HC Deb 13 March 2003 vol 401 cc425-7
18. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire)

What her policy is on prosecuting drivers with numerous previous convictions for motoring offences. [102720]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman)

The Crown Prosecution Service reviews each case on its merits, applying the tests of evidence and public interest that are set out in the code for Crown prosecutors. If sufficient evidence exists for there to be a realistic prospect of a conviction, a prosecution will proceed if it is in the public interest. A history of numerous convictions will provide the basis for the belief that the offence is likely to be repeated. It will also be a public interest factor tending in favour of prosecution.

Andrew Selous

Does the Solicitor-General share the concern of many of our constituents that someone who has been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, and who has several previous driving bans—I understand that in this instance there are more than 80 previous convictions—can be sentenced for up to only 10 years? If she does, what does she propose to do?

The Solicitor-General

Sentencing in this area is considered carefully by the courts. When death has been caused by dangerous or careless driving, it is important that the sentence reflect the gravity of the effect of the crime on the victim's family. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that the Sentencing Advisory Panel has recently produced new guidance for use when death is caused by dangerous driving. The Court of Appeal will consider its response to that report on 31 March, when four cases will come for sentence. The Court of Appeal will consider what the tariff should be.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the concept of a "motoring" offence is rather strange? Often, a motor car is used as a weapon or is used to carry out various outrageous forms of antisocial behaviour. The concept of a motoring offence should be placed in a wider context, and policing should be organised in a way that ensures that the civil part of the offence is given due weight.

The Solicitor-General

Those points are well made. A good partnership between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service is important when tackling such offences. It is well recognised that offences that are labelled as "antisocial behaviour" or simply "motoring" can have devastating consequences, including loss of life or serious injury.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does the Solicitor—General acknowledge that many of the most serious motoring offences are committed by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or a cocktail of drink and drugs? Will she join her ministerial colleagues in the Home Office and the Department for Transport, who have undertaken to consider our proposals—which I put forward yesterday and which my noble Friend Lord Dixon-Smith is putting forward today in the other place—for new offences against drug drivers? Will she ask her noble and learned Friend the Attorney-General to consider this matter in the hope that the Government will accept our proposals?

The Solicitor-General

I will ask the Attorney—General to look at the hon. Gentleman's proposals, and I will also ask the Crown Prosecution Service about any difficulties that it has in relation to prosecuting drivers who commit offences while driving under the influence of drugs. The danger of drink driving has become much better recognised, as has the importance of effective prosecutions, but such prosecutions are more difficult with drugs. However, I will certainly take the hon. Gentleman's proposals seriously and respond to them.