Life sentences for mobile-abusing killers

  • Sentence review for drivers causing death while using mobile phone
  • Drink and drug drivers also targeted in reappraisal of legislation
  • Road safety charity welcomes measures but still has some concerns

The government has announced new plans for far tougher sentences for dangerous drivers who kill.

Under new guidelines proposed by ministers, those who are responsible for deaths while driving dangerously – whether distracted using their mobile, speeding, street-racing or under the influence of drink or drugs – will face the same level of prosecution as those committing manslaughter.

This means prison terms of up to life, instead of the current maximum term of 14 years.

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.’

The proposed consultation seeks opinions on whether penalties should be increased. They include the hiking of maximum penalties from 14 years to life for causing death by dangerous driving, or death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.

It will also consider the creation of a new offence of causing injury by careless driving, which will have a maximum sentence of three years, and the increase of minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing death.

Road safety charity Brake is pleased that the measures are coming under consideration, but still has some concerns about exactly how they’re going to be implemented.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for 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 tem in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.  

‘At this stage, these are proposals, and we will be giving our full response before the February deadline. We would urge others, especially those directly affected by road deaths, to respond to the consultation.’

While it’s worth noting that the UK’s road safety record is among the best in the world, 122 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving in 2015 and a further 21 were convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence.

The consultation runs until 1 February 2017. 

Image credit: Getty Images