- 91 per cent of people think drivers on drink or drugs who kill should be charged with manslaughter
- 66 per cent of people believe drivers who kill should be jailed for a minimum of 10 years
- 84 per cent of people think drivers who kill while breaking laws should be charged with dangerous and not careless driving
A study to mark the launch of Brake’s new “Roads to Justice” campaign shows there is huge support for strengthening both the charges and sentences faced by criminal drivers.
91 per cent of people questioned agreed that if someone causes a fatal crash when they get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs, they should be charged with manslaughter. That carries a possible life sentence. At present people can either be charged with causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs. Sentences for those charges range between 26 weeks and 14 years, though sentences at the higher end of the range are rarely handed out.
The study also reveals most people back much tougher sentences for all criminal killer drivers. Two thirds of people (66 per cent) questioned think those convicted should be jailed for at least 10 years. About half of people asked said the sentence for killing someone in a crash should be at least 15 years and one in five (19.8 per cent) think drivers who kill should be jailed for life. At present almost half of drivers convicted of killing are not jailed at all. The average prison sentence for a driver who has killed someone is less than four years.
Brake is now calling on the government to immediately review guidelines for both charging and sentencing criminal drivers.
This new campaign is being backed by a number of recently bereaved families who feel they have not had justice for their loved ones. Dawn and Ian Brown-Lartey lost their son Joseph when a speeding driver ran a red light at more than 80 miles per hour. This week, the car Joseph was driving, which was cut in two by the collision, was put on public display (with support and help from Greater Manchester Police) and brought to the House of Commons.
Joseph’s parents, Ian and Dawn Brown-Lartey, said:
“We will never get over the loss of our beautiful son Joseph, who had his whole life ahead of him.”
“Hearing that his killer will serve half of a six-year sentence was a further slap in the face to us and our family. The law needs to change so that sentences for causing death by dangerous driving reflect the crime. We can’t bring Joseph back, but what we can do is campaign in his name to stop other families going through what we are. Joseph’s car was split in two. The emergency services said it was the worst road crash they had ever seen. We want people to see that devastation first hand in the hope of educating young drivers but also to hit home with the government the importance of our campaign.”
Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “There are too many families, like the Brown-Lartey’s, who suffer the double trauma of losing a loved one in a sudden and violent way, and then witness the judicial system turning its back on them. That’s why we’re launching our Roads to Justice campaign, which calls on government to get tough on criminal drivers who kill or seriously injure others. We believe the public are behind us, judging from our survey results. People we work with tell us they are left feeling betrayed by the use of inappropriately-termed charges and lenient sentences. Drivers who kill while taking illegal risks are too often labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and then given insultingly low sentences when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive.”