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Killer drivers could face life sentences under Government crackdown

Dangerous drivers who kill are set to face life sentences for the first time under a new crackdown.

Motorists who cause death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those who could be handed tougher punishments.

Offenders convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be given life sentences under the Government plans.

Ministers hope the proposed move will see an increase in the punishments faced by those responsible for the most serious road offences.

Under the current regime they can attract a maximum sentence of 14 years - but the average custodial sentence for causing death by careless or dangerous driving was 45.8 months, or just under four years, in 2015.

Unveiling the proposals, 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."

Ministers are set to launch a consultation on the proposals, which include:

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

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

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

:: Increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death

Last year 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, with a further 21 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

Under separate plans announced earlier this year the Department of Transport is set to introduce legislation doubling the punishment for using a hand held mobile phone while driving -with the fine rising from £100 to £200 and penalty points increasing from three to six.

The MoJ consultation will run until February.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for road safety charity Brake, said: "This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims' families, calling for change through our Roads to Justice campaign.

"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.

"Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else's life.

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

A spokesman for road safety charity IAM RoadSmart said: "We will be examining the Government's suggestions very closely to see if they will achieve the best possible balance between prevention and punishment.

"The public are rightly concerned at the perception that causing death with a vehicle involved can somehow lead to a 'lesser' sentence. Simply increasing the tariffs for each crime is not the complete answer.

"Sentencing guidelines, training of judges and magistrates, improving communication between courts and the DVLA and most importantly increasing the perception of being caught all have a part to play in ensuring our justice system is fair to victims and reduces the toll of death and injury on our roads."


From Belfast Telegraph