Proposal to issue life sentences for Death by Dangerous Driving
Teresa May’s proposed bill to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is due to have its second reading in Parliament on 8 January 2021.
We will provide updates as they arise, but in summary, the proposed change will not bring about automatic life sentences for those committing the offence, rather that judges will have greater scope to use their discretion in issuing more severe sentences than the current 14 years maximum in cases where, for example, people persistently drive at speed with no regard for other road users.
Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland recently stated: “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.”
It is not just those driving dangerously that will feel the full weight of the law. Proposals are said to include drivers who cause death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The proposals go further still to include those who kill others after speeding, racing or using a mobile phone, all of whom could receive life sentences under the new legislation.
The sentencing reforms announced in September week will be introduced in Parliament early next year.
To fill a gap in legislation, a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving is also being considered. Under current legislation, drivers who cause serious injuries in the circumstances detailed above, can only be convicted of careless driving if the way they drive is not found to be far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.
The increase will apply to offences in England, Scotland and Wales.
The penalty for careless driving or driving without due care and attention at present is an endorsement of between 3-9 penalty points or a disqualification. Any disqualification under this provision enables the Court to exercise its full discretion in disqualifying a driver for a period the court sees fit, in addition to imposing an unlimited fine, which can cause hardship to drivers, but these sweeping changes will substantially increase the sentencing powers of the Courts where drivers display the highest degree of culpability and cause serious harm.
Most of the cases we see at Motoring Defence Solicitors sit at the other end of the sentencing spectrum, where drivers have been charged with causing death following a momentary inattention, which has led tragically to the loss of life.
We help by providing advice for our clients immediately after such incidents at interview and guiding them throughout the Court process, to the conclusion of proceedings. It is crucial to conduct thorough investigations into each case to properly represent our clients and make representations where necessary, to ascertain that the correct charges are brought. In cases where drivers fall foul of the law, a case in mitigation should be advanced, furnishing the court with all of the necessary information to assist in passing a sentence which reflects the nature and circumstances of each individual case.
Find out more about death by dangerous driving by clicking here
Gillian Forrest, Senior Associate
Motoring Defence Solicitors