In future killer drivers may face life sentences after the Government unveiled a consultation looking at plans to deter dangerous and criminal behaviour on the roads with the toughest penalties.
The proposals include introducing life sentences for causing death by dangerous driving; life sentences for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs and new three year jail terms for careless drivers causing serious injury
Under the plans, dangerous drivers 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.
Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences - an increase on the current 14 year upper limit. It comes after the launch of our Drive for Justice campaign calling for tougher sentences.
Families whose loves ones were killed in crashes have reacted with joy to the news and hope it will mean people in the future will be spared the pain they have endured.
Catherine Smith, of Wrea Green, lost both her husband and her daughter in two separate incidents on the road - but saw the driver who caused her husband’s death escape with a fine while the drink driver who killed her daughter received a lenient sentence.
Visibly shaking at the announcement Catherine says: “That is marvellous news it has made me feel all funny.
“Things have been so unfair for so long and it has been so frustrating that we the families have suffered the life sentence while those who caused the crashes have not.
“Until the public and judges see the car as a potential lethal weapon in the same way as a gun or a knife, families of road crashes will never get justice. This has come too late for my husband and daughter but I am absolutely delighted for anyone else who goes through the anguish of losing someone in a crash. You know you can never get that person back but you need to feel the person who killed them has had to face justice and give something up.”
An emotional Nicky Pickering of Chorley, whose 16-year-old daughter Jade was killed after the car she was a passenger in crashed into a coach, says: “I can’t believe it. This is what myself and other bereaved families have been fighting for and waiting for. The prospect of a life sentence will make drivers more aware of their actions on roads and hopefully reduce crashes.
“The Drive For Justice campaign and so many organisations have worked together to highlight this and hopefully these changes will happen and spare other families going through this horrendous pain.”
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah says: “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 will seek views 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 while 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.
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, says: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change. 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.”
Amy Aeron-Thomas, advocacy and justice manager for RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, says: “RoadPeace has always argued that causing death by driving is simply motor manslaughter. So we welcome the proposed changes.
“A life sentence would only be used in the most extreme cases. But we see this as an important signal to society.
“For too long, the worst of the worst have got away with sentences that are too light.
“But the Government needs to change more than just the maximum custodial sentence.
“These drivers should never be allowed to drive again. The treatment of the bereaved families must also change. They deserve to have the same rights and support as families bereaved by manslaughter.
“This would happen if the government extended its definition of homicide to include culpable road deaths.”
Sign the Drive For Justice petition here:- www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-deliver-stiffer-punishments-for-drivers-who-kill-or-seriously-injure-on-uk-roads