New UK Law - Causing Death By Dangerous Driving, Careless Or Inconsiderate Driving
A new car offence of "Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving" was added to UK law. Anyone convicted of this offence encounters a prison phrase of up to five years and or disqualification from driving. This new law is recognized as to be highly significant. For the first time a person guilty of driving below the standard expected of a reasonably in a position driver which results in an accident and a death can receive a prison sentence.
Prior to this offence the criminal prosecution would need to prove dangerous driving to permit the court to have the choice of a prison phrase. The weight of evidence needed to prove dangerous driving can be considerable. In 2004 there were approximately Three,500 people killed on UK streets and only 406 prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving. It is estimated that currently only one in ten fatalities caused on United kingdom roads result in a prosecution for causing dying by dangerous driving. This is right down to the definition of dangerous driving and the level of bad driving that is needed to be shown to substantiate such a prosecution.
Many cases will be prosecuted underneath the new legislation and lots of will result in prison sentence being imposed, exactly where previously such a phrase was not possible. This particular new legislation does create something of the dilemma for the legal courts however. Should they phrase on the degree of criminality or on the consequences of the offending? Say a person committed a minor mistake such as failing to notice a cyclist whenever pulling out of a junction, however this error led to the death from the cyclist. The degree of criminality is actually low however the results of the offence is high. Should the car owner be sent to prison?
Remarkably the magistrates court have yet to be given any kind of guidance in the new magistrates court sentencing guidelines issued on August 4th 2008 and will consequently have to look to cases of causing death by dangerous driving for any guidance.
Over the years UK courts possess moved towards looking at the consequences of the traveling and away from the criminality or level of driving when it comes to sentencing, although it is reasonable to say it is still a balancing act.
The reason the courts have moved towards taking much more account of the result's to act as a discouraging factor and was summarized by the then attorney general in 2006 when he said "This court has stated many times that a automobile driven dangerously comes down to a lethal weapon. It can and does kill and that is the reason why custody is almost usually inevitable."
The deterrent message is clear and it seems the government is reinstating the discouraging factor message by presenting the new law.
Just about all drivers in the UK should now be aware that a momentary lapse of concentration could result in not just the death of some other but also the imprisonment of ourselves.