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Road safety debate: "Grave sense of injustice" in sentencing of dangerous driving

MPs say weak maximum penalties and lenient sentencing mean motoring offences are treated as "minor infringements"...

MPs have spoken out against a "grave sense of injustice" in the sentencing of road crime, and have called for tougher maximum jail sentences for dangerous driving, which currently stands at 14 years.

Debating dangerous driving sentencing in Westminster, including hit-and-run crimes, MPs said the law and sentencing too often treat motoring offences as "minor infringements", even when fatal.

The review of dangerous driving, announced last week, is one CTC and British Cycling have long called for and, one David Cameron promised in March. 

- Government review of dangerous driving sentencing currently underway

Chris Skidmore is the MP for Kingswood. In 2013 two of his constituents, Ross and Clare Simons, were killed on a tandem by a disqualified driver with 70 previous convictions, many for dangerous driving, who was travelling at 70mph in a 30mph zone when he hit them, and then fled the scene.

"We see the justice system throw back at [families] this insult that someone can kill their relative, get just a couple of years in prison and end up back on the streets and, potentially, back in a car. That is just too horrendous to imagine," said Skidmore.

Craig Tracey, MP for North Warwickshire, said weak penalties and lenient sentencing send the message motoring offences are "minor infringements" rather than serious offences. He said fleeing the scene of an accident should imply guilt under the law.

He said: "During my previous career as an insurance broker, all too often I saw the aftermath of avoidable dangerous and careless driving offences. I was frequently left amazed by the lenient sentences handed out to the offenders and by an apparent reluctance to apply the law fully.

Tracey cited Brake statistics that show only three of five people convicted for killing someone by "risky" driving are jailed, with an average sentence of just four years.

He said: "First, we need an appropriate sentence for drivers who hit a person and leave them to die. Presently, the charge is the same as it would be for knocking off someone’s wing mirror."

- PM calls for "in-depth" review of sentences for causing death by dangerous driving

He highlighted the case of Sean Morley, who was killed crossing the A444 near Bedworth in 2012. Although the car was badly damaged the driver fled the scene, and Sean's body was found the next morning.

Tracey said:

"Had the driver stayed and reported the accident and either drugs or alcohol had been found in their system, they could have been prosecuted for the higher offence of dangerous driving, which carries the greater sentence of 14 years—hardly an incentive to hang around and do the right thing."

“The worst thing is that in the eyes of the law Sean’s death was not important. If you kill someone in a car it’s not deemed as serious as punching someone, and I think that’s wrong.

"What I, Sean’s family and many other people would like to see is that where drivers leave the scene, guilt should be assumed. Presently, it is up to the police to find the driver and prove fault, and then it is at the behest of the Crown Prosecution Service as to what charges will be allowed."

- Inquiry should tackle police anti-cycling prejudice, say campaigners

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