HL Deb 21 July 1983 vol 443 c1247

3.9 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ensure that anybody convicted of causing death by reckless or dangerous driving, particularly when under the influence of drink or drugs, will be disqualified from driving for at least five years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, the courts must already impose a minimum of one year's disqualification on all those convicted of causing death by reckless driving or of driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, and the maximum penalty for causing death by reckless driving is five years' imprisonment. Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that these penalties are adequate, and we do not propose further to restrict the discretion of the courts to impose the appropriate sentence in each case.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his reply, somewhat disappointing though it is. Will he agree that there is considerable public disquiet over a recent and perhaps not untypical case concerning a motorist, convicted of killing a motor cyclist as a result of dangerous driving and having twice the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream at the time, who not only had his prison sentence suspended for somewhat inconsistent reasons but was banned from driving for a mere 12 months —which, of course, is no longer a ban than that which is applicable to very much less serious offences? Would the Minister agree that such short periods of disqualification for killing people unlawfully not only have little deterrent value but are perhaps something of an insult to the families of the victims?

Lord Elton

My Lords, even if I had all the details of the case before me the noble Lord would not expect me to undertake the task of the court and come to a judgment. It is for the courts to decide when they have the material before them.