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Road Traffic Offences and Penalties

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 9 November 2021

As part of the Department for Transport’s longer-term and wider work on road safety, road traffic offences are kept under review to ensure that irresponsible driving and the risk it poses to others are appropriately punished. In the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, we are increasing the maximum penalties for causing death by dangerous driving and by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, and we are introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

Businessman Hassan Nasser al-Thani, who killed retired railway worker Charles Roberts while driving his Rolls-Royce at nearly twice the speed limit, was given a short driving ban and fined last month because prosecutors accepted that he was driving carelessly, not dangerously. That is just the latest example of a road criminal receiving a ridiculously light sentence while their victim’s loved ones are left grieving for the rest of their lives. It has been nearly eight years since the Conservative then Secretary of State for Justice, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), promised

“a full review of all driving offences and penalties”—[Official Report, 6 May 2014; Vol. 580, c. 17.]

Where is it?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who I recognise has been very vocal on these issues for a long time. I obviously cannot comment on the specific case; sentencing and decisions of the courts are a matter for our independent judiciary, as he knows. However, we had a review in 2014 that looked at driving offences and penalties, which led to the consultation in 2016 and to the new measures that were debated in the House of Lords yesterday. Those measures significantly strengthen the penalties for the two offences that I mentioned, not least because the maximum penalty will increase from 14 years to life. I think that sends a strong signal about our overall position on these very serious matters.