Judges handing out tougher sentences for drivers who kill
The annual criminal justice statistics for 2014 show three in five drivers (60%) convicted of causing death in England and Wales receive immediate custodial sentences, up from just over half (54%) in 2013. The average sentence length for these drivers is four years, up from three and a half years in 2013.
This change is in part due to increased use of the more serious ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge compared with the lesser ‘causing death by careless driving’ charge. Prosecutions for the former are up from 144 in 2013 to 176 in 2014, while prosecutions for the latter are down from 234 in 2013 to 205 in 2014. This reverses a decline in the use of the ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge that had been ongoing since 2007.
With a comprehensive Ministry of Justice review of driving charges and penalties still ongoing, it is also hoped that further improvements in tougher sentencing for risky, illegal driving will be seen.
The 2014 figures also show that prosecutions for all motoring offences are up 4.5%, mainly due to a 26% increase in speeding prosecutions. Other offences, including drink driving, careless driving and using a mobile phone while driving, have seen small decreases.
Brake, the road safety charity, has welcomed the figures. Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, said: “Drivers who have killed while taking illegal risks have too often been labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and given insultingly low sentences, when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive. It is encouraging that we are starting to see this trend being reversed, with more offenders being appropriately charged with causing a death by dangerous driving, and receiving tougher sentences that better reflect the consequences of their actions.
“There is more work to be done, but this could be the start of a culture shift towards treating driving offences with the gravity they deserve; we are hopeful that the government’s ongoing review will deliver further improvements.”