Drive For Justice: Killer drivers to face tougher and longer sentences

Killer drivers face life behind bars in a victory for bereaved families after a Johnston Press campaign highlighted the injustice of sentencing for those who cause death on the roads.

Monday, 16th October 2017, 11:50 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:24 pm
Jack Goodison with a picture of his sister Rebecca Harrison

Life sentences will be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving and careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs after the voices of campaigners and devastated familes were heard.

Related:|Dominic Raab: Why tougher sentences for those who bring death and destruction to our roads are needed|}

The Drive For Justice campaign launched by Johnston Press papers across the country including the Wigan Post revealed the scandal of lenient sentences as it emerged drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just five years in prison with many escaping jail altogether.

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Nicky Pickering and daughter Jade when she was a youngster

The investigation also showed not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence from 10 years in 2004.

As well as giving families a voice, a Drive For Justice petition was launched and Johnston Press submitted its coverage as part of a Government consultation into driving offences and penalties.

Ministers have confirmed maximum sentences will be increased for those who kill on the roads with the sentence for causing death by dangerous driving increasing from 14 years to a life sentence.

The proposals include:

Nicky Pickering and daughter Jade when she was a youngster

Increasing the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life

Increasing the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life

Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving

Drivers who cause death by speeding, racing, or using a mobile phone could face sentences equivalent to manslaughter with maximum penalties raised from 14 years to life.

The move comes after an overwhelming response to a Government consultation which revealed substantial backing for the plans from a wide range of people including victims, bereaved families and road safety experts.

Ministers say the much tougher penalties will be part of wider action across government to clamp down on dangerous and criminal behaviour on our roads.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: “We’ve taken a long hard look at driving sentences and we received 9,000 submissions to our consultation.

“Based on the seriousness of the worst cases, the anguish of the victims’ families and maximum penalties for other serious offences such as manslaughter, we intend to introduce life sentences of imprisonment for those who wreck lives by driving dangerously, drunk or high on drugs.

“We will introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, punishable by imprisonment to fill a gap in the law and reflect the seriousness of some of the injuries suffered by victims in this category of case.”

The measures were confirmed in a Government response to a consultation which will be published today (Monday October 16).

The consultation sought views on whether current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased and received more than 1,000 replies in just three days when launched in December last year – rising to more than 9,000 when it closed in February.

In 2016, 157 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving with a further 32 convicted of causing death by careless driving while under the influence.

The Government pledged to consider the sentencing powers available to courts for the most serious driving offences making sure the punishment reflects the harm caused to victims and their families.

The move is part of government wide action to improve safety for all road users from devastation caused by irresponsible motorists and dangerous cyclists.

The Department for Transport launched an urgent review last month to consider whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists.

The Government will give further consideration to increasing minimum driving bans for those convicted of causing serious death.

The legislation required for the measures is expected to be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Sentencing will remain a matter for independent judges with decisions based on the full facts of each case.

Johnston Press editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford said: “Nothing can ever undo the pain felt by the families whose lives have been ruined by dangerous killer drivers.

“But these changes will at last bring a measure of justice to this situation.

“This shows how trusted local and national media like Johnston Press can truly influence issues which really matter to the real people who are our readers.”

Teenager Jack Goodison was only three when his 10-year-old sister Rebecca Harrison was killed by a speeding driver while crossing the road with her dad with her arms full of Easter eggs.

Jack, 18, who lives in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Wigan, still has vivid memories of that fateful night and it shattered his family’s life.

It led to further repercussions as Rebecca’s grandfather Fred Harrison, who had doted on his granddaughter found the heartache too much to bear and ended up taking his own life.

Jack, who is an ambassador for Brake the road safety charity, says: “This is brilliant news and it is what we have always strived to achieve.

“If these new higher sentences come into place, I think a lot of people will be safer on the roads.

“It won’t bring Rebecca back for us but we know as a family how painful such a death is and are glad that families in the future will at least get some form of justice by seeing harsher sentences given to those who caused the deaths.”

Teenager Jade Pickering told her mum she loved her and would be back soon - but never returned after a car she was a passenger in crashed into a coach.

Jade and a friend were killed in the smash yet the driver of the car was cleared of dangerous driving and instead pleaded guilty to careless driving receiving 150 hours of community service.

Jade’s mum Nicky who lives in Chorley, says: “This is amazing news but it also feels bittersweet as it has come too late for Jade.

“But I am glad other families will be spared the anguish we went through and I hope judges use these higher sentences.

“We miss Jade every day and the pain never goes away.

“I now have a grand-daughter Ava Jade who is five-months-old and she is a little ray of sunshine.

“But even that is bittersweet as it is another big part of our life Jade has missed out on and Ava has missed out on having the best aunty."