Sentences imposed for death by dangerous driving may become open to challenge under plans being drawn up by government law officers. The Times reports that the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC is currently reviewing the scheme under which people can appeal sentences they perceive to be too lenient.
Currently only a limited number of sentences can be challenged, but a host of other offences tried in magistrates’ courts may be added to the list.
A spokesperson for the law officers said:
“The scheme is under review. Lots of new offences have been added over the years because it’s important that the public can challenge exceptionally low sentences. We have not yet made any decisions, but the attorney general has said before that he is thinking about whether the extent of the present scheme is right.”
If the attorney general receives a complaint within 28 days, a sentence must be examined. If it is ‘manifestly not sufficiently severe’ it is then referred to the Court of Appeal. Around 400 sentences a year are now the subject of complaints from victims or others with about a quarter of sentences that are referred then increased.
Wright told The Times that the scheme should not operate as a prosecution right of appeal but should be used only in exceptional cases where the judge may have got it wrong.
Earlier this year, the families of John Morland and Kris Jarvis – two cyclists killed as a result of the dangerous driving of Alexander Walter – launched an online petition to increase the sentencing in dangerous driving cases.
Walter had been driving without insurance, at 70mph in a 30mph zone and whilst already disqualified from driving. He was nearly two and a half times over the alcohol limit and was being pursued by police. He had also taken cocaine less than 24 hours prior to the incident and had 67 previous criminal convictions, including a bomb hoax only days after 9/11. After pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, he was sentenced to 10 years and three months imprisonment. Walter appealed to have the sentence shortened, but lost.
In 2013, CTC launched its Road Justice Campaign. The organisation believes that some bad drivers are treated leniently due to what it perceives as occasional failings on the part of police, prosecutors and the courts. The Road Justice Campaign aims to get the justice system to take a more rigorous approach to investigating, prosecuting, and sentencing incidents of bad driving on Britain's roads.