn't look at us in court or show any remorse.

St Helens Star: Floral tributes for Violet-Grace.

Floral tributes at the scene where Violet died

"They should be in prison for a lot longer than they are. How can they reflect on what they have done and be rehabilitated into society in just over four years?

"We want more of a deterrent.

"Also, in court we were told by Aidan McAteer's barrister that we couldn't read our victim impact statements out, but we wanted them to know what we had to see.

"I wanted them to know what we had to see so they have those images in their heads.

"They didn't want it to be public knowledge and said it would be too upsetting for McAteer to hear so we had to highlight what we could and couldn't say.

"So, we were gagged in court and everything seemed to be in their favour.

"When we came out we said this has got to stop. You never think it is going to happen to you. It's my family, it's our baby. Our first-born child who showed us how to love unconditionally.

"We'd said this needs to change.

"That October, the government said they had done a consultation into this matter and they were planning to change the law.

"However, we got to January 2019 and I got in touch with HM petitions we started to get this petition going.

READ> Violet-Grace's mum describes heartbreaking final moments of her daughter's life – sending powerful message to MPs ahead of law change debate

"Now the petition did well, we were hoping for 10,000 for a response but we surpassed that and it's currently at 164,000 and it's still rising and will until August 15.

"It's being debated in Parliament on Monday and since this has happened, just in Merseyside there has been several hits and run collisions and wider afield again innocent little children losing their lives. Babies.

"I'm in the middle of doing a degree, it's not easy, we both work full time, we are grieving parents and we are trying to bring our son up the best way we can, but this has to stop because families are being torn apart by this crime and we are the ones with a life sentence.

"They (Brennan and McAteer) will be out in 2020 and 2021, no time at all, and we might see them on the street because we both live under the same constituency.

"He's (McAteer) out before 30, he can do what he wants, restart his life, see his mum but we will never get that or ever see our beautiful daughter again. Her life has been ripped apart and she was such a beautiful, caring, little girl who loved everyone, she wanted to be a doctor, nurse and school teacher."