Crashed car

Ministry of Justice proposes tougher punishment for dangerous drivers

There is undoubted public concern about the way the law deals with offenders who kill or seriously injure others on the road. In response to that concern, the Government is conducting a review of driving offences, concentrating on the serious offences that can result in death or serious injury.

The Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’) is considering whether to increase custodial sentences for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life. It is also seeking views on the law relating to careless driving resulting in serious injury.

The consultation, which closes on 1 February 2017, also seeks views on a potential new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, which will carry a maximum prison sentence of 3 years, and increasing the minimum driving bans for those convicted for causing death on the road.

Whilst the consultation paper says that certain behaviours such as speeding or using a mobile phone are to be taken into account when considering the offences that lead to a death or serious injury, they are not the subject of separate proposals for increased sentencing in themselves.

In 2015, the Government increased the maximum penalty for causing death whilst driving when disqualified from 2 years’ to 10 years’ imprisonment and created a new offence of causing serious injury when driving whilst disqualified, with a maximum penalty of 4 years’ imprisonment.

Lee Hart, Head of the Serious Injury team at Clarke Willmott questions whether increased sentences will deter drivers from driving dangerously or carelessly and lead to improved safety on the roads:

I have seen the devastation caused to victims and families by death and serious injury on the roads. Extending the maximum custodial sentence for causing death by dangerous or careless driving is unlikely to affect the way drivers behave.  I have been involved in the investigation of many cases where a driver has caused death by blatantly dangerous or reckless driving, but in none of those cases has the driver come anywhere near the current maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment.”

Lee also questioned the timing of the consultation:

The consultation is at complete odds with the Government’s current proposal to remove the right of innocent people to claim compensation for whiplash injuries caused by negligent drivers. In those cases, the proposals in their current form would allow negligent drivers and their insurers to avoid having to compensate the injured party.”

Should you need advice or assistance in relation to a potential claim following a road traffic accident, please contact a member of our specialist personal injury lawyers on 0800 316 8892.