11:01AM, Wednesday 22 July 2020
Theresa May’s bill to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving had its first reading in Parliament this week.
The backbench MP tabled a Ten-Minute Rule Bill to amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment.
The first reading is the first stage of a bill’s passage through the House of Commons, the next stage is the second reading whereby MPs debate the principles and themes of the bill.
Mrs May had up to 10 minutes to make her case in the House of Commons on Tuesday and began by telling her peers about the deaths of three Maidenhead constituents.
She spoke of Bryony Hollands, who was 19-years-old when she was killed by a dangerous driver who was under the influence of drink and drugs.
He served four years of an eight-year jail term in prison.
Ciara Lee’s husband, Eddy, died following a collision on the M4. The driver responsible was sentenced to just 22 months and is now out on licence.
Finally, the House heard how a driver under the influence of drugs hit and killed 13-year-old Max Simmons in December.
James Lavine was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison last week for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of a drug.
Mrs May said the ‘majority’ of her fellow MPs would no doubt have stories to tell of dangerous driving in their own constituencies.
“No sentence can make up for the tragic loss of a loved one,” she said.
“A life cut short, a future obliterated, a family devastated, but the sentence can enable those left behind to feel that justice has been done, and today, in too many cases, they feel that justice has not been done.
“This bill responds to a genuine concern that the severity of the offence is not always reflected in current sentencing.”
She said when she was Prime Minister the Government consulted on driving offences and penalties relating to causing death or serious injury.
Although her government committed to introducing that change in a sentencing bill, she said for ‘various reasons’ the bill was delayed under her premiership and not brought forward before she stepped down.
Mrs May acknowledged the campaigning efforts of Bryony’s father, Mark Hollands, to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving since his daughter died.
“Families who have lost loved ones have been consistently been told that the reform will be introduced when parliamentary time allows,” she said.
“It may be difficult to find parliamentary time for a full sentencing bill, but this bill is short, specific and targeted.
“The parliamentary time is now.”
The bill proceeded to the next stage without any objection. The second reading of the bill will be on Friday, October 16.
Mark Hollands, father of Bryony, was mentioned more than once by Theresa May in Parliament on Tuesday.
He has campaigned for tougher sentencing for causing death by dangerous driving since Bryony died and he said Mrs May’s address to the House of commons ‘was very eloquent, and after all this time, quite emotional’.
“We need to wait and see whether there’s any desire at a Government level to make sure this goes through or whether they’ll end up quashing it,” said Mark.
He said he is ‘grateful as always’ for Mrs May’s efforts but the next hurdle will be the Bill’s second reading on October 16.
He is concerned the Government may want to put forward a wider-ranging bill on road safety, leading to more delays.
He said he will not be done campaigning until the bill to make life imprisonment the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is ‘on the statute books’.
“We need to make sure that it’s those future victims and families who do see the justice that we didn’t,” he said.
Ciara Lee and her husband, Eddy, were also acknowledged by Mrs May.
“She made a really impassioned speech, where she really considered the constituents that have been killed,” Ciara said.
“I felt like it was a very positive step in the right direction and I personally felt like Eddy was treated with respect by the fact that she mentioned him by name.”
Ciara hopes if the bill is passed it will deter other people from ‘continuing to drive so dangerously’.
“It’s not saying ‘I’m going to give you a life sentence, you took a life’ it’s about saying ‘I’ve got scope to actually look at what you did, and why you did it, and I’m going to punish you accordingly’.
“Because that’s the case in other crimes, so it should be the same with road crime.”