Government Unlikely to Tinker with Dangerous Driving Laws
“Road traffic cases present particular difficulties for the courts because it is not always the worst transgression by a driver that has the most tragic consequences.”
So said prisons minister Crispin Blunt in a recent Westminster Hall debate about dangerous driving offences.
His point was that the consequences of a collision can be disproportionate to the culpability of the offending driver, with relatively minor misdemeanours having very tragic consequences.
The opposite is also true; reckless driving behaviour can sometimes result in little, if any, harm.
Blunt was attempting to why overhauling inadequate sentences relating to dangerous driving is not as straightforward as many might assume.
Under the current laws, if a victim does not die then the maximum sentence available is just two years. This can be reduced by a third (and by a half when the new Justice Bill becomes law) if the defendant pleads guilty at the first opportunity. Add in good behaviour and a person guilty of dangerous driving can be out of jail in a less than a handful of months, while the victim and their family has a lifetime of punishment.
So, step into the fray Hull East MP Karl Turner, who raised the recent Westminster debate following the success of his private member’s bill on the issue in Parliament in May. It garnered enough support to win a second reading in September.
Turner says the anomaly of dangerous driving sentencing becomes even more pronounced when compared against careless driving offences. The maximum sentence for this is five years and yet the act of careless driving is almost an accident: failing to indicate, or taking your eyes off the road, for example.
But as Turner says, the results can be just as tragic as someone who drives like a maniac and turns their vehicle into a lethal weapon.
Blunt concluded the debate stating that maximum penalties are not the only way of addressing issues of appropriate punishment and that making changes to them is not the answer to every issue:
“The government have said that they do not want to pursue a pattern of constantly tinkering with legislation if we can possibly avoid it, so we must consider other possible solutions if they are available,” he added.
In order to overhaul the law Turner may have more of a mountain to climb than he may have first realised.
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