United Kingdom

Press release: Killer drivers to face to life sentences

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  • Government acts to introduce life sentences for causing death by dangerous driving
  • Life sentences for careless drivers who kill whilst under the influence of drink or drugs
  • New, 3 year jail terms for careless drivers causing serious injury

Dangerous drivers who kill are set to face life sentences, under plans put forward by ministers.

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 whilst under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences – an increase on the current 14 year upper limit.

New plans come as ministers seek to deter dangerous, criminal behaviour on our roads, and make sure killer drivers face the toughest penalties.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said:

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 seeks 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 whilst 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 3 years
  • increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death

Today’s announcement delivers on the government’s pledge to consider the sentencing powers available to the courts for the most serious driving offences.

In 2015, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence.

It is hoped the measures will see custodial sentences for causing death by careless or dangerous driving increase – from an average of 45.8 months in 2015.

Notes to editors

  • The UK has one of the best road safety records in the world – but deaths and serious injuries cause devastation to victims and their families.
  • The consultation deals with the most serious road offences. It does not cover other driving or regulatory offences such as speeding, the setting of drink drive limits, the basic offences of careless or dangerous driving and driving whilst using a mobile phone.
  • This follows further action in 2015, when the government increased the maximum custodial sentence for causing death whilst driving when disqualified from 2 to 10 years. A new offence of causing serious injury when driving whilst disqualified was also created, with a maximum penalty of 4 years imprisonment. It also brought into force the statutory requirement to extend a driving ban to take account of any time spent in custody.
  • The Department for Transport is separately introducing legislation increasing the penalties for using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving from 3 to 6 penalty points and from £100 to £200 when a driver is issued with a fixed penalty.
  • Sentencing remains a matter for independent judges, with decisions made based on the full facts of the case.
  • The consultation, which runs until 1 February 2017, will be published on Monday on GOV.UK.
  • For more information call the MOJ press office on 020 3334 3503 or 020 3334 3529
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