Drivers who kill could face life sentences

Dangerous drivers who cause death by speeding, street racing, reckless driving or distracted by a mobile phone could be treated in a similar way to those charged with manslaughter. This also applies to people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Ministry of Justice have annouced a consultation on proposals to increase the penalties for drivers that commit these offences. However, sentencing remains a matter for independent judges, with decisions made based on the facts of the case.

The current maximum sentence is 14 years but not a single offender has been handed the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence in 2004. 

The Ministry of Justice revealed that in 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence. The average custodial sentence for causing death by dangerous or careless driving was just under 4 years (45.8 months).

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.

Last year, the Government increased the maximum sentence for causing death whilst disqualified from two to 10 years. A new offence of causing serious injury when driving while disqualified was also created, with a maximum penalty of four years' imprisonment. 

The move has been welcomed by road safety charity.

Brake. 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 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% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their tem in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.”

The Ministry of Justice want your views on whether the current maximum penalties should be increased. Give your views by 1st February 2017.