Four in five support tougher penalties for killer drivers

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Road safety charity Brake and bereaved families are calling for tougher charges and penalties for drivers who kill and injure, to provide desperately needed justice for victim families and deter risky driving.

A report out  by Brake and Direct Line reveals overwhelming public support for the campaign:

  • Four in five (82%) think sentences should be higher for drivers who kill;
  • Four in five (81%) think if you kill or seriously injure someone when taking any kind of illegal risk at the wheel, you should be considered ‘dangerous’ not ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law;
  • The majority think drivers who kill while they were drink or drug driving (85%), speeding (66%) or on their phone (64%) should get five years or more in prison;
  • 95% say penalties should be tougher for killer drivers who flee the scene.

Latest government figures show only six in ten people (62%) convicted of killing someone through risky driving are jailed, and only 9% are sentenced to five years or more in prison.

Brake is calling for bold action to ensure drivers who inflict terrible suffering are brought to justice:

  • Revised charges for causing death and serious injury, so drivers who kill and cause serious injuries are not let off on lesser ‘careless’ driving charges, which carry low penalties;
  • Much stiffer penalties for hit and run and disqualified killer drivers;
    Stronger sentencing guidelines for judges so maximum sentences are handed out in the most serious cases.

Responding to constituency demand, various MPs from across the political parties have been speaking out for justice in Parliament, including at a debate in January.

The Ministry of Justice is currently considering whether to make changes to charges and penalties for serious driving offences. Following this, the Sentencing Council will review its guidelines to judges.

Brake is urging members of the public to write to their MP in support of its Crackdown campaign.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “We want the government to acknowledge how inadequate current charges and penalties are and take action to prevent traumatised families suffering further insult. Denying justice to victim families often has a terrible impact on their ability to rebuild and move forward with their lives.

“Brake bears witness to the consequences for these vulnerable families every day through its support services for bereaved and injured crash victims. Our justice system should make clear that risky, illegal behaviour on roads is no accident: it’s selfish, destructive, and unacceptable. Our report shows huge public support for this campaign, and in Parliament MPs are mobilising for action across the political parties.

“We’re calling for the government to listen to the bereaved families courageously speaking up on this issue, and seize the opportunity to fix this long-running issue.”

Rob Miles, director of Motor at Direct Line, commented: “Ensuring that dangerous drivers receive appropriate convictions and sentences for their actions will help to improve safety on the roads for all road users. We will not offer insurance to motorists who have a conviction for dangerous driving on their licence as we feel the risk is too great.”

Why are drivers who kill and seriously injure getting away with it?

A combination of inadequacies in the criminal justice system means many drivers who kill and seriously receive very low sentences and often no jail term at all.

The Ministry of Justice decides on offences drivers can be charged with and maximum penalties; the Criminal Prosecution Service decides what charge to prosecute a driver for in court, often opting for a less serious charge that they are more likely to get a conviction for; judges then determine the length of sentence if the driver is convicted, working within maximum penalties and using Sentencing Council guidelines.



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