Government set to impose tougher sentences for killer motorists after Drive for Justice

Mel Plackett with a picture of her deceased daughter Emma.
Mel Plackett with a picture of her deceased daughter Emma.

The Government is proposing to increase the length of sentences for death by dangerous driving cases following campaigns for tougher action including our news group’s Drive for Justice initiative.

Johnston Press - which owns the Derbyshire Times, Matlock Mercury, Buxton Advertiser, Ripley and Heanor News, the Ilkeston Advertiser and Belper News - launched the Drive for Justice campaign across its many publications to lobby Parliament to change the sentencing guidelines.

Drive for Justice.

Drive for Justice.

Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service figures have revealed that drivers who kill are only being sentenced to an average of just four-years-and-one-month with dozens of others being spared from jail altogether.

Our campaign was also backed by Mel Plackett, of Tupton, Chesterfield, after the death of her 18-year-old daughter Emma Plackett.

The youngster lost her life after driver Dennis Squires, 35, of Jubilee Crescent, Clowne, overturned a Citroen Saxo, on Buttermilk Lane, near Shuttlewood, killing passenger Emma Plackett in March 2008, and he was jailed in January, 2009, to six-years-and-eight-months for death by careless driving.

Killer drivers who take lives through dangerous and careless driving may now face life sentences for the first time under a dramatic toughening of sentencing powers, proposed by the Government.

Our Drive For Justice campaign lobbying for harsher punishments for those who kill or seriously injure on our roads has achieved some success on behalf of bereaved families who have lost loved ones in crashes.

Motorists who kill may now face life sentences as the Government has unveiled a consultation looking at plans to deter dangerous and criminal behaviour on the road with the toughest penalties.

The proposals include: introducing life sentences for causing death by dangerous driving; life sentences for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs; and new three-year jail terms for careless drivers causing serious injury.

Under the plans, dangerous drivers causing death by speeding, street racing or while on a mobile phone are among those now facing the same sentences as those charged with manslaughter.

Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs could also be handed life sentences - an increase on the current 14 year upper limit.

The proposals unveiled by the Ministry of Justice will see the maximum sentence brought in line with manslaughter, one of the most serious crimes in the statute book.

In cases where road deaths arose from criminal offences, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service figures previously revealed that at least 800 lives have been lost at the hands of motorists since 2010.

An investigation by Johnston Press, which owns the Derbyshire Times, has revealed that campaigners have criticised the courts for a chronic leniency in dealing with those sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act showed:

In the 12 years since Parliament increased the longest sentence from 10 to 14 years in jail, not a single person has been handed the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;

Of the 738 people convicted between 2010 and 2015 for the offence of death by dangerous driving, just seven were jailed for more than ten years;

The average jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is four-years-and-one-month with 46 per cent of all those convicted sentenced to less than four years in prison;

A total of 111 people convicted of death by dangerous driving between 2006 and 2015 have walked free from court with 93 receiving suspended jail terms or community orders.

Sam Gyimah, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said: “Killer drivers ruin lives. Their actions cause immeasurable pain to families. While impossible to compensate for the death of a loved one, we are determined to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

“My message is clear – if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.”