03/02/2005

Stiffer sentences proposed for serious driving offences

Government proposals could see tougher penalties introduced for more serious road traffic offences to deal with bad or illegal driving such as causing death by driving or driving whilst disqualified.

The Government said that the Home Office consultation paper setting out the proposed reforms is in response to concerns about the "often devastating consequences" for victims of careless and dangerous driving.

The key proposals to be consulted on include:
  • Two new offences dealing with causing death by careless or illegal driving carrying up to five years imprisonment;
  • A requirement for courts to take serious injuries into account when sentencing;
  • An alternative verdict of guilty for statutory offences to be available to the courts when manslaughter is not proven.
Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland said: "Whilst we have made great advances in recent years in improving road safety, too many people are still killed or seriously injured as a result of dangerous, careless and illegal driving. We need to ensure that the criminal law plays an effective role in protecting road users and pedestrians and that the justice system is on the side of the victim."

"Our proposals today, which we aim to take forward in legislation, seek to strike the right balance between the level of criminal culpability on the part of the bad or illegal driver and the devastation that their action may cause.

"Too many of those who have been disqualified from driving by a court or who drive without an appropriate licence put other road users at risk by taking a vehicle out on the road in clear breach of both the law and their responsibilities to other road users. It is right that they should be held accountable for any consequences that may result, irrespective of the standard of the driving involved."

The launch of the consultation exercise follows a review of the existing laws, in which the views of the police, judges and road safety campaigners were canvassed.

UK charity, Road Peace, welcomed the proposals as an "end to using minor traffic charges in response to culpable road deaths and injuries."

The Government is already committed to increasing the maximum sentence for the offence of dangerous driving from two to five years.

(SP)

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