Govt backs new Causing Injury by Dangerous Driving law - motorists convicted would face five years in jail

Justice secretary announces government backing for proposals contained in private member's bill

by Simon_MacMichael   October 7, 2011  

Ministry-of-justice.jpg

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clark has announced plans to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

Currently, drivers whose actions result in others suffering serious injury, often with a devastating effect on not just their victim’s life but also that of their wider family, face a maximum penalty of two years in jail, but in practice sees those convicted serve as little as six months.

The proposed legislation was first introduced in a private member’s bill in May by Karl Turner, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East. Mr Turner, a barrister, outlined the reasons for his campaign to change the law in July on the website Politics.co.uk.

In that article, Mr Turner highlighted the case of Cerys Edwards, who was left paralysed and brain damaged at the age of just 11 months when her family’s car was hit by a driver who had lost control of his mother’s Range Rover. The driver was released from prison after just six months.

Speaking about the new offence he wished to introduce, the MP said: “The changes I have proposed in my private member's bill will require a small change to the law which will have a big impact on justice.”

Today’s announcement from the Ministry of Justice said that the changes would be included in the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, but made no mention of the part Mr Turner had made in bringing about the proposed change in the law in circumstances in which the lives of others are devastated.

The Ministry added: “For the vast majority of other dangerous driving cases, the maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment provides the courts with sufficient and proportionate powers to punish offenders.

Mr Clark said: “Dangerous driving can destroy lives and have a devastating effect on victims and their families and friends.

“We have listened to the victims of dangerous drivers, their families, MPs, judges and road safety groups and their experiences have directly informed these changes.

“Making our roads safer is a priority - five people died on our roads each day last year, so we need to do everything we can to further improve safety,” he added.

The last major change in the law in this area came three years ago when the offence of causing death by careless driving, which also carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, was introduced.

Road safety charity Brake welcomed today’s announcement, with Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer, saying: “Brake wholeheartedly welcomes this new offence which will help to provide justice to families whose lives have been ripped apart by dangerous drivers.

“As a charity that supports bereaved and seriously injured victims of road crashes, we repeatedly see victims' families being grossly let down by the justice system, which only adds to the terrible trauma they must endure.

“This new offence finally means that serious injury is recognised within the title of the offence, and this recognition is vitally important to victims and their families. It also means that dangerous drivers who inflict serious injuries can expect to see higher sentences to better reflect the terrible trauma and injuries they have caused.”

Road Safety Minister, Mike Penning, added: “The vast majority of motorists are safe and responsible but the wilfully reckless minority who put lives in danger must face serious penalties.

“We are taking action to help the police tackle drink and drug driving, as well as to crack down on uninsured and dangerous drivers, and this new offence will mean the courts can properly punish those who inflict serious injuries.

“These measures - together with improved educational courses for drivers who need to improve their skills - will help ensure Britain's roads remain among the safest in the world.”

A selection of the maximum jail sentences applicable to varius motoring offences is shown below, including where the proposed new law fits in:

Offence                 Maximum Imprisonment

Causing death by 
dangerous driving              14 years

Causing serious 
injury by dangerous 
driving                         5 years (proposed)

Dangerous driving               2 years

Causing death by 
careless driving 
under the influence 
of drink or drugs              14 years

Causing death by 
careless or 
inconsiderate driving           5 years

Careless and 
inconsiderate driving        Not applicable

Driving while unfit 
through drink or drugs 
or with excess alcohol: 
or failing to provide a 
specimen for analysis          6 months

Failing to stop after 
an accident or failing 
to report an accident          6 months

Source: Directgov/road.cc

4 user comments

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So hope this is implemented. Hopefully the 5% of idiots we read about on this website might actually think twice about driving into innocent cyclists

Raindropsandrimbrakes.blogspot.com

posted by nickpeters [44 posts]
7th October 2011 - 19:19

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Mebbe 'injury through careless driving' should be added, or bumping up the penalty for careless driving. Being done for dangerous driving's relatively rare (AFAIA), the estimate by someone on the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning was that it'd probably only apply to ~10 drivers a year.

posted by JonD [167 posts]
7th October 2011 - 19:52

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A step in the right direction. The Police and Courts need to be harsh when dealing with dangerous driving.

But better use of driving bans (with no hardship exemption) for minor offences would be useful. That way you might get people thinking about driving safely before they cause a serious injury or death through their driving. If drivers thought they might lose their licence easily they would drive safer, and the roads would be better for everyone.

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
8th October 2011 - 16:54

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Would be a good step - quite depressing to see that the drunk driver who drove off after hitting me from behind and leaving me unconscious for 3 days in intensive care could only get a maximum of 6 months for the drinking and 6 months for failure to stop which would likely to be served concurrently. Realistically she'll get a fine and a short ban.

posted by richred_uk [69 posts]
9th October 2011 - 12:28

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