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Sentencing reforms for killer drivers are 'a step in the right direction'

A Government bill to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill has been described as a ‘a step in the right direction’ but it is a case of ‘not letting the politicians drop the ball’.

The comments by Mark Hollands and Ciara Lee, whose loved ones were killed by dangerous drivers, are in response to new laws being introduced to Parliament next year.

The legislation to increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life are part of major sentencing reforms unveiled by The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, in a white paper this week.

In July, Maidenhead MP Theresa May 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.

As part of the Government’s proposals, offenders who cause loss of life by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also face life in prison, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.

The plans follow a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation, opened on Dec 5, 2016 and closed on Feb 1 2017, which sought views on driving offences and penalties that cause death and serious injury.

It received 9,000 responses and what the MOJ refers to as ‘overwhelming support’.

However, given that it has taken more than three years since the consultation closed to get to this point, Mark remains cautious – although he is pleased that things have moved on from ‘when parliamentary time allows’.

Mark’s daughter, Bryony, was 19 and studying at the University of Sheffield when she was killed by a dangerous driver in Woodthorpe, Nottingham, in 2015.

“It’s over four years ago I was campaigning outside Parliament, it’s still a good six months or so away until they’re going to start discussing it, if they do,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but that’s all it is at the moment, just a step.

“Until it’s on the statute books and has passed through Parliament, I don’t think there’s much cause for celebration.”

Ciara lost her husband, Eddy, 46, when he was hit on his motorcycle by a van driver on the M4 in July 2018.

Ciara said ‘we know from politicians, that things get discussed and then nothing happens for ages’ but that there are enough families like her, who are ‘willing to keep fighting and won’t back down’.

“It’s a case of keeping the pressure on and not letting the politicians drop the ball really, or kick the can further down the road,” she said.

Ciara hopes that harsher sentences for road offences ‘will make people think differently to how they approach their driving’.

She said: “I see bad driving every day, and in an ideal world I’d go round everyone and I’d be able to walk them through just how horrific Eddie’s loss has been for everyone, but I can’t do that.

“So there has to be another way to get a message through to drivers that they can’t just have such disregard for human life on the roads.”

The Lord Chancellor said: “This Government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.

“So, today [Sunday, September 13] I am announcing that we will bring forward legislation early next year to introduce life sentences for dangerous drivers who kill on our roads, and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”

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