Killer drivers to face life sentences in government proposals

THE News has won its campaign for longer sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on the roads.

Sunday, 4th December 2016, 12:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:45 pm
Jasmine Allsop and Olivia Lewry

The Ministry of Justice has revealed that the government is to bring in a life sentence for death by dangerous driving offences.

The new sentencing proposals follow a campaign by The News and its sisters papers to see a change in the law to make sentencing fit the crime for those who kill or seriously injure people on our roads.

Our Drive for Justice campaign, launched last month, revealed drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just four years in prison.

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Around five people are killed on the roads each day and the vast majority of families feel they do not get justice.

These families include the relatives of Gosport teenagers Jasmine Allsop, 14, and Olivia Lewry, 16, who were killed by dangerous driver Samuel Etherington in a crash.

Etherington was jailed for nine years for the 2013 crash after he drove at 65mph in Ann’s Hill Road, Gosport, before hitting the girls in the road.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who has backed the call for longer sentences, backed the Ministry of Justice’s announcement.

She said: ‘I welcome this proposal.

‘In Gosport we well remember the tragic deaths of Jasmine and Olivia at the hands of a dangerous driver on a cocktail of drink and drugs.

‘Their families suffer the life sentence of losing a loved one.’

Road safety charity Brake has also welcomed the decision but said further clarification is needed.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: ‘This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change.

‘For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens.

‘We do remain concerned that the charge of “careless” driving could remain.

‘We want clarification on whether the current automatic 50 per cent discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their term in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.’

A statement by the Ministry of Justice said dangerous drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences – an increase on the current 14-year upper limit.

The proposals being considered include:

n Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life.

n Increasing the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life.

n Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, with a maximum sentence of three years.

n Increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: ‘Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families, who must endure tragic, unnecessary losses.

‘While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

‘My message is clear – if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.’