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Vulnerable Road Users Killed by Dangerous Driving: Prosecutions

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 7 July 2022

8. If her Department will take steps to increase the number of prosecutions for individuals who have killed vulnerable road users by dangerous driving. (900968)

I am aware of this tragic case in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences to Katelyn’s family and friends. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his tireless campaigning, over many years, on all road safety issues. He has been a leader in this field.

Like the hon. Gentleman, I recognise the devastating impact that fatal road traffic accidents and collisions can have on families and victims, which is why, under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, this Government increased the maximum penalty to life imprisonment for the offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs. Last year, the CPS charged more than 650 defendants in relation to fatal road traffic accidents, bringing the total number of charges back in line with pre-pandemic levels.

I have been around long enough to be one of the people who introduced the seatbelt legislation that banned children from travelling unrestrained in cars.

I was not going to talk about specifics, Mr Speaker, although you were very kind to mention the case in my constituency. I am very worried that, across the country, an increasing number of families have had a family member killed by a driver and then, because a lot of people are able to hire very expensive lawyers who can argue things like automatism—that they were not in control of their body or faculties at the time of the accident—the CPS is increasingly frightened into not prosecuting. That is my worry. Can we do something about it?

It is tragic; there are simply no words for the situation that the hon. Gentleman sets out. Ultimately, fairness sits at the heart of our justice system. Therefore, the same threshold is used for all offences—deciding whether to prosecute in fatal road traffic cases or murder cases. That is set out in “The Code for Crown Prosecutors” and has remained the same since the CPS was formed in the 1980s. It sets out a two-stage test, with which many people here will be familiar. A case will proceed only where both stages of the test are met. It always comes down to the evidence and the public interest, and I am very happy to talk to him about what more can be done, operationally or in the state of the law, to remedy the problem he identifies.