THE Sentencing Guidelines Council has recommended that drivers who kill others in road accidents after drink or drugs should be jailed for at least seven years. In addition, joyriders responsible for prolonged periods of deliberate bad driving should share the same fate.

The Council recommended that where death follows careless driving, a jail sentence of up to three years should be likely, with higher sentences where there was a combination of aggravating factors. If, however, the crash was caused by ‘momentary inattention’, an offender should be given a community sentence.

When considering the correct penalty for causing death by careless driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the guidelines suggested longer sentences in line with the degree of intoxication.

In all cases, the Council said that fines were not likely to be appropriate and community orders should be used instead. A Council member predicted that the guidelines would lead to more custodial sentences and community orders in place of fines.

Partner Bernard Horne commented: “The public are of the view that the devastation that road crashes can cause aren’t always treated seriously enough. Nonetheless, the Courts should be careful to differentiate between a defendant who has had a momentary lapse of concentration, and a defendant who’s driving has fallen well below a reasonable standard.

The maximum sentence of 14 years for causing death by dangerous driving remains in place, however this announcement will provide a little more clarity, as it is important for victim’s relatives and the public at large to see what sentences are based upon.

It is quite clear that the government’s intention is to toughen up legislation in this area, with two new offences to be introduced in due course under the Road Safety Act 2006, namely – causing death by careless driving and causing death by driving when unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.”

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