Driving Offences – New Sentencing Guidelines
New and revised sentencing guidelines for driving offences have come into force from the 1st July. The Sentencing Council has published six new and six revised sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of motoring offences in England and Wales.
The six current guidelines that have been updated were published in 2008 and the updates reflect new maximum sentences for some of the offences, including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Five of the new guidelines are for offences created since the previous guidelines were published. They include causing serious injury by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by driving while disqualified. A new guideline for sentencing offenders convicted of causing injury by wanton or furious driving where a motorist causes injury or death off-road such as in a field or dirt track, or where a cyclist causes death or injury at any location has also been published.
The revised guidelines are for offences of:
· causing death by dangerous driving
· causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs
· causing death by careless driving
· causing death by driving whilst disqualified
· causing death by driving whilst unlicensed or uninsured
· dangerous driving
The new guidelines are for offences of:
· causing serious injury by dangerous driving
· causing serious injury by driving whilst disqualified
· causing serious injury by careless driving
· causing injury by wanton or furious driving
· driving or attempting to drive with a specified drug above the specified limit
· being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified drug above the specified limit
What will be the impact of these changes on actual sentences imposed?
Overall, the guidelines are anticipated to increase sentences for several driving offences, where sentence levels have been driven either by the new guidelines reflecting the changes to legislation introduced under the PCSC Act 2022, for sections 1 and 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, or by the knock-on effect this has had on the guidelines for other related motoring offences.
It is estimated that the definitive guidelines, in reflecting the increase in statutory maximum penalties, may result in a requirement for up to around 470 prison places. It is anticipated that around 300 additional prison places will be required for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, around 10 additional prison places for those convicted of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, around 130 additional prison places for those convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, around 20 additional prison places for those convicted of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, and fewer than 5 additional prison places for those convicted of dangerous driving.
For the other offences covered by the definitive guidelines, it is difficult to estimate the impact of the guidelines. This is because there have either been low numbers of people convicted of those offences, or there is a lack of data available on how current cases would be categorised under the new guideline. However, it is anticipated that for these offences the new guidelines will improve consistency of sentencing for these offences, but not lead to any notable changes in sentencing severity.
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