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Updated: Killer drivers could face life sentences

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Road safety charity Brake has welcomed the Government move to introduce life sentences for killer drivers.

The Ministry of Justice originally pledged to introduce the punishment in 2017 and it will form part of major sentencing reforms to be unveiled by the Lord Chancellor in a white paper this week.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said the charity has long advocated for an overhaul of UK road law to deliver justice for victims and to help keep roads free from dangerous drivers.

He added: “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.

“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.

“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.”

The measures around driving include 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 whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life
  • create a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

Paul Loughlin, senior associate solicitor at Stephensons, said:“The impact of dangerous and careless driving often has far reaching consequences, not only for those involved but also for their families and friends. 

"Much of the criticism surrounding legislation in this area is that it doesn’t provide sufficient justice for those who are killed as a result of dangerous driving, or those seriously injured as a result.

"These proposals would transform the sentencing guidelines for this offence and go a long way to redress the balance for victims.

“On the flip side, we have often seen prosecutors taking a harder line in cases where there has been a serious injury and the driving standard would ordinarily be considered to be ‘careless’ rather than ‘dangerous’. 

"The absence of the ability to charge with causing serious injury through careless driving has seen inconsistent charging decisions being made to plug a gap. 

"There are clear examples of cases being ‘bumped up’ from a straight forward careless driving charge to the more serious charge of causing serious injury through dangerous driving with more emphasis being placed on the extent of the injury caused, irrespective of the fact that the standard of driving would ordinarily be considered to be ‘careless’. 

"The introduction of this new offence should more suitably plug that gap and ensure more appropriate charges being laid for this type of offence.”

Department for Transport figures show 1,748 people were killed on the roads of Great Britain last year, a figure which has flatlined since 2012 when 1,754 people were killed.

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  • Paul Adey - 14/09/2020 13:12

    I am quite happy with the new life sentences proposed for irresponsible driver who kill, as long as we also apply the same standards to terrorists and murderers.

  • Edward Handley - 14/09/2020 17:02

    There are constant calls for tougher sentances for drivers who kill and each time the penalty is increased the pressure groups demand even harsher penalties, but there is no point in putting someone in prison for a long time just for making a mistake. Prison is a very expensive option and due to the fact that the prisons are already seriously overcrowded, locking up a driver means releasing someone else. I see no point is releasing a rapist, a child molester, a burgler or even a terrorist to lock up a motorist. Prisons should be full of people who are likely to be repeat offenders as when kept secure they cannot re-offend, not full of drivers who just made a mistake. The worst types of deliberate bad driving do deserve long prison sentances, especially those who try to evade the Police by driving like lunatics. and perhaps people who look at social media on their phones while driving as those are deliberate acts, but there is no point in locking up a driver who makes an error of judgement or loses concentration for a moment - it was not intentional so there is no deterrent value. A deterrent can only work for a deliberate or considered act There are other penalties available, including life time driving bans, which would be more effective and would cost the public a lot less. The prospect of being banned for life would have more impact on many people than the possibility of a prison sentence. Many offenders do drive while banned, and they are some of the ones who should be sent straight to prison, because that is a deliberate act. The truck driver who caused the horrific minibus crash on the M1 got 14 years in prison, the maximum allowed and a 5 year driving ban which is pointless!. With good behaviour he will be out in 5 or 6 years and will go back to Poland where he will get a new LGV licence. Legally he could be driving a truck in Britain because the Courts cannot say to him "You are never to drive on our road again".

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