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Updated sentencing guidelines to cover new driving offences

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(8 July 2022)

Drivers who seriously injure someone face up to five years in prison under updated sentencing guidelines that cover offences created in the last decade.

Current guidelines for motoring offences were published in 2008 by the Sentencing Council’s predecessor body. Since then, the government has raised the maximum penalties for certain offences.

New offences have also been created. For instance, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act created the offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which currently has no sentencing guideline.

Just over two-thirds of the 300 people convicted for this offence in 2020 were sentenced to immediate custody, 26% received a suspended sentence, 5% received a fine, 1% were given a community order and 1% were recorded as ‘otherwise dealt with’.

Under the updated guidance, the higher culpability starting points and ranges are higher than those for the lower levels for causing death by dangerous driving. The council said it was content with this because there may be cases where the standard of driving was worse than cases where someone died. 

The proposed guideline could see the average custodial sentence rise by seven months and require 80 extra prison places.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 created the offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. The council said it does not always produce a guideline for an offence immediately, as the common elements found in the offending and other aspects of sentencing may not be known. In this instance, the concepts of careless driving and serious injury were already used and understood by the courts.

Mrs Justice Juliet May, a member of the Sentencing Council, said it is important that courts have sentencing guidelines which reflect the current laws. ‘These can be some of the most difficult cases to sentence, where what might seem a fairly minor example of bad driving can have the most tragic and long-lasting consequences. It is therefore right that we provide the courts with guidelines that will allow them to take a consistent approach.’

The consultation closes on 29 September.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)