Family haunted by son's hit-and-run killer's freedom want law change

‘This is a life taken away, not a broken wing mirror’: Family haunted by son’s hit-and-run killer walking free in home town want law changed to stop drivers who fail to stop avoiding jail

  • EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Saltern, 31, died after being hit by Wayne Shilling, 40, in 2019
  • Driver fled the scene and was only arrested 36 hours later by the police
  • Shilling admitting failing to stop and failing to report an accident in court
  • He was given a suspended sentence for four months and free to walk streets
  • Ryan’s family are appealing for law change to treat similar offences
  • They want crimes like that to fall under death by dangerous driving offence 

The grieving family of a father-of-one killed in a hit and run hope MPs will toughen the law on motorists who fail to stop – after being forced to see the driver who ran him over walk free in their home town every week.

Ryan Saltern, 31, died after being hit by Wayne Shilling, 40, just after midnight on July 28, 2019, near St Teath in north Cornwall.

Shilling – who had been drinking – was jailed for four months, but suspended for a year by magistrates after admitting he failed to stop and failed to report an accident.

Ryan’s family were devastated he was not charged with a more serious offence that would have seen him to go to prison.

His sister Leanne, supported by the whole family, started a petition to widen the definition of ‘death by dangerous driving’ to include failure to stop, call 999 and render aid on scene until further help arrives. They hope it can become Ryan’s Law.

It has now surpassed 108,000 signatures on the Government’s petition website and is being considered for a debate in Parliament.

Ryan’s father Mark Saltern told MailOnline: ‘There is a loophole in the law – something is missing.

‘It is a life sentence for us for the rest of our lives. Why should people be walking free having killed someone with a car? This is a life taken away, not a broken wing mirror.

‘The driver who hit Ryan lives in our village and I see him about every week – as a father it is very difficult to take that.’

Ryan Saltern, 31, died after being hit by Wayne Shilling, 40, just after midnight on July 28, 2019

Shilling – who had been drinking – was jailed for four months, but suspended for a year by magistrates after admitting failing to stop and failing to report an accident

The nightmare began when Ryan and Shilling had been to the St Teath carnival separately the night before.

Magistrates had heard the younger man had been on his way to a party with friends when he had ended up in the road. A coroner said it was not clear why he had been lying there but suggested he may have fallen or collapsed

Shilling, who had been drinking, was driving home and one witness had said he had been ‘away with the fairies’.

His car hit Ryan but he claimed to police he did not realise what had happened, despite the force being enough to puncture the radiator on his car.

His body was dragged for 18 metres before it became free again, which caused him to suffer a ‘catastrophic head injury’ which killed him.

Emergency services found him dead on the road after he had been hit by another vehicle moments later, who raised the alarm.

Mark Saltern smiles with his son Ryan in this family picture. He is campaigning for law change

Ryan’s Law: What does family want to change?

The petition for Ryan’s Law says the family wants to widen definition of ‘death by dangerous driving’

Leanne’s description reads: ‘The offence of causing ‘death by dangerous driving’ should be widened to include: failure to stop, call 999 and render aid on scene until further help arrives.

‘A hit and run driver left my brother Ryan in the road and he died.

‘Hiding for 36 hours, charged with failure to stop, the driver received a suspended sentence/fine.

‘Failure to stop/careless driving offers lighter custodial sentences and focuses on fines/suspensions.

‘Drivers should STOP, ring 999 & render AID until help arrives. If they do not they should face charges for death by dangerous driving.

‘The Law should require this & aim to reduce the number of hit & runs & roadside deaths. With this definition, a minimum 10 years-max life sentence, citizens would be better protected.’


An inquest in April heard Shilling admitted he had ‘panicked and drove off’ and had noticed damage to his car but went to work the next day.

He claimed he had heard about the accident there and called his dad, who agreed to phone the police, who arrested him.

Magistrates sitting in August did not believe Shilling did not realise that he had hit something on that fateful night.

They told him: ‘The damage to your car was so severe that you must have been aware that a collision had taken place.’

Shilling was also disqualified from driving for 12 months, given an evening curfew for four months and ordered to pay a £207 victim surcharge and prosecution costs.

Mr Saltern, 58, who is a retired firefighter, said the family had felt let down by the way the case had been prosecuted.

He added: ‘We thought the case was going to go to crown court, but it just went to magistrates court – it just went the wrong way to how we expected. It was never explained to us why the law is like this.

‘It was extremely difficult and Ryan’s sister Leanne started the petition, which we all support as a family.

‘This petition is important, if people don’t stop they have got to face jail. If you’d killed someone with a knife, you would be in jail.

‘I worked for 32 years in the fire service, I have got zero tolerance for drink or drug drivers, I have seen too much of it. It is time to stop this now and change the law. 

‘We hope the petition responses show so many people agree with us. Our hope is for a law change and it should have happened a long time ago.’

The petition has attracted over 100,000 signatures and rising, showing the strength of feeling

The Department for Transport have responded to the petition and said the government was exploring if other charges can be brought in similar cases.

Its reply said: ‘Ministers are aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Ryan Saltern and extend their sympathy to family and friends.

‘Failure to stop and report offences are often referred to as “hit and run”, but this is not an accurate reflection of the offence. The offence is designed to deal with behaviour relating to failing to stop, not as an alternative route to punish an offender for a more serious, but unproven offence.

‘The vast majority of failure to stop and report offences involve low level traffic incidents, for example where a driver clips the wing mirror of another vehicle in a narrow street.

‘In a small number of cases, the failure to stop or report may be related to an incident which leads to the death or serious injury of another person. Where there is evidence the driver caused harm, there is a range of offences for which the driver may be charged including causing death or serious injury from dangerous or careless driving. In these cases, the courts will treat the failure to stop as a further aggravating factor in the sentencing decision. Where there is evidence that the driver tried to frustrate justice or avoid detection, they may also be charged with perverting the course of justice, which carries a life sentence as a maximum penalty.

‘The Government takes this issue seriously. The Department for Transport is looking into the issue of such incidents of failure to stop resulting in death or serious injury, and exploring whether there are further options that can be pursued.’

Sign the petition here: Ryan’s Law  

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