The Ministry of Justice has today confirmed plans to introduce tougher sentences for those who kill whilst driving. The measures were confirmed in a government response to a consultation which will be published tomorrow (Monday 16 October 2017). The main points are as follows:
- Life sentences will be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving.
- Life sentences to be introduced for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs.
- A new offence of causing serious injury through careless driving is to be created.
Death by dangerous driving
Ministers today confirmed that drivers who cause death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone could face sentences equivalent to manslaughter, with maximum penalties increased from 14 years to life. The government states plans to increase maximum sentences received resounding support from families and campaigners. 70% of responses thought that the maximum penalty for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving should be increased to life imprisonment.
In 2016, 157 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving.
Death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink/drugs
Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs will also face life sentences. The vast majority of respondents agreed that the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink and drugs should also be life.
In 2016, 32 people were convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.
Serious injury by careless driving
A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving is to be introduced. 90% of respondents to the consultation thought there should be a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. They noted that without a specific offence which reflects the harm caused, offenders could only be convicted of a careless driving offence that has a maximum penalty of a fine together with penalty points or a disqualification.
The consultation closed in February and sought views on the serious road traffic offences. The consultation sought views on whether current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased, and received over 1,000 replies in just three days when launched in December 2016, reaching more than 9,000 responses when it closed in February 2017. The government states it received substantial backing for the plans from a wide range of groups including victims, bereaved families and road safety experts.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab 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.”
On the new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, Dominic Raab commented:
“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.”
When will the new legislation be introduced?
Legislation required for the measures announced is expected to be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows and will also incorporate, the review of cycle safety. Last month the Department for Transport launched an urgent review to consider whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists.
Ruth Peters – Specialist Motoring Lawyer
Written by Ruth Peters, Specialist Motoring Solicitor at Olliers Solicitors Motor Law. If you require further advice in relation to an offence of death by dangerous driving or death by careless driving (or indeed any other motoring offence) please contact Ruth on 0808 168 0017. You can also email Ruth at [email protected] or click here to contact us.