Solicitor General aims to introduce life sentence option for death by dangerous driving “as soon as there is a legislative opportunity”
Drivers who cause fatal accidents could soon face life behind bars, after a senior government law officer said he wants toughen up driving laws as soon as possible.
The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC, is aiming to introduce a life sentence option for motorists who cause death by dangerous driving, or death by careless driving while under the influence of drink.
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Buckland, who is deputy to the Attorney General, told the Times he wants to introduce the tough new rule “as soon as there is a legislative opportunity”. In addition, Buckland revealed the Government is also considering introducing a new offence for causing serious injury by careless driving.
In 2017, the Government held a consultation to ask the public whether these changes should be made. The consultation generated over 9,000 responses, and 70 per cent of respondents said a lifetime sentencing option should be available for killer drivers. A further 90 per cent supported the creation of new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
The “vast majority” of respondents also considered that causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when unfit through drink or drugs should carry the same life-sentence option. Some 29,225 drivers have been banned for driving under the influence of drugs since March 2015.
The difference between dangerous and careless driving is subtle, and determined first by the Crown Prosecution Service before ultimately being decided by the court. Careless driving falls “below the standard expected by a competent and careful driver”, while dangerous driving falls “far below the standard expected by a competent and careful driver.” A charge of dangerous driving also implies the danger would be obvious to a competent and careful driver.
In an AA survey of 19,500 people published last year, 65 per cent of respondents said those guilty of careless driving were unlikely to be caught and punished.
Dangerous drivers who kill could face life in jail
Dangerous drivers who kill or seriously injure others will face tougher sentences, including life imprisonment, under new Government plans to crackdown on dangerous driving.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has launched a consultation that seeks to raise the maximum penalties for offenders. Under the proposals, drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while using a mobile phone would face the same sentence as those charged with manslaughter.
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The Government wants to raise the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life. Drivers causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs would also see the maximum penalty go up from 14 years to life.
The MoJ wants to introduce a new penalty to those causing serious injury, too. Under the new penalty, sentenced drivers would see a maximum prison sentence of three years. The consultation will run until 1 February 2017.
Last year, 1,713 people were killed in reported road accidents in Great Britain, with 22,137 seriously injured. The same year saw 122 people sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving.
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Justice Minister, Sam Gyimah, 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.”
The consultation is open to views from the public. If you’d like to share your opinions on toughening the laws, the consultation can be reached here.