Backlash from grieving families is all too common after sentences for death by dangerous driving
THERE is a backlash from families who have lost loved ones to road crashes that justice is not done with lenient sentences compounding their grief.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that 1,640 people have been found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving between 2006 and 2015.
Of those convicted, 79 received a suspended sentence with a further 14 just given community services.
A further 10 people convicted of causing death by dangerous driving received just a fine.
Not one person has been given the maximum 14 year jail term for causing death by dangerous driving since the maximum sentence was lengthened from 10 years in 2004.
While some offenders escaped jail, families say others were given unduly lenient sentences and believe judges are constrained by guidelines.
Under rules which apply to all criminals, a driver who pleads guilty before the case goes to trial will have their sentence automatically reduced by a third and most criminals will be released after serving half their sentence.
This means that some killer drivers could be out of jail in a matter of months.
Data obtained for England, Wales and Northern Ireland shows no-one has ever received the maximum sentence of 14 years. In Scotland, publicly available statistics indicate that sentences have also fallen short of the maximum term.
Here’s some reaction to our Drive for Justice campaign:-
Gary Rae, campaigns director at road safety charity Brake fears drivers are becoming complacent.
He says: ‘We fully support this Drive For Justice campaign to get the whole issue of sentencing guidelines for road deaths re-examined.
‘We agree one of the issues is courts don’t use the powers they have already got - what do you have to do to get the maximum 14 years?
‘There are also inconsistencies in different courts. People think road crime is viewed and treated as a second-rate crime.
‘If your loved one was shot dead, everyone would say how horrific that was.
‘But people are more accepting and complacent about road deaths.
‘The law needs to change so sentencing fits the crime.’
Amy Aeron-Thomas, advocacy and justice manager for RoadPeace, the charity for road crash victims, wants culpable road deaths to be treated as manslaughter.
She says: ‘There are too many cases where courts have been too lenient on those who cause death or serious injury on the roads.
‘We think all culpable cases should be treated as manslaughter and there needs to be a full review of driving offences and it is good that the government has said they will have a consultation on this.
‘RoadPeace welcomes this Drive For Justice campaign for reform of driving offences.
‘We have had piecemeal reform for the past decade which has resulted in great inconsistency in how law-breaking drivers are prosecuted and sentenced.’
Duncan Dollimore, senior road safety and legal campaigner at Cycling UK, says: ‘We fully support the re-working of sentencing guidelines and agree there should be tougher sentences.
‘There are lots of concerning decisions in cases where drivers cause death or serious injury and do not receive a custodial sentence at all.
‘Our biggest concern about sentencing is the inadequate use of disqualification powers. There are too many cases where people are arguing it would cause extreme hardship to them if they were banned from driving.
‘But courts should be more concerned about the risk they are presenting to others.
‘We would like to see more disqualifications and with repeat offenders, much longer bans and lifetime bans from driving.”