Drivers who kill have been sentenced to an average of just four years in prison with dozens escaping jail altogether, an investigation has revealed.
Not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving since Parliament lengthened the sentence from 10 years in 2004. Figures show that between 2006 and 2015, 111 people convicted of causing death by dangerous driving walked free from court. Seventy-nine were given suspended sentences, with 14 given community service, 10 people dealt with through a fine and two given a conditional discharge.
The average sentence given in that time to those who were jailed is four years and one month.
Many other motorists who kill on the roads are prosecuted under the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving which bereaved families view as an insult. Today, the Star launches our Drive For Justice campaign to call for changes in the law to make sentencing fit the crime for those who kill or seriously injure people on our roads.
Backing the campaign today is Karen Codling, from Millhouses in Sheffield whose husband Eric was killed in November 2013 after his bike was hit by a woman called Emma Egan who was over the drink-drive limit and going at 70mph in a 40mph zone.
Egan has already been released from prison after being sentenced to just four years in jail in July 2014.
Karen said: “Why is killing someone with a car different to killing somebody in another fashion? In the wrong hands, cars can be more dangerous than knives.
“How would these ministers feel if it was one of them that got the knock on the door to say a loved one has died?”
Around five people are killed on the roads each day and families who lose a loved one in such a sudden and violent way describe their loss as feeling ‘like they have been murdered’.
However, the vast majority feel they do not get justice from the legal system in the UK. The Drive For Justice campaign aims to give these families a voice and we are lobbying the Government to re-work guidelines so judges can use the powers that exist as well as tackling loopholes and imposing tougher sentences for the worst offenders.
It is also being backed by Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg. He said: “I have heard first hand of a number of utterly tragic cases from my constituents. Our justice system is letting these people down and the law needs to change in order to help victims and to deter reckless and dangerous drivers in the future.”
DRIVE FOR JUSTICE
Our campaign calls on Government to:
* Re-work sentencing guidelines and provide specialist training for judges so they can use the full powers that are available to them when deciding sentences for offenders
* Give tougher sentences for the worst offenders
* Have all culpable deaths treated as manslaughter / culpable homicide
* Have more - and longer - driving bans handed out to those who kill or seriously injure on the roads, or whose driving risks injury and death
* Examine how people are often prosecuted for the lesser charge of death by ‘careless’ driving rather than death by ‘dangerous’ driving; families often feel the lesser ‘careless’ charge undermines the severity of the offence when someone is killed or seriously injured.
* Close the loopholes that exist as with hit-and-runs; failure to stop carries a maximum of six months jail while drink driving penalties are tougher. So at present a driver who has been drinking can get a lesser sentence if they flee the scene of a collision.
* Have even tougher sentences for those who offend while drink or drug driving, using excessive speed, are disqualified / unlicensed, or who are using their mobile phones.
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