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Meanwhile, 5,000 motorists who have served three or more drink-driving bans also get licences back

The DVLA has revealed that more than 600 motorists convicted of killing someone while driving have had their licences returned, leaving them free to drive again. The news comes just weeks after it was revealed that there are more than 5,000 people driving legally on Britain’s roads who have been banned at least three times for drink-driving offences.

The disclosure regarding the motorists who were driving again having been convicted of causing a fatal road traffic incident was made in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request, a copy of which has been seen by road.cc.

The DVLA’s response gave a breakdown of the number of motorists who, as at 26 November 2011, were driving again after having reapplied for their licence upon expiry of their ban, broken down by the specific offences of which they had been convicted.

Those were:

  • Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink -  192
  • Causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs -  3
  • Causing death by careless driving with alcohol level above the limit - 125
  • Causing death by careless driving then failing to supply specimen for alcohol analysis - 11
  • Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving - 148
  • Causing death by driving: unlicenced, disqualified or uninsured drivers - 13
  • Causing death by dangerous driving - 138

Total: 630

(Nb: Five motorists were convicted of two separate offences, so the total number of motorists involved is 625)

The DVLA was unable to confirm the identity of who had made the Freedom of Information request, although The Mirror apears to be the only media outlet to have reported on the data.

Yesterday, in a story on the figures, the newspaper quoted the response to the data of Martin Howard from the road safety charity, Brake.

“Driving is a privilege which these people have abused with devastating consequences and the fact that so many continue to drive is a source of emotional turmoil for many bereaved families across the UK,” he said.

“Brake has long campaigned for lifetime bans for drivers whose bad driving has killed, to help bring justice to families and communities who lost loved ones in such sudden and violent circumstances.”

Currently, motorists convicted of causing death by dangerous driving face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, as well as an automatic ban from driving of at least two years.

The length of prison sentence actually imposed - if any - as well as any fine imposed depends on issues such as the specific facts of the case and can also differ according to the court where the trial is held.

Driving bans imposed as a result of such cases used to run alongside jail sentences, creating a situation whereby the driving ban could in effect be sat out in a prison cell, effectively rendering it meaningless.

In 2009, however, the law was changed thanks to a campaign led by Jan Woodward, whose daughter Kelly had been killed three years earlier when she was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk-driver.

Last month, The Mirror also reported that there are more than 5,000 motorists legally entitled to drive on Britain’s roads despite having three or more convictions for drink-driving.

Two men – one aged 46 and from Staffordshire, the other a 31-year-old from Manchester – were able to apply for and be given new driving licences despite each having been banned from driving eight times.

Lifetime driving bans are rare in the UK, although an example is the one imposed on Dennis Putz, the lorry driver found guilty in November 2010 of causing the death through dangerous driving of cyclist Catriona Patel in June 2009.

It emerged that Putz had three previous convictions for drink-driving and three for careless driving.

He had been imprisoned twice for driving offences, first in 1995, when he was sentenced to six months after being convicted of reckless driving.

Then, in 2003, he received another prison sentence following 16 counts of driving without a licence.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.