THE parents of Violet-Grace Youens could not read out their full impact statements in court after being told it would "upset" the speeding driver who claimed their daughter's life, MP Marie Rimmer told a parliamentary debate.

Yesterday during a debate calling for increased sentences for those who cause death by dangerous drivers, Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston revealed that the victim impact statements of Becky and Glenn Youens, the parents of Violet-Grace, were edited during the court case so that it did not cause upset to Aidan McAteer, the driver whose actions claimed the four-year-old's life.

St Helens Star:

Violet-Grace Youens

She said: "The law must be improved for victims and survivors. In the case that we are discussing, the defendant’s barrister objected to the parents reading out their full impact statement and argued that the defendants would ​find it too upsetting.

"The judge accepted that, so the CPS barrister gave the parents a copy of the victim impact statement with the parts that they could not read out in open court highlighted.

"The whole purpose of the victim impact statement is the impact on the victims and the survivors, not the defendant. Guidance should be given to the judiciary that the overriding consideration is for the victim and their family, not whether the impact statement may upset the defendant.

St Helens Star:

Becky and Glenn leaving court in 2017

"We are asking for a sentence that fits the crime. Violet-Grace was a beautiful, angelic-looking four-year-old child. Some hon. members may find the following upsetting—my family have not been able to say it or hear it.

"The two men responsible for Violet-Grace’s death will serve less time in prison than she was alive—less than four and a half years. In fact, by pleading guilty, and with good behaviour, the driver might be out even sooner.

"I ask everyone here today, is that truly a sentence that fits the crime that was committed? I believe that most, if not all, of us would say no. Clearly, the 164,632 people who signed the petition would agree."

St Helens Star:

Aidan McAteer, the driver of the stolen car, and Dean Brennan, the passenger who assisted in McAteer's escape

Ms Rimmer backed the motion from Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, calling for judges to have the powers to impose life sentences for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

Ms Jones added: " To lose a child at the age of only four, mown down by a speeding driver, is something we do not even wish to imagine. Yet that is what happened to Mr and Mrs Youens, who started the petition.

"I cannot even pretend to plumb the depths of their grief, but I do congratulate them on their courage and tenacity in wanting something good to come out of that grief.

"The law does not cope well with such offences. It leaves families believing they have not had justice and the public looking on in amazement at what seem to be ​unduly lenient sentences. I met some of the families today and heard their stories. They told me that they felt they were treated as though they were the criminals.

"They were not allowed to show emotion in court and were sometimes told not to sit in the court. They were not allowed to read out all their victim statement in case it upset the perpetrator.

"They sometimes felt that they were the ones on trial. These cases are not unique. There are a lot of them, and our justice system is simply not working for these people.

"It is a long time since I practised law, and I know, from being around the courts, it is very difficult to make judgments on cases unless you have heard all the evidence, but I believe that in the most serious cases we ought to have life sentences available.

"As Mr Youens said to me, in the wrong hands a car is a lethal weapon."

The family are urging the community, which has supported them from the beginning of the tragedy, to continue to sign the petition. Despite the fact that the debate has taken place, the petition is still open until August 15.

The more signatures the debate has strengthens their argument for a law change, for Violet-Grace, and other families who have lost a loved one to dangerous driving.

The Youens family are aiming to reach 200,000 signatures before the Ride 4 Violet-Grace event on Sunday, July 21.

To sign the petition go to