CTC pressure for Road Justice begins to show success

Westminster

CTC pressure for Road Justice begins to show success

On 17 December, CTC's Road Justice campaigner Rhia Weston joined CTC Vice-President Lord Berkeley for a surprisingly positive meeting with Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims.

Following pressure from CTC's Road Justice campaign, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP announced in July 2014 that the Government would conduct a comprehensive review of sentencing for driving offences and penalties. Since then, cycle campaigners and victims have waited for announcement of an official consultation. After yesterday’s meeting with the Policing Minister, CTC can reveal that we are that bit closer.

CTC had met Mike Penning before during a previous stint as road safety minister, who didn't always appreciate cycle safety as well we might have hoped! Yet in his new role, he came over as much more sympathetic. He talked about his previous life as a fireman, attending the aftermath of road crashes, and how this had shaped his view of the importance of roads policing and the justice system in preventing needless road tragedies.

Penning explained that the review of offences is already under way. Due to the short timescales before the next general election, there will not be time to change primary legislation, hence the review will focus at least initially on secondary legislation. Essentially, this means that any changes this side of the election will be made through guidance and statutory instruments rather than through a direct Act of Parliament.

Penning said that, as the review needs to be comprehensive, it could take up to a year. He therefore wants to get as much done as possible before the general election in May and leave everything ready to be picked up by whoever the Minister might be after the election.

Meanwhile, in the three months remaining before the pre-election purdah period (when no new policy announcements can be made), Penning has set the ambitious target of completing the follow elements of the review:

  • ensuring driving bans start after a custodial sentence
  • creating tougher sentences for hit and runs
  • setting minimum custodial sentences 
  • raising minimum driving ban lengths

He will also look at the ability of defendants to plead guilty at a late stage and still receive a sentence discount, and discounts for guilty pleas when the driver had very little choice but to plead guilty.

While no official date has been, nor is likely to be, set for a public consultation on the review, Penning encouraged CTC, and other campaigning organisations and victims' groups, to submit responses and supporting documents via email to his private office.

Penning insisted he was on the side of victims, firmly believing that they need to feel justice has been done. He had previously made this clear in his appearance at a Westminster Hall debate on the sentencing of Dangerous Driving Offences on 5 November.

During the course of the meeting, the minister questioned why a charge of 'manslaughter' was not used more often when intent was clear. Following CTC’s comments that manslaughter is frequently downgraded to 'causing death by dangerous driving', and 'causing death by dangerous driving' downgraded to 'causing death by careless driving', the minister recognised that this was an issue requiring attention.

The meeting with Mike Penning went surprisingly well. Mostly, he seems to be on the same page as us."
Rhia Weston
Road Safety Officer

CTC also raised a long-standing concern that currently the Government does not maintain a database which records the prosecutions, convictions, offences and sentencing of road users who kill or injure a cyclist or other road user. Penning recognised that it is important to track such cases, and assured CTC that work is at last being done to create such a database. This could be a a really important development, and one that CTC has long called for.

CTC will now look to establish the scope and remit of the governmental review so that we and others can respond constructively. CTC will also look to hold dialogue with multiple stakeholders - including the police, prosecutors and the judiciary as well as road user and victims' groups - as we consider the pros and cons of different possible ways to amend the current framework of 'dangerous' and 'careless' driving offences. See CTC's views on these issues.

 

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