Road Traffic Offences: Increased Penalties
Yesterday the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 comes into force, increasing the criminal penalties available to the Courts for serious driving offences.
In personal injury litigation a motor vehicle is often referred to as a weapon. Afterall it has the potential, if proper care is not taken, to inflict injuries of the upmost severity and turn somebody’s life (and their families) upside-down.
Yet until today, the severity of the penalties available to the Criminal Courts have not reflected the severity of those injuries and their consequences. For example, the offence of careless, and inconsiderate, driving had a maximum penalty of a fine whilst causing death by dangerous driving attracted a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
Road safety charities and those working in the area of serious injury/rehabilitation who support individuals that have sustained life changing injuries as a result of a road traffic accident have campaigned for a long time to see a change in the law.
As result of those campaigns, in December 2015 the Government launched the Driving Offences and Penalties Relating to Causing Death or Serious Injury consultation. The consultation ran until February 2017 and the response was published in October 2017 recommending the following:
- a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving;
- increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment; and
- increase the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life imprisonment.
The Current Position
More than 5 years later, those recommendations have become law. Part 5 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 provides for the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to be amended to include the following:
- A new offence of causing serious injury by careless, or inconsiderate, driving will be liable to prosecution for a specific offence which carries a maximum penalty of a custodial sentence of 2 years on indictment. “The offence is committed if a person causes serious injury by driving a car or other mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.”
- A maximum custodial sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving
- A maximum custodial sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment for the offence of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.
- Increased the driving disqualification periods where custodial sentences have been given. Notably where a driver has been convicted of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs more than once within a 10 year period the disqualification period has increased to 6 years.
These changes seek to address the historic injustice of the leniency of the criminal penalties that were available to the Court as they aim improve driving standards and make the roads safer for all users.
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