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Careless driving: does the punishment fit the crime?

Carol Boardman, mother of Chris Boardman, was tragically killed by a pick-up truck after falling from her bicycle in July 2016. The driver was prosecuted for the offence of causing death by careless driving, evidence having shown that he had been distracted by a phone call. He was sentenced to 30 weeks imprisonment and was disqualified from driving for 18 and a half months.

The current law permits an offender convicted of causing death by careless driving to be imprisoned for up to five years and to be disqualified from driving for a minimum of 12 months. But what is the position if the same degree of careless driving causes serious injury but not death?

Disqualification from driving

It might be assumed that the punishment should fit the crime, i.e. the sentence should reflect the degree of culpability in the act of driving rather than the outcome to the other road user. In fact, the sentence for an offender who is convicted of careless driving without causing a death is a financial penalty and up to nine penalty points or disqualification from driving. So, if someone was seriously injured as a result of careless driving and the offender was convicted of careless driving only, he or she would receive a financial penalty and a possible disqualification from driving.

Is it right that something that is out of the control of the offender has such a big impact? For the offender, the difference between causing a fatality or serious injury is the difference between up to five years imprisonment and a financial penalty, and this is wholly out of their control.

The offender does not have to intend to injure or kill someone; they simply have to fall beneath the standard of a careful and competent driver. Is that justice?

Causing serious injury by careless driving

What is the answer? All acts of careless driving could be covered in one offence, with the level of injury to the other road user being a factor that increases the sentence. Alternatively, a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving could be introduced. However, neither option resolves the question of whether it is fair to base a sentence on something that is outside of the control of the offender.

Government consultation on this matter has revealed that the introduction of a thirdoffence of causing serious injury by careless driving is widely supported and may be around the corner, so watch this space…

For  more information on any of the issues raised in this article or if you have been charged with a motoring offence and would like to speak to one of our solicitors, contact Jess Murphy by emailing jmurphy@lyonsdavidson.co.uk or calling 0117 904 5840.

Posted on Mar 7th, 2019 by Lyons Davidson

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