The Ministry of Justice has announced a consultation on proposals to increase penalties for drivers who kill while driving dangerously, carelessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The proposals out for consultation include the option of a life sentence for causing death by dangerous or careless driving, or those who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs.
The new proposals mean drivers who cause death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone would face the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.
However, sentencing remains a matter for independent judges, with decisions made based on the facts of the case.
The current maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment. However, the publisher Johnston Press recently published data showing that ‘not a single offender has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence in 2004’.
The Ministry of Justice says that in 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence. The average custodial sentence for causing death by careless or dangerous driving in 2015 was 45.8 months.
Sam Gyimah, justice minister, said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.
“While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.
“My message is clear – if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.”
In 2015 the Government increased the maximum custodial sentence for causing death while driving when disqualified from two to 10 years.
A new offence of causing serious injury when driving while disqualified was also created, with a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment.
The move has been welcomed by road safety charity, Brake.
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change through our ‘Roads to Justice’ campaign. For too long, the justice system has treated them as second-class citizens.
“We remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain. Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life.”
“We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their tem in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.”
The consultation runs until 1 February 2017, with the consultation document due to be published at on Monday 5 December at 9.30am on gov.uk.