New driving laws will see some dangerous drivers issued life jail sentences from 2021

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Dangerous driving legislation will be introduced to Parliament in early 2021 after sentencing reforms were announced by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland. The new proposals will also see death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs made into a life sentence.

Under current laws, offenders can only be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years for killing another driver.

Officials are also considering a new offence for those causing serious injury by careless driving.

Under current rules, offenders can only be issued a careless driving penalty which is simply a fine and penalty points.

This is despite many road users suffering life-changing injuries due to the inappropriate actions of offenders.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said it was vital that “punishments must fit the crime”, something he said just ”isn’t the case with killer drivers”.

He said: “This government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime, but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.

“So, today I am announcing that we will bring forward legislation early next year to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on our roads, and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”

The reforms were first announced by the Ministry of Justice in October 2017 after criticism that sentencing was often too lenient.

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The rules will apply to those convicted of offences in England, Scotland and Wales with Northern Ireland exempt from the changes.

Paul Loughlin, senior associate solicitor at Stephensons warned dangerous driving had “far-reaching consequences” for motorists.
He added the new proposals would “transform” sentencing guidelines to help “redress the balance” for victims of poor driving.

He said: “Much of the criticism surrounding legislation in this area is that it doesn’t provide sufficient justice for those who are killed as a result of dangerous driving, or those seriously injured as a result.

“These proposals would transform the sentencing guidelines for this offence and go a long way to redress the balance for victims.”

A survey carried out by victims and road safety campaigners in 2016 revealed massive support for the new proposals.

A total of 90 percent said there should be a new offence made into a law for causing a serious injury through careless driving.

Mr Loughlin added that being able to charge drivers for causing serious injuries would “plug a gap” in the current rules.

He said the updates would endure “more appropriate charges” were issued to those who inflicted injury to other road users.

The absence of the ability to charge with causing serious injury through careless driving has seen inconsistent charging decisions being made to plug a gap.

“There are clear examples of cases being ‘bumped up’ from a straight forward careless driving charge to the more serious charge of causing serious injury through dangerous driving with more emphasis being placed on the extent of the injury caused.

“Irrespective of the fact that the standard of driving would ordinarily be considered to be ‘careless’.

“The introduction of this new offence should more suitably plug that gap and ensure more appropriate charges being laid for this type of offence.”

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