The Sentencing Guidelines Council has released its definitive guidelines (pdf) for sentencing in cases of dangerous driving which result in death, describing them as "serious" and worthy of "appropriate sentences".
The guidelines tackle four offences: causing death by dangerous driving; causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; causing death by careless driving; and causing death by driving - unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers*.
The Council's press release (pdf), summarises:
The Sentencing Guidelines Council recommends that prolonged, persistent and deliberate bad driving and consumption of substantial amounts of drugs or alcohol should put offenders into the most serious category of causing death by dangerous driving and be given jail terms of at least seven years.
A combination of these features of dangerous driving – particularly if accompanied by aggravating factors, failing to stop or a very bad driving record - should attract sentences towards the maximum of 14 years.
In dealing with cases of causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs the guideline provides for longer sentences as the degree of intoxication increases, so that sentence levels equate to those for causing death by dangerous driving.
Regarding mobile phones, the Council explains:
The use of mobile phones is also treated robustly with the Council advising that if an offender was distracted by a hand-held mobile phone when the offence was committed the offence will be treated as particularly serious.
The Guidelines state that reading or composing text messages over a period of time whilst at the wheel will be likely to result in an offence being in the higher level of seriousness and offenders should serve up to seven years in prison.
Other guidelines recommend a tariff of up to three years' prison "where death follows careless driving", with "higher sentences where there is a combination of aggravating factors", plus a maximum of two years "where death results from an offence involving driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured".
Significantly, the Council stresses: "In all cases fines are not likely to be appropriate and where non-custodial sentences are considered appropriate, a community order should be used."
Council member Chief Constable Peter Neyroud said: “This guideline complements a whole raft of changes in the way death on the road is dealt with – from police investigation to prosecution and finally to sentencing.
“The new offence of causing death by careless driving recognises the enormous level of harm caused by the offence. This has been welcomed by those representing the families and friends of victims.
“The impact of the guideline we have drawn up is that there will be more custodial sentences and community sentences where in the past offenders would almost certainly have received a fine for the same driving behaviour.” ®
*The Sentencing Guidelines Council notes: "The latter two offences were introduced by the Road Safety Act 2006 and will come into force on a date to be announced."