15/07/2008 – Killer drivers face 14 years in jail

Those who cause death when distracted by a mobile phone — especially if they drive while reading or writing text messages — should receive up to a seven-year term, the Sentencing Guidelines Council said.

‘In all cases fines are not likely to be appropriate,’ it said, reflecting public concern over cases where motorists had escaped with a mere financial penalty despite life being lost.

‘The impact of the guideline we have drawn up is that there will be more custodial sentences and community sentences where in the past offenders would almost certainly have received a fine for the same driving behaviour,’ said council member Chief Constable Peter Neyroud.

But road safety campaigners said the new sentences are still ‘woefully lenient’.

Motorists involved in fatal accidents after driving deliberately dangerously and having consumed large quantities of drink or drugs will face at least a seven-year term.

In the worst cases, particularly when combined with failing to stop or a very bad driving record, a driver could end up with a 14-year sentence.

Offenders who cause death following careless driving will receive up to three years’ jail, although when the offence involves just ‘momentary inattention’ they will be given a community service instead.

A death following driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured will have a maximum two-year term.

The last two offences, introduced by the Road Safety Act 2006, have yet to come into force.

Road safety action group Brake said the new sentences do not go far enough.

‘While we welcome the fact that more drivers who commit offences and kill will hopefully now be imprisoned, the law is still woefully lenient to tackle drivers who kill and maim through their own actions with catastrophic consequences for families,’ said Brake Chief executive Mary Williams.