Government announces sentencing guidelines review for certain driving offences

Norman Baker launches Government response to Get Britain Cycling report
Local Transport and Cycling Minister Norman Baker announces sentencing guidelines review as Government releases its response to 'Get Britain Cycling' report.

The Government today (28/8/13) released its response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s (APPCG) ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report. The report was launched in Cambridge by Local Transport Minister Norman Baker. One of the most significant announcements in the report is that the Sentencing Council will review sentencing guidelines for the recently introduced offences of 'Causing Death by Careless Driving' and 'Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving', and for the offence of 'Causing Death by Dangerous Driving'.

Cycling UK, together with other cycling organisations, has pressed the Government to commit to a review of sentencing guidelines through the Justice Review Sub-Group, thus welcomes this announcement. At the most recent meeting of the Sub-Group, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it will conduct a review of charging and prosecution guidelines for these offences following the Sentencing Council review. 

Cycling UK's Road Justice Campaign is also calling for a much wider-ranging review of traffic law and enforcement, including a review of the sentencing and prosecution guidelines for careless and dangerous driving which does not result in death. 

Current sentencing guidelines

Under current sentencing guidelines, those convicted of ‘Causing Death by Careless Driving’ can be sentenced to a maximum 5 years imprisonment, a maximum £5,000 fine, and a minimum 1-year driving ban. Those convicted of ‘Causing Death by Dangerous Driving’ can be sentenced to a maximum 14-years imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a minimum 2-year driving ban. However, in practice, few people receive anything close to the maximum sentences for these offences.

Cycling UK specifically urges much greater use of driving bans and re-education in sentencing and the use of custodial sentences for repeat offenders; for those who deliberately set out to harm others; and for those who flout driving bans. Lenient sentencing does not act as a deterrent to irresponsible driving that endangers the lives of others, thus in order to improve cycle safety the Government needs to send a clear message that bad driving will not be tolerated and that bad drivers will be prevented from driving or re-educated. 

Cycling UK has welcomed the Government's response to the parliamentary 'Get Britain Cycling' inquiry but believes far more is still needed if we are to improve cycle safety and start catching up with the levels of cycle use common among our continental neighbours.

Roger Geffen, Cycling UK's Campaigns and Policy Director

Review of charging and prosecution guidance

Cycling UK contributed to the consultation in 2012 on the charging guidance, but is disappointed that the revised guidance still contains serious flaws in the definitions of 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving offences, which leads to far too many instances of driving that has caused obvious danger being dismissed as mere 'carelessness'. This routinely gives rise to derisory sentencing, which in turn perpetuates the complacent attitudes to road safety which makes cycling in Britain so much more hazardous than in other continental countries. 

Cycling UK is pleased that the Crown Prosecution Service has announced a future review of this guidance, but this review will not take place until after the sentencing review, which is scheduled for 2014. What's more, the review is not planned to include the offences of 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving which does not cause death. Cycling UK will continue to pressure the Sentencing Council and the CPS to include these offences in the reviews. 

Traffic law enforcement must be strengthened

The Road Justice campaign is also demanding tougher enforcement of road traffic law by the police. To ensure road incidents involving injury to cyclists are taken seriously, the campaign is calling for better allocation of resources and improved training for roads police, thorough road incident investigations and greater support for road crash victims. The campaign is calling on all police forces in England and Wales to demonstrate that bad driving is taken seriously by pledging to implement the recommendations contained in the report: ‘Road Justice: the role of the police’. Please sign the petition calling on the police in your area to implement the recommendations. 

HGVs limited to quiet periods

In response to the APPCG’s recommendation that HGV safety be improved to bring down the number of cyclists’ fatalities caused by collisions with HGVs (goods vehicles make up only 5% of traffic in Great Britain, but are involved in about 19% of cyclists’ road deaths per year), the Government announced that the Department for Transport is now updating its guidance on quiet out of hours deliveries. The intention of this guidance is to reduce the number of goods vehicles on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times by shifting deliveries to quieter times. The DfT will encourage more cities to adopt this scheme. Cycling UK has called for these measures to be implemented, thus welcomes this announcement, but would like to see other cities not only encouraged to adopt the scheme but required to do so. Cycling UK’s briefing on goods vehicles outlines in more detail other measures needed to improve HGV safety.