Road traffic accidents can be difficult, traumatic experiences for all involved, especially if there is an accusation that the driver causing the accident was "under the influence" when the accident happened.  In recent years the police and Government have had a growing concern over the number of traffic offences that lead to death in which the driver has been under the influence of either drink or drugs.  This has been compounded by the anecdotal feeling of the general public that many of these drivers do not serve their full sentence given by judges due to the "automatic release" clause which means that some individuals are released early from a custodial sentence and thus deny the families of the victims of these offences their sense of due and proper justice.

Maximum Sentences:

Currently the maximum sentence for the offence of causing death to a person by dangerous driving when under the influence of drink or drugs is 14 years imprisonment.  From next week (28th June 2022) this is set to be increased to life imprisonment under The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduced earlier this year in April.  The thinking behind this quite dramatic change to the sentencing guidelines is said to reflect the belief that causing death when driving is a very serious offence and as such should be treated in line with manslaughter or murder charges.  The Government is on the record that it hopes that the harsher sentence will lead to a reduction in the number of people who may feel tempted to drive on the UK's roads when under the influence, and therefore the number of these tragic incidents will also reduce.

All laudable, but it will remain to be seen if the courts take up the mantle offered by the new guidelines and start handing out lifetime sentences to offenders convicted of the offence of dangerous driving.  After all the lifetime sentence is the maximum sentence available to the Courts and is not the mandatory one.  Similarly, how many cases will be pursued as 'dangerous' as opposed to the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving (which does not carry the lifetime maximum sentence guideline) and which is easier to prove.  It will be interesting to watch this space.

Professional Drivers:

From an Operator's point of view, as the employers of professional drivers, the safeguards the company has in place to ensure that no one drivers their vehicles whilst under the influence should be updated to inform their employees of the new sentencing and to underline the serious of driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.

If you need any assistance with updating your staff handbook or if you are an individual affected by this change to the law, then please do get in touch.  Click here to send us an email or call 01279 818280 to talk to one of our team.

24 June 2022

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