Driving offences which result in death or serious injury will often feature in news headlines, not least when the offender is convicted and subsequently sentenced.
The Government has announced that in recognition of public concern in this area, it has reviewed current laws and published details of changes which it intends to make to the statute book in a consultation which closed on 1 February.
Ghaz Iqbal is a Partner in our Crime department with a reputation for repeated success that reflects his interest and skill in road traffic matters. Here, Ghaz examines the latest proposals in this area.
Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, the following came into force:
- The offence of death whilst driving when disqualified, punishable with a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years, and/or a fine
- A new offence of causing serious injury when driving whilst disqualified, with a maximum sentence of 4 years imprisonment, and/or a fine
- The statutory requirement to extend a driving ban to take account of any time spent in custody
This year is set to see the penalty for using a (hand held) mobile phone whilst driving increased from 3 to 6 penalty points and from £100 to £200 for drivers issued with a fixed penalty notice for the offence.
This would cover situations in which drivers are engaged in activities such as texting, making or receiving calls, and even selecting and lighting a cigarette. There are (so far) no changes in respect of using hands-free kits- but given that the use of these whilst driving is routinely criticised, it remains to be seen whether further proposals may be on the horizon.
The Government’s newer proposals
The Ministry of Justice feel that there is a perceived gap in the law, which they intend to redress with a new offence of Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving. In their consultation paper, the MOJ asked for views on a proposed maximum sentence of 2 to 3 years imprisonment.
Within the paper, the MOJ also sought views on whether there should be a longer minimum disqualification period where death occurs. They state that this would ‘take specific account of the particular harm’ but does not go so far as to state that those people convicted of such offences would receive a lifetime ban.
Although these measures have only just been put forward, they represent a strong indication of what the final law will look like. Driving offences are rarely inconsequential, with the potential to affect employment as well as family life.