MP welcomes tougher sentences for dangerous drivers who kill

MP Tim Loughton speaking in Parliament earlier this year
MP Tim Loughton speaking in Parliament earlier this year
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Tougher sentences for dangerous drivers who kill have been welcomed by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton.

Motorists causing death by speeding, street racing, or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Meanwhile offenders who cause death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences – an increase on the current 14 year upper limit.

The announcement follows the Drive for Justice campaign run by the Herald & Gazette and its sister titles across the country, which called for fairer sentencing following pleas from bereaved families.

Our investigation found that of the 738 people convicted between 2010 and 2015 of causing death by dangerous driving – the most serious criminal offence available to prosecutors – just seven were jailed for more than ten years.

In the decade to 2015, a total of 111 people convicted of the charge in England and Wales received non-custodial sentences, including ten who escaped with only a fine, while no one has received the current maximum jail term of 14 years.

Mr Loughton said: “To lose a loved one in a car accident is painful enough tragedy, but to know that it all could have been avoided if the person behind the wheel of the other car had one less drink, or had looked up from their phone, gives it a horrible feeling of pointlessness. The sheer selfishness and idiocy of dangerous driving has caused immeasurable pain for families in my constituency and across the country.

“I welcome the Government’s plans to punish those who act so thoughtlessly with the harshest of penalties.

“If you drive dangerously and kill you could face life in prison. This is a powerful message and I hope it will act as a deterrent to stop further tragedy from occurring.”

In 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.

Sam Gyimah, Justice Minister, 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.”

A consultation has been launched on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased. Proposals include:-

- Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life.

- Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life.

- Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of three years.

- Increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

According to the Government the announcement delivers on its pledge to consider what sentencing powers are available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.

In 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.

Ministers hope the measures will see custodial sentences for causing death by careless or dangerous driving increase – from an average of 45.8 months in 2015.

Sentencing would remain a matter for independent judges, with decisions made based on the full facts of individual cases.

The move has been welcomed by road safety charity Brake, which has long campaigned for justice for families who have lost loved ones because of criminal drivers.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change through our Roads to Justice campaign.

“For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens. We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain.

Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with, is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life.

“We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50 per cent discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their term in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.

“At this stage, these are proposals, and we will be giving our full response before the February deadline.

“We would urge others, especially those directly affected by road deaths, to respond to the consultation.”

The consultation opened this week and runs until February 1, 2017.

To comment, visit the website www.gov.uk/government/consultations/driving-offences-and-penalties-relating-to-causing-death-or-serious-injury

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