HL Deb 03 February 2005 vol 669 cc17-8WS
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation paper setting out the Government's proposals for reform of the framework of offences dealing with had driving, particularly where death or injury occurs.

Following a comprehensive review, announced by my right honourable friend David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, across the whole range of offences the paper puts forward for public consultation a set of proposals, some of them radical. Our aim is to put in place a sensible and effective framework to deal with this area of offending, which causes so much misery to individual victims and their families and which damages our communities at large.

We have made great advances in recent years in reducing deaths and injuries but if we are to continue to improve the safety of our roads we need to ensure that the criminal law plays an effective role. To neglect our duties to other road users by driving dangerously or carelessly so as to cause suffering to others is a serious crime and is rightly perceived by the public as such. Too many people are seriously injured as a result and the consequences are all too often fatal. We have already increased the maximum penalty for the causing death offences to 14 years. We now propose a new offence of causing death by careless driving carrying a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. We also propose an obligation on the courts to take injuries into account when sentencing for bad driving. In order to provide the courts with sufficient powers we also intend to implement the previously recommended increase in the maximum penalty for dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking from two to five years' imprisonment.

Too many of those who have been disqualified from driving by a court or who drive without an appropriate licence put other road users at risk by taking a vehicle out on the road in clear breach of both the law and their responsibilities to other road users. It is right that a person who takes to the roads unlawfully in this manner should be held accountable for any untoward consequences that may result, irrespective of the standard of the driving involved. Accordingly, we are proposing a new offence dealing with the fatal consequences of illegal driving of this kind with a maximum penalty of Five years' imprisonment.

The full proposals are set out in the consultation paper. We believe these should provide a solid and practicable basis for the courts more effectively to address offending this kind and thereby help make our roads safer for all.

Copies of the consultation paper have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.