New ‘serious injury’ offence; reaction from stakeholders

09.37 | 10 October 2011 | | 5 comments

Road safety organisations have generally reacted positively to the news that the government intends to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The new offence will be introduced as an amendment to the Government’s Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The maximum jail term for dangerous driving is two years, but under the new law drivers can be jailed for up to five years.

While RoSPA, ACPO and Brake all reacted positively, PACTS and IAM expressed some concerns.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “We welcome the new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’.

“To ensure this new law works as intended it must be applied consistently in terms of prosecution and sentencing. We also believe that the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs should include causing serious injury.”

Chief constable Phil Gormley, ACPO lead for roads policing, said: “ACPO welcomes this legislation which provides a new enforcement tool reflecting the serious nature of this type of behaviour. Where someone is seriously injured by a dangerous motorist we are now able to see a more impactive and proportionate punishment.

“This new offence will assist us in our efforts to deal positively with a small minority of serious offenders who drive with a complete disregard for others, and to remove them from our roads.”

Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), focused on the definition of serious injury. He said: “The main response to this proposal must be to ask: what exactly is meant by ‘serious injury’? The definition in Reported Road Casualties refers to a visit to accident and emergency or an overnight stay in hospital. I assume that, if the injury results from an act of dangerous driving, then the definition must imply an injury that is life-changing.

“It will be important for Parliament to give a clear indication of what is understood by serious when the amendment is debated. Otherwise, it is quite likely that the offence may be placed on the statute book with little or no effect.

“I hope that MPs and Peers will therefore look very carefully at the detail of this offence to ensure that it leads to improvements in road safety, especially as it was not referred to in either the Strategic Framework for Road Safety published by the Government in May 2011 or the earlier consultation document on Road Safety Compliance published in November 2008.”

Vince Yearly, IAM spokesperson, said: "Dangerous driving can result in anything from near misses to serious injuries. But the maximum jail term for dangerous driving must relate to the driving offence – not the consequences, however awful."

Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer of the road safety charity Brake, said: "This new offence finally means that serious injury is recognised within the title of the offence, and this recognition is vitally important to victims and their families.

"It also means that dangerous drivers who inflict serious injuries can expect to see higher sentences to better reflect the terrible trauma and injuries they have caused."


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    Hmm. I’m quite disappointed with RoSPA’s, particularly Kevin Clinton’s, statements of late on road safety matters.

    Stuart Geddes, Stirling
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    WE have had to suffer several thousand new offences when the last government was in power.

    Whilst being informed verbally that this government would reduce that list we have them now making the same mistakes their predicessors did.

    Unfathomably stupid piece of legislation which as Roy has stated will be difficult to police and even more difficult to end in being found guilty, let alone getting to court. The CPS just wanting to take 100%rs for conviction stats.!!!!!!!!!!

    Another waste of time.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    I agree with Rob Gifford that the term ‘serious injury’ needs to be clearly defined. I wonder if the Government should use the phrase causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving’ as this term is already well defined in law. This would also avoid confusion with the ‘serious injury’ as used in casualty statistics.

    Estyn Williams, Warwickshire
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    My view is that this is more about revenge than preventing accidents.

    My concern is that I cannot see how it will prevent dangerous driving.

    I don’t see drivers rushing to comply with the Highway Code, for example, by parking with flow …

    Andrew Fraser STIRLING
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    Robert at PACTS has made an excellent point. What will be perceived as “serious”? Who will define such an injury? As Robert has said, this must be thoroughly dealt with or the legislation will be flawed.

    I need hardly remind Phil Gormley of ACPO that without robust enforcement, the new legislation may not make a huge difference. I realise his hands are tied by policy dictated by Whitehall but road safety campaigners have a role to play in ensuring that policy fits the bill (excuse the pun).

    Vince Yearly’s comment (IAM) takes us back to Graham Feest’s argument. I would be very happy to see drivers prosecuted for dangerous driving that did not result in an accident but to get such a case through court would be very costly, vigorously defended – hence the cost – and with a doubtful expectation of success so the CPS will not take the risk with public money. Additionally, who will decide what constitutes dangerous driving? It can be subjective. Without the evidence of an accident, lawyers would argue that we are discussing potential danger not actual or proven danger. Hm, nebulous territory I’m afraid.

    Roy Buchanan, Epsom
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