Sentences for dangerous drivers who kill someone while behind the wheel will be extended to up to life imprisonment.
Life sentences will also be available to judges when dealing with those convicted of careless driving if they kill someone while under the influence of drink or drugs.
The changes come in to force from 28th June 2022 as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. At the moment the current penalty for each crime is a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The new legislation also creates an offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. That means that those who inflict long-term or permanent injuries will also face tougher sentences.
The law changes were first proposed in 2017 and once in effect will apply to offences in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland.
Hannah Jones, Partner and Head of the Criminal Defence team at Churchers Solicitors, said: “This is a significant change to the sentencing powers available to a judge in the crown court. It means that someone who kills while behind the wheel of a car could face the possibility of a life sentence. A judge, when deciding sentence, will take a lot of factors into account when handing down the penalty to someone convicted of dangerous driving or careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs where someone has died, but a life sentence will be available to them.
“In our experience very few people convicted of these crimes set out to kill someone or to cause serious injury, but it is usually the outcome of recklessness in getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when they are not in a fit state to do so. The government said it wanted to ensure “punishments reflect the severity of crimes and the misery killer drivers leave in their wake”. The Crown Prosecution Service would still charge people with murder or manslaughter where there is evidence that a vehicle was used as a weapon to kill or commit grievous bodily harm.