No jail for careless driver killers

Drivers whose carelessness results in death will not receive jail sentences under new guidelines published today.

The draft guidelines, which are up for consultation from today, recommend at least seven years in jail for those who flagrantly commit driving offences resulting in death.

Although parliament sets the maximum punishments available to the courts through legislation it is up to the Sentencing Guidelines Council to establish guidance for judges and magistrates.

Today’s draft guidelines say sentences approaching the maximum 14 years should be given for the worst offenders and recommends prison even for cases of careless driving “falling just short of dangerous driving”.

Cases where the accident is attributed to “momentary inattention” on the part of the driver should not result in a custodial sentence, the SGC says, as a community sentence is deemed the most appropriate.

At present those convicted of careless driving can receive a maximum £2,500 fine.

The SGC’s deputy chairman Sir Igor Judge said it is often difficult to establish the precise causes of an accident.

“Sentencing in cases where death results from the misuse of a car on the road is always extremely sensitive,” he said.

“Obviously the consequences are appalling. Very heavy sentences are appropriate where the standard of driving involves flagrant disregard of the safety of other road users.

“But sometimes death results from a relatively minor error of judgment, to which every, however experienced, motorist is liable from time to time. Cases like these present sentencing judges with very difficult decisions, because the gravest consequences have to be balanced against varying levels of culpability.”