Judges toughen penalties for drink-drivers and mobile phone users who cause fatal crashes.

Drivers who kill while chatting on their mobiles should be jailed for at least two years. A panel of Britain’s top judges yesterday ruled for tougher penalties for the worst drivers, whose disregard for danger and the law causes death.

Drivers who race on the road, persistently drive dangerously or who are over the drink/drive alcohol limit face up to 14 years detention if they cause a death. The offence of death by dangerous driving will now get a motorist chatting on a mobile a sentence of between two and five years. Reading or sending text messages at the wheel is viewed even more seriously and will carry a jail term of between four and seven years. Drivers who are over the drink/drive limit will be jailed for between two and 14 years.

However, drivers who cause deaths through a moment’s inattention will be punished less severely. The new offence of causing death by careless driving will not carry a prison sentence if the accident resulted from a genuine mistake. Instead, offenders will carry out community work or suffer curfews enforced by electronic tags.

But some 2m uninsured or disqualified drivers may not go to prison, even if they kill in an accident. These drivers, who are often also unlicensed and untaxed, are likely to receive a lesser sentence unless their crime also involves other offences, such as failing to stop.

These new rules come after months of debate between top judges, senior police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service. They are provided for judges as guidelines when sentencing and are usually – but not always – adhered to.

Stephen Jury


July 16, 2008

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