Drivers who kill others could receive life sentences under new laws

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Drivers who kill others after speeding, racing or using a phone could receive life sentences under new legislation.

Those who cause death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs could also get a life sentence.

The current maximum sentence for each crime is 14 years.

The sentencing reforms announced this week will be introduced in Parliament early next year. A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving is also being proposed.

Currently, without that specific offence, drivers who cause injuries under such circumstances can only be convicted of careless driving – which has the maximum penalty of a fine.

The proposed law change was first announced in 2017, with Monday’s announcement setting a timescale for when the legislation would come into force.

The increase will apply to offences in England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland, which has separate road safety laws.

‘Full force of the law’

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland – also the Lord Chancellor – said: “This government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime, but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.

“So, today I am announcing that we will bring forward legislation early next year to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on our roads, and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”

The new legislation forms part of major sentencing reforms being announced in a White Paper this week.

Teenagers convicted of murder in England and Wales could also receive whole-life terms under the proposals. This order means the criminal is kept in prison for the rest of their life without ever becoming eligible for parole.

With a life sentence, a prisoner is given a number of years they must spend in jail after which they will be eligible to apply for parole.

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Last year, 174 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving

A consultation carried out in 2016 gave support for the new driving offence measures from victims, road safety campaigners and people who had lost loved ones.

Of the 9,000 who responded, 90% thought there should be a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

In addition, 70% of those who responded agreed the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving should be increased to life imprisonment.

Last year, 174 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving, and another 19 for causing death by careless driving while under the influence.

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