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Compared to ten years ago, the length of sentence passed on convicted dangerous drivers has marginally increased, mainly due to public anger and the more recent structured approach on sentencing by the Sentencing Advisory Panel and its governing council. However, many still take issue with this sentencing body because of the undue weight given to mitigation that, along with other legislation, reduces prison sentences to mere tokenism.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) was set up in 2004 to frame guidelines to assist courts in England and Wales dealing with criminal cases.

Created by Statute, the SGC and its Advisory panel are supposedly independent non departmental public bodies sponsored by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. They share a joint Secretariat. Members of the Council are largely academics, lawyers and from the senior judiciary.

The Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) is, again, supposedly, an independent advisory and consultative body created in 1999 and now constituted under section 169 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The Panel submits its advice to the SGC. The advice concerns general sentencing principles and sentencing of specific offences etc and its members again consist of academics, senior lawyers and judges. Consultations with the public are undertaken to test public opinion on sentences for the offences . However, how much notice the Panel actually takes of organisations' and/or individual inputs, is arguable. for while there is a stated will to acknowledge public disapproval of lenient sentences in road fatality or serious injury cases, significant mitigation is still very prevalent nothwithstanding the introduction of new offences in 2006.

That is why a driver who is uninsured, unlicenced and drives on at twice the speed limit to kill, and runs, can still only serve seventeen months of a puny three year sentence or why a thrice-failed asylum seeker, with multiple failed driving tests, drives nevertheless without licence and insurance, hits and runs, kills, can serve a four of a six month sentence and exit jail to restart asylum applications.

Remorse is a hefty tool in this mitigation game that offends victims' families and the system itself. Of course, no democratic society would wish to exist without it but since it is so tempered by the convenience of the moment, the permanent revocation of a licence is the next most appropriate step in decreasing the thousands of road fatalities and injured for the risks to society far outweighs the benefits.

Dangerous drivers are as mean and as ill-intentioned users of our streets and roads, as those that carry guns and knives. The impact of metal on flesh is the same. It tears it and leaves mangled bodies of our children, many more of them by drivers, in any one year.

The purpose of retribution and deterent is to set firm, unambiguous standards to prevent lawlessness, including on our roads.


Drivers who cause serious injury facing 5 years in jail

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Long overdue: George Atkinson has been campaigning since the death of his teenage daughter

Long overdue: George Atkinson has been campaigning since the death of his teenage daughter

By Mary McConnell

MOTORISTS who seriously injure others through dangerous driving are to face much tougher sentences, following a campaign by local road-safety campaigners and Enfield Southgate MP David Burrowes. 

A new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which will carry a maximum sentence of five years, will close a loophole in the law that allowed motorists who cause serious harm to other road users or pedestrians to escape with prison sentences of less than a year. 

The changes, which have cross-party support in parliament and form part of 
the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, were welcomed by road safety campaigners. 

As the law stands, a motorist convicted of dangerous driving who seriously injures someone can face a maximum of two years in prison – the sentence will rise to a maximum of 12 years – only if a victim dies. 

George Atkinson, who works with the education programme Safe Drive Stay Alive for teenagers, which is running this week at the Millfield Theatre, in Edmonton, is pleased the law had been changed. 

Mr Atkinson, of Grange Park Avenue, Winchmore Hill, began working on the scheme after his 16-year-old daughter Livia was killed when a driver mounted the pavement and hit her in 1998. 

“This change in the law is long overdue,” he said. “We saw the stupidity of the law – people were having their lives ruined, getting permanently injured, and the drivers were getting away with a slapped wrist.” 

Mr Burrowes said he expects the bill to be passed next month. 

“This is excellent news,” he added. “It was George and his wife Guilietta who first brought this issue to my attention and this change in the law is a real tribute to the Galli-Atkinsons, who have worked tirelessly on road safety issues.” 

Mr Atkinson was also involved in the campaign to create a new law – death by careless driving – which came into force two years ago. 

www.enfield-today.co.uk (Serious injury by dangerous driving)




House of Commons Debate 2 July 2009

House of Commons Road Safety Debate, 4 June 200

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