New law urged for dangerous driving

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MPs from across the political spectrum have appealed for tougher sentencing of people who cause death or serious injury by dangerous driving.

Conservative Chris Skidmore called for a new offence of causing death by dangerous driving while disqualified, as he led a backbench debate on the subject on 27 January 2014.

He said this would mean families whose loved ones die at the hands of a banned driver do not have their pain worsened because the culprit gets a short sentence.

Mr Skidmore has campaigned on this issue since two of his Bristol constituents, Ross and Clare Simons, were killed exactly one year ago after being knocked from their tandem bike.

The man responsible, Nicky Lovell, who had previous convictions for driving while disqualified, received a ten year sentence. Mr Skidmore said he could be freed in six years.

The Bristol MP argued that such a law change would act as a deterrent for persistent driving offenders and also ensure they are in prison for longer.

Labour's Susan Elan Jones said the law "is not doing enough to hold those who take lives in this way to account" and appealed to the government to "consider what sentences are given for these crimes".

Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland questioned why the families of victims of dangerous or careless driving are "not eligible for compensation" under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme even though they have lost their loved one "through criminal activity".

"Now why can it be acceptable to have families of the victims of murder or manslaughter compensated through this important scheme and yet those people who have died because someone has killed them with a car whilst using that in a dangerous, reckless way as a weapon, are not?" he added.

Conservative Sir Bob Stewart said people who have "taken a life through dangerous driving" should have their driving licence permanently revoked.

Wrapping up the debate, Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the government had created a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which he said "filled a gap" in the law and made sure appropriate punishments were given out.

He told MPs: "I think it is important to recognise the distinction between the Sentencing Councils guidelines and maximum sentences - maximum sentences are for the government and Parliament to set. The Sentencing Council will set guidelines as to how courts ought to approach sentencing within those maximums.

"As others have made clear, the justice secretary wrote to the Sentencing Council as it now is to ask them to review the death by driving guidelines; they have agreed to include this in their programme of work."

The backbench business motion was passed unopposed.

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