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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 11:14 GMT
Reform for death by driving laws
Car accident
The Home Office has reviewed road safety laws
The government is planning to create tougher punishments for people who cause death by driving.

As part of its plans it is examining the introduction of a new offence of causing death when disqualified, which would attract longer sentences.

The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving was raised from 10 to 14 years but victims' families complain offenders are still treated leniently.

The new proposals follow a review of the current laws.

'Radical proposals'

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "We have put forward some pretty radical proposals to create a tougher legal framework to deal with bad driving.

"Although the maximum 14 year sentence is available for dangerous drivers who kill, the courts have only been able to hand a fine to careless drivers who kill.

"Various campaign groups have lobbied hard about the big gap between these sentences. We thought it was absolutely right to seek to respond to that."

BBC correspondent Neil Bennett said the government's own advisers admitted that causing death by dangerous driving was a crime which created particular difficulties.

Leniency complaints

It involved someone's death yet the offender did not deliberately set out to kill.

Victims' families complained especially about the leniency given to offenders who had driven while banned or without a licence at all, he added.

The Home Office is considering making this a new offence attracting one of the longer sentences.

Death by dangerous driving involves someone's death yet the offender didn't deliberately set out to kill
BBC correspondent Neil Bennett

It will also encourage prosecutors to make more use of manslaughter charge in the most serious cases.

The review follows pressure from campaigners who complain that the government is failing to take deaths on Britain's roads seriously.

In October, a Transport Select Committee report said there was public anger that a death was apparently regarded as less serious if it was caused by a driver.

Drivers are often charged with careless driving, over dangerous driving, as it is easier to convict them on, it said.

'Disappointing' proposals

Brigitte Chaudhry is the Founder of RoadPeace, a charity for road crash victims and their families.

She said pressure from campaigners had ensured that for the first time in decades the government is proposing tougher measures to deal with bad driving.

Mrs Chaudhry welcomed the government's "willingness to address the issue" but said the proposals were disappointing.

Mansoor Chaudhry

"We feel that the proposals of so many varying charges would make things over-complex.

"We want a tough new law, which sends the simple message to drivers that bad driving can kill and maim and will be dealt with severely by the courts."

She said RoadPeace favours a simple charge of "vehicular manslaughter" which would leave a wide range of sentences to judges, according to the level of culpability.

The committee's report also calls for an urgent overhaul of the motoring offences system, with tougher sentences and higher fines.

What the new laws will mean

Road deaths 'not taken seriously'
31 Oct 04 |  Politics
Number of road deaths declining
23 Oct 04 |  North Yorkshire

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