One of Essex’s leading solicitors specialising in road traffic offences has said that life sentences for people convicted of causing death by dangerous driving are unlikely to effective and may be unappealing to judges.
Jeremy Sirrell made the comments after it was announced that the Government intends to increase the maximum sentence for the offences from 14 years to life imprisonment.
He said: “The drive to increase sentences for death by dangerous driving to have a maximum of a life sentence is sadly part and parcel of an increasingly punitive approach to crime that has been taken by the Government over the past 20 years.”
“It is difficult to see how an increase of a sentence which is already very substantial at 14 years could ever increase the deterrent effect of any punishment.”
He suggested that the move betrays a fundamental failure to understand the psychology of people who are guilty of this offence.
“Those who drive dangerously do so because they are reckless and selfish as to the safety of others. Such people are highly unlikely to behave any differently whether the sentence is 14 years or a life sentence.”
“Many members of the public would think that the harshest penalties should be reserved for those who deliberately intend to kill, not those who do so accidentally,” he said.
A further problem with the proposed new guidelines, said Jeremy, was the likely lack of uptake from judges in cases where they have a level of discretion.
He said: “It is unlikely that judges will wish to take advantage of any increase in sentencing powers but will follow the sentencing guidelines when they are published.
“Many of us think that the current sentences are more than sufficient and what is required is not an increase in sentencing, but better quality policing.
“Perhaps if there were more police officers patrolling the roads and less reliance on traffic cameras, those who cause genuine danger to the public may be more likely to be caught.”