Concern over huge decrease in prosecutions for Causing death by driving

  • Prosecutions for Causing death by driving offences down 18% in 2018 from 2017
  • Disturbingly, 7% of drivers convicted of causing a death were not given the mandatory driving ban
  • RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, warns that this means lethal law breaking is being let off and justice is being denied to families
  • Data also suggests that Causing death by dangerous driving prosecutions are getting downgraded to Causing death by careless driving
  • Average custodial sentences for Causing death by dangerous driving increased, but decreased for Causing death by careless driving
  • RoadPeace calls for the government to ensure correct charges and sentences that fit the crime—as their current proposals are at risk of meaning tougher sentences for the very few and much more lenient sentences for many more of those convicted of causing a death

 

The Ministry of Justice has released data on court prosecutions. Preliminary analysis by RoadPeace has uncovered some concerning trends – read our briefing here.

 

Despite the fact that road deaths have barely reduced since 2010, the number of drivers being prosecuted for Causing death by driving offences has seen a sharp drop of 17% in just the last year:

  •     Prosecutions dropped from 503 in 2017 to 419 in 2018.
  •     Convictions dropped 7% from 405 to 375.

 

So fewer drivers are being prosecuted for causing a death, yet there is no evidence that this is due to safer driving and increased compliance with traffic law. RoadPeace’s fear is that lethal lawbreaking is escaping detection and prosecution, and justice is being denied.

 

Causing death by dangerous driving prosecutions are getting downgraded to Causing death by careless driving

 

Causing death by dangerous driving and Causing death by careless driving account for 91% of all causing death by driving offences. However, whilst prosecutions for Causing death by careless driving fell by 30% (down 70), Causing death by dangerous driving prosecutions only fell by 4% (down 10)

 

By contrast, with convictions, Causing death by dangerous driving declined more, with an 18% fall (down 34), than Causing Death by Careless Driving  which only had a 1% decrease in convictions (down 2). This suggests significant numbers of drivers charged with Causing death by dangerous driving were convicted of Causing Death by Careless Driving.

 

RoadPeace’s report last year, Causing death by careless driving—10 years on, showed more prosecutions for causing death, including with causing death by dangerous driving.

 

Sanctions also varied 2017-18, with an alarmingly high number of drivers who kill not receiving the mandatory driving ban

 

Of those convicted, 59% were sent to prison, including 94% for Causing death by dangerous driving and 26% for Causing Death by Careless Driving.

 

Average custodial sentences for Causing death by dangerous driving increased from 57 to 64 months; and for Causing Death by Careless Driving decreased from 15 to 12 months.

 

While most drivers (93%) were banned (this is supposed to be mandatory), 25 drivers (7%) were not:

  •     Eight drivers escaped any ban or penalty points
  •     17 drivers were given penalty points but not banned

 

 

The 2018 court data released by the Ministry of Justice reinforces some long standing calls for RoadPeace.

  •  All culpable road deaths should be prosecuted as manslaughter which would eliminate the chance of downgrading and allow longer, even lifetime, custodial sentences for the worst offenders. It would also mean more support for bereaved families and greater priority by the police and justice system.
  •  Sentencing guidelines to be updated and include alternative sentences such as driving bans, vehicle confiscation, and compensation orders.
  •  Greater transparency is needed with data linkage between collision reports and court records so we can trace which collisions result in a criminal prosecution and the outcome.

 

Victoria Lebrec, RoadPeace Campaign Coordinator and crash victim, said ‘What we are seeing is that families who have lost a loved one in the worst possible way, then find they cannot get justice. For all prosecutions to have dropped by nearly 20% in one year is absolutely staggering, and for 7% of convicted drivers who kill to not receive the mandatory driving ban is totally unacceptable. The offences and sentencing guidelines in existence for drivers that cause a death are not fit for purpose and urgently need to be reviewed. The comprehensive review promised in 2014 has not happened. At a minimum, the CPS can update their charging standards and the Sentencing Council can update their guidelines as both are long overdue.