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Changes in sentencing guidelines for dangerous driving offences

View profile for Martin Haisley
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On 10th May 2022, the government announced it was bringing forward changes to driving penalties to meet its longstanding commitment to ensure the courts have the powers they need to deal with offences involving death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving when the offender is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The amendments are due to come into force on 28th June 2022.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022 and means that the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving, has been increased from 14 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment. The bill also includes an increase to the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving when the offender is under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment.

In addition, the bill also introduces a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. The maximum penalty for an individual found guilty of this new offence is two years’ imprisonment.  

The new offence was created as the law as it currently stands failed to recognise the harm caused when a driver had caused serious injury by careless driving. A driver was either charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving or simply with careless driving.

Therefore, the distinction between careless and dangerous driving in cases involving serious injury was incredibly important prior to the creation of this new offence. Dangerous driving requires evidence to support that the standard of a defendant’s driving fell far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver whereas careless driving only required that a defendant’s standard of driving fell below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. In reality, it is relatively easy to satisfy the definition of careless driving as; driving too close to another vehicle, overtaking on the inside lane, being avoidably distracted by the radio or driving through a red light by mistake are all examples of careless driving. The burden of proof for suggesting a defendant’s driving was dangerous is much more onerous.

Under the old law, an incident of careless driving which resulted in serious injury would typically attract a financial penalty with penalty points or a short period of disqualification. The Government argued that this did not reflect the severity and often life-changing injuries suffered by victims. Therefore, under the new law, a defendant could receive a custodial sentence if their careless driving results in serious injury being suffered.

Given the aforementioned changes, it is even more important that those accused of careless and dangerous driving resulting in death or serious injury are legally represented due to the serious implications of a conviction. At Stephensons, we have significant experience of defending those facing serious motoring offences and we would invite you to contact our specialist solicitors should you be investigated or charged with a motoring offence. You can contact our team on 0161 696 6250 .