An eight-year jail sentence handed to a lorry driver who killed three people when he ploughed into their vehicles while looking at his mobile phone will not be referred to the Court of Appeal to determine whether it was too lenient.

Ion Onut was sentenced last month following a “truly harrowing” crash on the northbound carriageway of the A1 in county Durham.

Three people died when his truck struck another HGV and four cars before coming to rest at the central reservation and bursting into flames.

Durham Crown Court heard how the driver was looking at dating sites on his mobile phone at the time of the collision.

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The sentence was referred to the Attorney General’s Office, but a spokeswoman said it did not meet the threshold for referring under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

The spokeswoman said: “The solicitor general was deeply saddened by this case and wishes to express his sympathies to the families of the victims.

“After careful consideration the solicitor general has concluded that this case cannot properly be referred to the Court of Appeal.

“A referral under the unduly lenient sentence scheme to the Court of Appeal can only be made if a sentence is not just lenient but unduly so, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences reasonably available in the circumstances of the offence.

“The threshold is a high one, and the test was not met in this case.”