Government confirms life sentences for ‘killer’ drivers

12.00 | 15 October 2017 | | 6 comments

The Government has confirmed that drivers who cause death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone could face sentences equivalent to manslaughter, with maximum penalties raised from 14 years to life.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs will also face life sentences, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.

The move comes after an ‘overwhelming’ response to a Government consultation which revealed substantial backing for the plans from a wide range of people including victims, bereaved families and road safety stakeholders.

Dominic Raab, justice minister, said: “We’ve taken a long hard look at driving sentences, and we received 9,000 submissions to our consultation.

“Based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families, and maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter, we intend to introduce life sentences of imprisonment for those who wreck lives by driving dangerously, drunk or high on drugs.

Talking about the new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, Dominic Raab added: “We will introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, punishable by imprisonment, to fill a gap in the law and reflect the seriousness of some of the injuries suffered by victims in this category of case.”

The measures were confirmed in a Government response to a consultation which will be published tomorrow (16 Oct).

The consultation sought views on whether current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased, and received more than 1,000 replies in just three days when launched in December 2016 – and more than 9,000 by the time it closed in February 2017.

The proposals confirmed by the Government include:

  • Increasing the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life.
  • Increasing the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life.
  • Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

Stakeholder reaction – supportive so far

Road Safety GB suggests the diminishing numbers of traffic police will limit the effectiveness of the new penalties.

Sonya Hurt, chair of Road Safety GB, said: "While Road Safety GB supports the fact that the Government is taking this issue seriously, any sentencing regime will only be as effective as the enforcement resource that supports it. With ever reducing numbers of roads policing officers there will be less opportunity for these enhanced offences and sentences to be delivered.

"We also urge the relevant authorities to ensure that sentencing guidelines are reviewed to reflect the views of the over 9,000 respondents to the consultation.
"The very small minority of road users who will warrant this sanction do not reflect the responsible behaviours we expect from a civilised society, therefore the resources and systems need to be in place to ensure they pose no threat to innocent road users."

While welcoming the news, IAM RoadSmart has warned that the threat of jail alone is ‘unlikely to make people drive in a less dangerous way’.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “The public has been calling for stricter penalties for those who cause death by driving recklessly, and the moves today by the Government are wholeheartedly welcomed.

“However we feel that visible policing, and a high likelihood of being caught, is the surest way of making people drive better. If people don’t think they will be caught, they simply won’t drive in a safer way.

“It is also vital that courts reflect society’s view on the impact of dangerous driving and use the maximum available sentences – something they have so far not demonstrated on a consistent basis.

"While a toughening of the law might make people feel better, on its own it is sadly unlikely to reduce the number of cases of really selfish driving which end in tragic results.”

The move has also been welcomed by the road safety charity Brake, who described it as ‘a major victory for the families of victims and charities’.

Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, said: "We applaud the Government for at last recognising that the statute books have been weighed against thousands of families who have had their lives torn apart through the actions of drivers who have flagrantly broken the law.
"In addition to tougher penalties, Government must also make road policing a national priority, reversing savage cuts to front line resources so that laws are properly enforced in the first place.

"Figures released only last month reveal that almost 1,800 people were killed on British roads last year – a 4% rise since 2015. There is an urgent need for a road collision investigation branch, similar to those already in existence for air, rail and sea, so that lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths and serious injuries on the roads."

Cycling UK believes a full review of all road traffic offences and penalties is still needed, which should include whether the current distinction between careless and dangerous driving works.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of advocacy and campaigns said“Longer sentencing is not the only answer for drivers who kill.

"A mistake while driving is one of the few activities which can see an otherwise law abiding citizen’s actions result in death or serious injury for a fellow road user. In such cases, custodial sentencing is not always the answer, but the use of longer and life driving bans are.

“Cycling UK is pleased to see Government is considering driving bans as an option, but we urge them to make their commitment clearer and establish a clear timeline for consultation.”

Category: General news.



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    There is no new manslaughter charge. All this does is align the sentencing range so that its range is similar to manslaughter. Prosecutors are perfectly able to use whatever charge they feel is appropriate for the crime suspected of being committed. Perhaps we should reflect on the fact that it is the frequency of death and serious injury” by motor vehicle” that warrants it having its own category of charges such as death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving.

    Rod King, Warrington, 20′ Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Rod, if there is evidence to support a manslaughter charge the police and the prosecutors still have the option to use that charge. Why do we need a special manslaughter offence just for motorists? Would you also advocate the introduction of new dedicated manslaughter offences for surgeons, gas boiler maintenance engineers, chainsaw users, pedal cyclists, dog owners, scaffolders, railway track maintenance supervisors, DIY electricians, …?

    Charles, England
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This change has to be put into the context that we already have a maximum of a life sentence for manslaughter. Hence it aligns the misuse of a motor vehicle to kill people with the misuse of any other item.

    I find it somewhat disturbing that anyone should suggest that manslaughter by car should deserve any less of a range of sentences than manslaughter by scalpel, or gas poisoning, or construction failure.

    We should remember that such an alignment still allows our judges to choose the correct sentence based on the specific circumstances of the crime.

    This is not about “supporting a life sentence” but giving our judiciary the ability to ensure that the sentence fits the crime.

    Rod King, Warrington, 20′ Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    We warmly welcome this move. Anyone who consumes drink or drugs or uses their phone while driving needs to know that they will face severe consequences in doing so. For far too long we have all witnessed the life sentences metered to victims families and the ‘slap on the wrist’, in many cases, to the smirking perpetrators. Finally ‘justice’ will mean justice and it hasn’t come a moment too soon.

    Jan James CEO Good Egg Safety CIC
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I’m not sure how creating new offences and taking revenge on those unlucky enough to be a factor in the death of another improves road safety. Is this the result of the scientific approach we promised in 1967, or have we regressed to mob rule (or “consultation” as it is now known)?

    Andrew Fraser
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    PACTS does not support the life sentence. This proposal is misleading for victims’ families. Courts have never awarded the current 14 year max so they are even less likely to award life. We do support creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. we also want a review of Hit& run penalties and more use of driving bans, retraining, testing etc.

    David Davies, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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