The Government has unveiled new, harsher penalties for motorists who cause death by dangerous driving, or death while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The maximum sentence for causing death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone while driving will be increased from 14 years in prison to life. This also goes for causing death by driving while under the influence of drink or drugs; making both sentences equivalent, in sentencing, to manslaughter.
A new offence has been created too: causing injury by careless driving; however, the maximum sentence for this is yet to be decided.
The move follows a government consultation on sentencing for deaths and injuries on the roads.
In the poll, ninety percent of respondents believed there was sufficient need for a new offence to be created relating to causing injury by dangerous driving, while seventy percent believed the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving should be increased to life imprisonment.
“We’ve taken a long, hard look at driving sentences, and we received 9,000 submissions to our consultation,” said Justice Minister Dominic Raab.
“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.”
He continued: “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.”
In 2016 the courts sentenced 157 people for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 32 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) agreed there was a need for the new offence to be created, however, disagreed with increasing the maximum sentence, suggesting that the consultation should have examined avenues of a non-custodial nature for dealing with dangerous driving.
“We would have welcomed a broader review that considered all the offences available, prosecution procedures and whether or not the sentences imposed are working in practice,” it said.
Similarly, the Prison Reform Trust also expressed disappointment at the emphasis on criminal prosecution, stating: “Greater use could be made by the courts of longer driving bans, which would still curtail liberty and prevent future harm for people convicted of these offences.”
“These could be supplemented with additional targeted community-based interventions where appropriate, this could include supervisions requirements, the attendance of anger management, drug, or alcohol support.”