Currently, the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years, compared to a maximum of life for those who take somebody’s life as a murder or manslaughter. That is the same maximum as for somebody who kills another by driving carelessly whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
It is a difficult area. It can cause understandable upset for people who’s loved ones die as a result of a road traffic accident. On the other hand, the intention or culpability for murder or manslaughter is not present and these cases are often extremely difficult.
It was reported on 14th October 2017 that the current situation may change. In the above scenarios, the maximum sentence will increase from 14 years to life imprisonment. There was a consultation in which 70% of respondents supported such an increase, and it is likely that legislation will be introduced.
The other change is that there will be an offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. At the moment there is such an offence (with a maximum sentence of 5 years) for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, but if the driving is careless, then the defendant can only be convicted of careless driving (which is not imprisonable).
What will the impact be?
It is hard to say. Last year, there were 157 convictions for causing death by dangerous driving, with 32 people being convicted for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence, so a total of 189 people.
Most of those, of course, would not have got a life sentence, but it is likely that the increase in the maximum will lead to an increase in sentencing across the board.
As to whether it will stop people committing the offence? It is difficult to know; the link between sentencing levels and criminality is not very strong so, sadly, it is unlikely that this will make much of a different in the numbers of people committing this crime.
In relation to the other aspect, the offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, the lacuna in the law can be seen and it is not a surprise that this would have been identified and rectified at some stage.
Over to you – what do you think?
And the BBC gets it wrong …
The BBC headline from 15th October 2017 reads “Killer drivers to receive life sentences in law change“. This seems to imply that everyone convicted of either causing death by dangerous, or by careless driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, will get a life sentence.
That is completely inaccurate. Some people may end up with a life sentence, but this will be the exception rather than the rule. It’s unfortunate, as it will inevitably lead to people getting annoyed when determinate sentences are handed down.
In fairness, the rest of the story make it clear that they ‘face’ a life sentence, but it’s still unfortunate that the headline is phrased as it was …