The government has today announced increased penalties for drivers who kill or seriously injure other road users while banned.
The law will be changed so disqualified drivers will face up to ten years in prison if they cause death, and a new offence of causing serious injury while disqualified will be created, with a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling also announced plans to launch a full review of all driving offences and penalties, including reviewing offences committed by uninsured and unlicensed drivers.
In 2012, there were 16 prosecutions and 13 convictions in 2012 for causing death by driving when disqualified, unlicensed or uninsured, according to the government’s own figures.
Announcing the change in the law, Grayling said: “I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties.
“Disqualified drivers should not be on our roads for good reason. Those who chose to defy a ban imposed by a court and go on to destroy innocent lives must face serious consequences for the terrible impact of their actions.
“Today, we are sending a clear message that anyone who does will face much tougher punishment.”
Two of the highest-profile cyclist deaths of recent years involved drivers who had disregarded driving bans, though in both cases they were found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
In May last year, Nicholas Lovell was jailed for ten years and six months and banned from driving for life for killing Ross and Clare Simons. The couple were riding their tandem when he crashed into them as he was trying to get away from a police car.
Initially banned from driving in 1999, Lovell had 11 convictions for driving while disqualified, and he had also been convicted four times on charges of dangerous driving. That case was one of those raised in a parliamentary debate on sentencing in January.
In December, Samuel Kirk was sentenced to six years in prison for killing Jennifer Hossack. Kirk, who was disqualified at the time of the crash and had also been drinking, illegally crossed a double white line to overtake another vehicle and hit Hossack, who was riding in the opposite direction.
Through its Road Justice campaign, cycling charity CTC has been pressing for a review of the law relating to traffic offences that lead to result in the death or serious injury of vulnerable road users.
CTC’s Road Justice coordinator Rhia Weston welcomed the plan to review all driving penalties and offences.
Weston told road.cc: “CTC strongly welcomes the Government’s commitment to a full review of all driving offences and penalties and specifically the announcement to increase custodial sentences for those who cause death and serious injury whilst disqualified.
“CTC has long called for tougher sentences for those who flout driving bans. CTC’s Road Justice campaign also wants to see much greater use of driving bans for those who commit driving offences without wilful risk taking and wider use of non-custodial options such as vehicle confiscation.
“This is in line with our newly published report on sentencing of driving offences, which will be debated by a panel of legal experts in June.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.