The Government is set to introduce the option of a life sentence for drivers who cause death as a result of speeding, using a mobile phone or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The current maximum sentence for each offence is 14 years – but the Government says punishments “must fit the crime”.
The sentencing reforms, which will be formally announced this week, will also propose introducing the new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
At present, drivers who cause injuries under such circumstances can only be convicted of careless driving – which has the maximum penalty of a fine.
The new legislation will apply to offences in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, which has separate road safety laws. It will be introduced in Parliament early next year.
Robert Buckland, justice secretary, said: “This Government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime, but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.
“So, today I am announcing that we will bring forward legislation early next year to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on our roads, and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”
Specifically, the reform includes plans to:
- Increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life
- Increase the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
- Create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving
Road crime is real crime – Brake
The proposed law change was first announced back in 2017.
While welcoming the move, road safety charity Brake says years of Government inaction have added to the suffering of road victims, who have not been delivered the justice they, and their loved ones, deserve.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Crash victims have waited three long years for this announcement. Road crime is real crime and it is high-time that the Government, and the law, recognised this.
“The Government must now implement these tougher sentences as first priority, delivering on their overdue promise to road crash victims, and then urgently initiate a review of the flawed legal framework for road justice.
“Driving is a privilege not a right and yet our flawed legal system continues to allow convicted dangerous drivers on the roads where they can endanger others. We all want safer roads but we will only achieve this if the law treats road crime with the seriousness it deserves.”