Hope That New Five-Year Sentence Will Act As Real Deterrent And Make Roads Safer
Leading lawyers representing many people involved in life-changing road accidents have welcomed the introduction of a new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’.
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has introduced the new offence after judges and victims often complained about the limited sentencing powers they had when dealing with those convicted of the offence of Dangerous Driving, which has a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison.
The law already includes offences of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving and Causing Death by Careless Driving, which carry maximum penalties of 14 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ imprisonment respectively.
Previously, though, if a person was seriously injured but not killed by a motorist the motorist could be charged with the offences of either Dangerous Driving (maximum penalty 2 years in prison) or Careless Driving (maximum penalty a fine of £5,000). Those offences applied whether anyone was hurt in the accident or not.
The new offence of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving is intended to fill this gap, and allows the courts to impose more severe penalties when dealing with a motorist who has seriously injured, but not killed, someone.
The new offence carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and has been welcomed by road accident victims and road safety organisations who say that the new law will allow justice to be brought against those causing serious injuries which can change the victims’ lives forever.
Dangerous driving includes driving at excessive speed, driving in the wrong direction on the highway, and using a mobile telephone. But it will take time and a number of cases through the courts to properly define what ‘serious injury’ means in terms of the offence.
John Davis, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, said: “Many of our clients are very seriously injured in road accidents that have changed their lives forever and many of them have often felt that the sentencing powers of the courts have in the past been insufficient to act as a deterrent.
“While some victims of dangerous driving have been left with shattered lives and needing lifelong rehabilitation and therapy, the guilty driver has in the past been subjected to a maximum of two years in jail. Now with the new offence in force, the extent of the injuries they have suffered will be taken into account and in the worst cases offenders could get up to five years.
“It is hoped that this will act as a real deterrent and improve road safety as it will make drivers think more about how they are driving. The ultimate test will be if the new powers for judges will lead to a drop in accidents and the number of people seriously injured on the roads in the UK.”