Published: 00:01, 11 February 2019
| Updated: 18:22, 11 February 2019
A family left devastated by the loss of a father and daughter killed in a crash have launched a petition in the hope of sparking a change in sentencing laws.
Valentino Coleman, 49, died with his daughter 21-year-old Olivia, also known as Liv, after a Mercedes Sprinter van ploughed into their stationary car, catapulting it into the pair on the A299 in Thanet in October 2017.
The driver, Canterbury shop owner Sivananthan Mathivathanan, avoided an immediate jail term and was instead handed a 10-month sentence, suspended for two years, and a three-year driving ban.
VIDEO: Family calls for tougher sentences
A jury had previously decided to clear Mathivathanan of dangerous driving charges. He admitted the lesser charge of careless driving.
Valentino - known as Tino - and Liv’s family say they feel “very dissatisfied” with the punishment, and are calling for a change in sentencing guidelines for causing death by careless or dangerous driving.
John Sharp, Liv’s grandfather and Tino’s father-in-law, says his family “don’t feel that justice has been done”.
The 71-year-old, who lives in Wigmore, said: “For us, we have got a life sentence and he has walked away. There’s probably not a day in his life that has particularly changed, whereas for us, every day has been life-changing.
"You hear it on a daily basis, on the radio, on the television and the internet about all these stories about low sentencing, and we just think something needs to be done about it.
“What we have been through as a family for the last 15 months or so is just indescribable, and I certainly wouldn’t want anybody else to have to go through what we’ve had to go through. As my daughter shouted out after the trial, he’s going home to his family.”
Nicola and Tino Coleman had been married for 23 years, and Mr Coleman had built up a successful hairdressing business in Market Building in Maidstone.
But life took a cruel twist on Monday, October 23 2017, when their daughter Grace, who works at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, had pulled over after suffering a flat tyre near Manston.
She called her dad who, after summoning roadside assistance, went to her aid together with her sister Liv.
But as they waited by the side of the road, their car was struck by the van driven by Mathivathanan, of Grange Road, Broadstairs.
Mr Sharp says the family has been left shattered by the double tragedy, and hopes the petition will lead to firm changes and tougher sentences.
He added: "For Nicola, it was such an unexpected thing, it just came out of the blue. They had only been down in Broadstairs about two-and-a-half years and it was going to be their forever home, that's where they wanted to retire to later. Then suddenly her life was turned upside down.
"The guy accused only lives around the corner so of thing, so she's had to move away because of the upset. It's hard selling your house at any stage, but to do it under these conditions is traumatic.
“What we have been through as a family for the last 15 months or so is just indescribable..." John Sharp
"And the impact on Grace, who was at the accident as well, and the trauma she has had to go through as well in the aftermath of the accident, is a horrendous thing.
"For us as a family to not get any recognition at all about how were feeling, it was all about the accused - his mental health issues because of the accident, that's nothing compared to what our family has had to suffer.
"With the petition, we certainly need to see the law changed and tougher sentencing, and the victims need to have some sort of say.
"You are supposed to have a say via victim impact statements but that's only read out at the sentencing, but that didn't seem to have any effect at all.
"We described what we'd been through but he was allowed to have a character witness and all this sort of thing, it just seemed totally unbalanced.
"It is just ridiculous, so really we just want some sort of change to the law. Really, we'd like to get to 100,000 so it could be debated in Parliament."
The petition, which will run until the end of July, has already received backing from more than 1,900 people. It requires 10,000 for a government response, and 100,000 for the matter to be considered for debate in Parliament.
It can be found at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/237732