THE family of a biker who was killed in a crash has launched a petition to get tougher sentences for drivers who kill.

Married father-of-two Andy Cochrane, 50, from Broadmayne, died in a crash in Littlemoor, Weymouth last summer after a van collided with his motorbike.

The driver, Simon Mark Cleave, was sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates Court in March after admitting causing death by careless driving.

He was handed a three month prison sentence suspended for a year, ordered to do community work, pay costs, and banned from driving for a year.

A statement from Mr Cochrane's widow, Julie, read out in court described her husband as a man with a “passion for living life” as well as a doting father.

It said: “The day Andy was tragically taken from us was the day my life ended as well."

Two months on, Mr Cochrane's family is now calling for cases of careless driving to be automatically committed to crown court and tougher sentences imposed.

Mr Cochrane's mother, Theodora Cochrane, has launched a 'Justice for Andy' petition, which has already amassed more than 3,600 signatures after less than a week online.

Mrs Cochrane claimed that careless driving was "habitual" generally and that the suspended sentence handed down was "a joke".

She added: "What I am fighting for particularly is that this classification should be done away with and that any careless or inattentive driving falls into 'not far short of dangerous driving'."

Causing death by dangerous driving carries a sentence of 1-14 years in prison, and a minimum 2 year driving ban. The charge of causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison, and a minimum one year ban. However the charity Brake claims much lower penalties are imposed.

The Cochrane family petition argues drivers should face a minimum 12 prison sentence, suspended for four years, and a four year driving ban.

Mrs Cochrane said the verdict was difficult for the family, with Mr Cochrane's daughter Zoe, 16, reportedly saying "is that all my dad is worth?" when she heard the sentence.

She added: "Julie says that looking at Andy's photos was a comfort at first, but now it upsets her because it seems like so long since she last saw him."

Mrs Cochrane said she was "quite pleased" with the response to the petition, but remains "determined to keep on fighting".

She added: "I want to make sure it reaches as many people as possible and I want to get this law changed."

A spokesman for Brake said: "We share the concern of Andy Cochrane’s family at the paltry sentence that has been handed out.

"Far too many grieving relatives are left feeling let down and insulted by the justice system, on top of the devastation of losing their loved one.

"We need to see much tougher sentences when a driver has killed through lack of attention, to give families the justice they deserve, and to act as a deterrent to other drivers."

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "We are very sorry for Mrs Cochrane and her daughter-in-law’s loss and we have expressed our condolences through correspondence and at a meeting with them"The defendant in this case was charged with causing death by careless driving and decided to plead guilty at his first hearing at the magistrates’ court who decided that their court had enough powers to sentence the defendant."Causing death by careless driving is an offence that can be dealt either in the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court."

Former South Dorset MP Lord Knight, whose campaigning on behalf of families, helped bring in tougher sentences, said: "I think victims' families have a right to say they need people to understand the responsibility of driving, and if a momentary lapse of concentration causes a death the sentence needs to reflect that."

The Cochrane family's petition is at