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Sentencing (Dangerous Driving)

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

The Petition of those concerned about the length of sentences given to people convicted of dangerous driving.

Declares that Amanda Coulton was killed by Daniel Storey. He was charged with causing death by dangerous driving with excess alcohol and under the influence of cocaine, driving with no licence and no insurance. The car he was driving did not belong to him. Mr Storey was sentenced to 8 years in prison after pleading guilty. The petitioners believe that he should have recieved the maximum sentence of 14 years for these crimes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Home Secretary to reveiw the sentence given in the case of Daniel Storey, and to review sentencing policy in respect of dangerous driving.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Chris Ruane, Official Report, 21 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 624 .] [P000254]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice, received 6 October 2008:

The Government strongly supports the need for stiff penalties for dangerous drivers and we have the following observations to make.

Review of sentence

The Attorney-General, with the leave of the Court of Appeal, has powers under sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, to refer to the Court sentences which appear to the Attorney-General to be unduly lenient. This must be done within 28 days of the sentence being imposed. The time limit is mandatory and cannot be extended. These powers are limited to sentences for indictable only offences and a limited number of triable 'either way offences’ that have been specified by statutory order. Causing death by dangerous driving is indictable only and falls within the scheme. The Attorney-General did not make a reference in this case and the time limit expired on 7 July 2008.

Current sentencing policy for dangerous driving

The Government increased the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 10 to 14 years in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and we have no plans for a further review at this stage.

In July 2008, the Sentencing Guidelines Council issued guidelines on causing death by driving. The guideline followed the usual process of full public consultation. The guideline makes it clear that an offence will be considered more serious where there is evidence of driving impairment attributable to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, where the presence of alcohol or drugs does not form part of the offence.

There was an extensive review and consultation exercise of road traffic offences involving bad driving in 2005 following which two new offences were included in the Road Safety At 2006: causing death by careless driving which has a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment; and causing death by driving when unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured which has a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. Prior to the introduction of these new offences the maximum sentence for careless, uninsured or unlicensed drivers who caused death on the roads was a fine. These offences complement the existing offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs (maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment) and provide an effective framework for bad drivers.