Articles Tagged ‘ministry of justice - Brake the road safety charity’

Brake applauds new tougher sentences for drivers who kill and injure

News from Brake
Sunday, 15 October 2017
news@brake.org.uk

The Ministry of Justice has today (Sunday, 15 October 2017) announced long-awaited plans to increase maximum sentences for drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone. Offenders who cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs will also face life sentences, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created, the Ministry has said.

Commenting on the news, Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "Today's announcement is a major victory for the families of victims and charities, including Brake, who have tirelessly campaigned for punishments which better fit road crimes that kill and seriously injure people.

"We applaud the Government for at last recognising that the statute books have been weighed against thousands of families who have had their lives torn apart through the actions of drivers who have flagrantly broken the law.

"In addition to tougher penalties, Government must also make road policing a national priority, reversing savage cuts to front line resources so that laws are properly enforced in the first place. Figures released only last month reveal that almost 1,800 people were killed on British roads last year - a four per cent rise since 2015. There is an urgent need for a road collision investigation branch, similar to those already in existence for air, rail and sea, so that lessons can be learned to prevent future deaths and serious injuries on the roads."

/ENDS

Notes to editors 

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Brake releases new version of acclaimed support pack for bereaved road crash victims

14 February 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk

The charity Brake has released an updated version of its acclaimed support pack for families left devastated by a death on the road in England and Wales. With funding from the Ministry of Justice, the pack has been updated so it's in line with the government's new Victims' Code, which aims to ensure bereaved crime victims get the right support and are treated with respect by criminal justice agencies.

Brake is the national provider of government-funded support literature for families who lose a loved one our roads. Its support packs are handed to bereaved families by police following every UK road death (with separate packs available following road deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Brake works with every police force throughout the year to ensure the packs are presented promptly and empathetically following all road deaths, as written into police protocols.

The 2013-14 packs are now being distributed to police forces throughout England and Wales.

An online version of the pack is available at www.brake.org.uk/support, and Brake's helpline (0845 603 8570) offers over-the-phone explanation of information in the packs alongside a range of other professionally-delivered support.

The revised Victims' Code, published in December 2013, recognises bereaved road crime victims as victims of serious crime with particular needs, who should be referred to appropriate support. The change has been welcomed by Brake, having long campaigned through its forgotten victims campaign for greater recognition and help from government for families who suffer the horror of a bereavement or serious injury in a crash.

Brake's support pack, 'Information and advice for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in England and Wales', is a comprehensive resource offering clear, objective information that supports people through one of the most traumatic times imaginable. It is regularly reviewed in consultation with experts, practitioners and victims' feedback.

Having has a loved one suddenly and violently killed, many people will not know where to turn. Brake's pack offers emotional comfort and practical information on matters such as arranging a funeral, the police investigation and criminal proceedings.

Louise Macrae, support service manager, said: "Brake's bereavement packs are a key part of the vital support we provide. For many, in an isolated, bewildering situation, being presented the pack is a signal that they are not alone, that someone cares, and that specialist support is available. It is often referred in feedback from families as a life-line they can turn to again and again. It is often essential in helping a family through horrendous pain and complex procedures, to find hope for the future and a 'new normal'.

"We recently welcomed improvements in the government's Victims' Code, which makes clear all bereaved crime victims have acute support needs and are entitled to appropriate support. We look forward to continuing to build on our excellent relationship with police to ensure all devastated crash victims get the help they need. We encourage FLOs and other support professionals to familiarise themselves with our updated packs, so they can aid families in accessing the specialist information and support available."

Robin Turner, family liaison officer, Cleveland Police Roads Policing Unit, said: "Brake's bereavement pack is invaluable to family liaison officers. Although we are trained to offer advice to families, we cannot be there 24/7. We have confidence that when a family has questions at 3:00am, Brake's literature gives them the guidance that's needed, when it's needed.

"As police officers, we are given guidelines that bereavement packs are issued and explained after every road death. I didn't realise how important this was until I spoke to families in such tragic circumstances. It is only then you appreciate how important the Brake packs are and how much they are relied on. It is not uncommon for the pack to become a permanent fixture on a bedside table. One family described it as 'their bible' after a road death."

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

 

Brake welcomes tougher sentencing for drivers who kill

Friday 22 May 2015

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

Brake, the road safety charity, has welcomed figures published yesterday (21 May 2015) by the Ministry of Justice showing more drivers convicted of killing are going to jail for longer.

The annual criminal justice statistics for 2014 show three in five drivers (60%) convicted of causing death in England and Wales receive immediate custodial sentences, up from just over half (54%) in 2013. The average sentence length for these drivers is four years, up from three and a half years in 2013 [1].

This change is in part due to increased use of the more serious ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge compared with the lesser ‘causing death by careless driving’ charge. Prosecutions for the former are up from 144 in 2013 to 176 in 2014, while prosecutions for the latter are down from 234 in 2013 to 205 in 2014. This reverses a decline in the use of the ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ charge that had been ongoing since 2007. Brake has previously expressed concern that the lesser charge was being inappropriately used in many serious cases where deliberate and illegal risks were taken by drivers.

A comprehensive Ministry of Justice review of driving charges and penalties is ongoing. It is hoped this will deliver further improvements in achieving justice for victims of criminal driving and their families, and in showing that risky, illegal driving will not be tolerated.

The 2014 figures also show that prosecutions for all motoring offences are up 4.5%, mainly due to a 26% increase in speeding prosecutions. Other offences, including drink driving, careless driving and using a mobile phone while driving, have seen small decreases.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said:“Brake has long campaigned for better justice for bereaved and injured road crash victims and their families, who are often left feeling betrayed by the use of inappropriately-termed charges and lenient sentences. Drivers who have killed while taking illegal risks have too often been labelled ‘careless’ in the eyes of the law, and given insultingly low sentences, when their actions can only be described as dangerous and destructive. It is encouraging that we are starting to see this trend being reversed, with more offenders being appropriately charged with causing a death by dangerous driving, and receiving tougher sentences that better reflect the consequences of their actions. There is more work to be done, but this could be the start of a culture shift towards treating driving offences with the gravity they deserve; we are hopeful that the government’s ongoing review will deliver further improvements.”

Brake campaigns for tougher penalties for drivers who kill, injure and endanger, alongside heightened enforcement, through its crackdown campaign. Tweet us @Brakecharity, #crackdown.

Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, orThe Brake Blog. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] Criminal justice system statistics quarterly: December 2014, Ministry of Justice, 2015

Campaigning charity welcomes government proposals for tougher sentences for criminal drivers

4 December 2016

Contact: news@brake.org.uk

The Ministry of Justice has today (4 December) announced a consultationon criminal driving sentencing, with a promise to jail killer drivers for life.

The move has been welcomed by road safety charity, Brake, which has long campaigned for justice for families who have lost loved ones because of criminal drivers.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “This is a vindication of our efforts, and those of victims’ families, calling for change through our Roads to Justice campaign. For too long, the justice system has treated them as second class citizens.

"We do remain concerned that the charge of ‘careless’ driving could remain. Some of the strongest feedback we have received from the families we work with is that there is nothing careless about taking someone else’s life. We also want clarification on whether the current automatic 50% discount, where convicted drivers serve only half their term in jail, will still apply for these new, proposed sentences.  

"At this stage, these are proposals, and we will be giving our full response before the February deadline. We would urge others, especially those directly affected by road deaths, to respond to the consultation.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Government funding renewed as demand for Brake’s support services for devastated road crash victims rises

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

The Ministry of Justice has renewed its funding of Brake's support services for road crash victims until March 2016. The renewed funding recognises the vital importance of these services, which have experienced an increase in demand, particularly since reviewed police guidance in October spurred increased police referrals to Brake's helpline.

Brake provides UK-wide support to people bereaved and seriously injured by road crashes, with funding from the Ministry of Justice in England and Wales, Scottish Government in Scotland, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and five corporate sponsors. Brake works closely with police forces and other practitioners, aiming to ensure support is available and proactively offered to all bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims.

Brake's services include a professionally-delivered helpline (0845 603 8572) and acclaimed support packs, both of which provide emotional comfort, information on wide-ranging practical matters and criminal justice system procedures, and signposting to further specialist support. The services have been developed and refined in consultation with experts and practitioners over many years to ensure they meet the acute and wide-ranging needs of those whose lives are turned upside down by road death or injury.

Funding from the Ministry of Justice's Victim and Witness General Fund allows Brake to continue providing its helpline service and support packs for bereaved victims of road crime in England and Wales. Additional support from long-running helpline sponsors Irwin Mitchell, Pannone, Lyons Davidson, Fentons, plus Digby Brown in Scotland, means the services can be offered indiscriminately to all bereaved and injured road crash victims, regardless of whether or not a crime has taken place.

Brake's packs have been provided to bereaved families automatically by police following all road deaths for more than a decade. Revised police guidance published in 2013 (Road policing APP 3.1) recommends police should make families aware of Brake's helpline. The revised guidance and the government's new Victims' Code, which says bereaved victims of road crime should be referred to specialist support, have spurred a 10% increase in helpline calls in the first half of 2014, up to almost 900 over the six month period. The helpline supports victims and practitioners working with them, relating to about 370 cases of road death and 85 cases of serious injury each year.

Practitioners can refer to Brake's helpline by: providing details to families and explaining what the helpline can offer; providing a victim's details to the helpline, with their permission, for the helpline to call them at a suitable time; and/or contacting the helpline directly for advice on helping a family. They can also refer to Brake's support literature online.

Brake also recently welcomed an extension of funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support UK nationals bereaved by a road crash abroad through its helpline. This funding allows the continuation for a further six months of a service helping families cope with the doubly overwhelming impact of a sudden and violent bereavement in a foreign country, with the additional complications this entails.

Louise Macrae, support service manager, said: "Brake's support services are invaluable to people who have suffered the trauma of a sudden and violent road crash bereavement or serious injury. These events can leave people in an isolated, bewildering situation, for which specialist, professional support is an essential lifeline for dealing with both emotions and practicalities. Our support packs and helpline, delivered in partnership with police and other practitioners, provide critical, complementary emotional support and practical information and assistance, to an increasing number of families. Thanks to ongoing government funding and our sponsors, we can continue to work with police and other partners to offer these essential specialist services to any bereaved or seriously injured road crash victim in need of comfort, help and guidance."

Explore Brake's support services at www.brake.org.uk/support. Brake's helpline for bereaved and injured road crash victims can be reached on 0845 603 8570. Tweet us: @Brakecharity.

Brake
Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, a Fleet Safety Forum, practitioner services, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Note to Editors (from the Ministry of Justice)
The Government's response to the consultation 'Getting it Right for Victims & Witnesses' acknowledged that more can be done to support victims of road traffic crime who meet the criteria for prioritisation but believed that support for victims of road traffic crime would best be commissioned locally.

In addition to the funding to Brake to support families bereaved by road traffic crime the MoJ intends to engage Police and Crime Commissioners to look at what more can be done to help support victims of road crime including what should / can be done at national level.

Meeting minutes: Ministry of Justice Victims and Witnesses Unit

8 September 2011

Present:

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake (JT)
Richard Mason,Deputy Director, Victims and Witnesses, Ministry of Justice (RM)
Alpa Panchal,Victims and Witnesses (AP)

JT provided a summary of Brake’s support services for bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims, which are part-funded by the MoJ:
- Brake’s literature, which offers practical and procedural information as well as emotional comfort. It includes packs for families bereaved by road death handed to families by police immediately following all fatal crashes (fully funded by MoJ), plus a range of specialist literature, including books for bereaved children and serious injury victims (not MoJ funded);
- Brake’s helpline, part-funded by MoJ, which provides practical and procedural information, ‘listening-ear’ emotional support, advocacy, phone contact with other victims, referral to services provided by others (such as peer support sessions), and which can deploy locally operating support workers (not employed by Brake but who sign our code of conduct)
- Brake’s professional services sharing best practice, which includes seminars on child bereavement and seminars and training for traffic FLOs.

JT explained how Brake’s helpline is being significantly developed using MoJ funding, in terms of capacity and the range and quality of support it provides. Brake is working with ACPO to encourage police FLOs to refer to the helpline, aiming to achieve a situation where all FLOs explain the helpline and the support it provides at the same time as providing the literature – so all bereaved crash victims are automatically offered this support.

JT explained Brake is keen to hear the results of the evaluation currently underway of Victim Support’s Homicide Service, including its success in benefitting victims and costs per bereaved family. Brake notes that Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey’s report recommends that victims of culpable road death receive support that is on a par with the Homicide Service, i.e. face-to-face, professionally provided support, funded by government. Brake is therefore keen to apply lessons from the Homicide Service to its work considering how the needs of bereaved road crash victims may be comprehensively met in the future.

RM confirmed that the Homicide Service evaluation is likely to be published in November.

JT stated that Brake wholeheartedly welcomed Louise Casey’s recommendation that the gap in support for culpable road death victims be filled, and recognition that these victims suffer similarly to homicide victims.

JT outlined the difficulties created for support providers by the distinction between culpable and non-culpable road death victims, and the fact that only support for the former group can be funded by the MoJ. JT pointed out that all road death victims are considered victims of culpable road death at the start of their bereavement (since all fatal road crashes are followed by police investigation, with a presumption that a crime has occurred until shown otherwise). Although in many cases there will be a criminal prosecution (about 500 of which are successful each year), there will be many more cases (number unknown) where criminal activity has occurred yet no criminal prosecution will take place due to the person who has committed the crime being killed as a result. In other cases, where no criminal activity has occurred, it remains the case that the family will suffer terribly due to a sudden, violent, man-made death, in these cases resulting from a failure of government in providing a safe road network. Brake therefore believes that all bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims should be able to access government-funded support. But currently these latter two groups (where a crime was committed by the person killed, and where no crime was committed) are not catered for in government funding, meaning support providers could be put in a position of having to turn away victims at the point where it is established no criminal proceedings will take place – regardless of their extreme distress and support needs. Brake believes this must be addressed in the forthcoming victims strategy.

RM confirmed that there will be a full consultation on the new victims strategy towards the end of this year.

JT explained that Brake continues to be unable to establish the extent to which Victim Support is engaged in supporting road crash victims.

JT queried how the extra £500k funding for support for victims of crime (announced by Ken Clarke in July) is being allocated. AP explained that most if not all of this funding is being allocated to supporting homicide victims, including appointing five new case workers.

JT outlined some key areas of support work in relation to road crash victims that would benefit from government funding, should any be available. This includes Brake’s work in supporting bereaved children, which includes a highly acclaimed and thoroughly researched book for children and their carers. It would also be beneficial to commission research into the needs of bereaved road crash victims and how these are best met. This would be invaluable in helping us to understand how we can best (and most cost-effectively) plug the support gap. 

Ministry of Justice policy meeting, 17 January 2008

Cathy Keeler, Brake’s Head of Campaigns, met Victims Minister Maria Eagle MP on 17 January 2008.

Issues discussed included:

The BrakeCare guide for bereaved families and friends following death on the road in England and Wales - Brake had to lobby hard for funding to be made available for a guide to be funded by the Government in 2008. It then had to go through a time-consuming tendering process in order to receive the funding.

Cathy asked for reassurance that this process would not need to be repeated every year and that the Government was already earmarking funds to support production and distribution of the guide in 2009 and beyond.

The minister said she could not guarantee that funding would be available but confirmed that the Victims’ Unit were looking for a sustainable funding stream for the guide.

Funding for other services for people bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes - Cathy pointed out that the BrakeCare bereavement guide provided only a basic source of support for people bereaved in road crashes and that funding was desperately needed for other services, including services for people seriously injured in road crashes. In 2001, when the Victims’ Fund was launched, the then Home Secretary promised that it would be made available to fund these types of services.

The minister said that that the Government still planned to open up the Victims’ Fund to fund services for road crash victims, but that it was not yet able to do so because the arrangements for collecting the victims surcharge, to feed into the fund, had not been finalised. She hoped that this might be possible in 2009-10.

Cathy raised the need for police Family Liaison Officers to be available for families following every road death, which does not happen at present. In some forces, Family Liaison Officers are only assigned when a certain type of prosecution is likely following a death on the road. In others, all families are supported following a death on the road and some families are supported following a serious injury in a road crash as well. The minister said this was a matter for the Home Office and not the Ministry of Justice.

One year on and still no sign of tougher sentences for killer drivers

News from Brake
Monday 15 October 2018
news@brake.org.uk
 
Road safety campaigners across the country remain perplexed by the Government’s refusal to deliver justice for the victims and bereaved families of road crashes. Exactly one year on from the announcement of tougher sentences for drivers who kill and seriously injure [1], the Government has failed to bring forward legislation and Brake, the road safety charity, and families of road crash victims across the UK are still waiting for justice.
 
On 15 October 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for killer drivers to face life behind bars, following successful campaigning from Brake on behalf of road crash victims. Life sentences are to be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving or cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.
 
One year on from the announcement, and despite repeated questioning in the House of Commons by Bradford South MP Judith Cummins – Brake’s Parliamentarian of the Year and a vocal campaigner on tackling dangerous driving [2] - the Justice Minister has been unable to say when the tougher sentences would be implemented [3], stating that they would be incorporated with the findings of government’s review of cycle safety [4], a process with no end in sight and one which is taking a fundamentally flawed approach to road justice reform [5].
 
Commenting on the delay in implementation, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said:
 
“It is completely unacceptable that these new tougher sentences have not yet been implemented. The Government needs to focus its attention on the issues which matter most to road safety - delivering justice for road crash victims and keeping dangerous drivers off our roads. The intentions behind the ongoing cycling offences review are sound but the prioritisation of this issue ahead of dangerous drivers is illogical and simply putting the cart before the horse.”
 
“Drivers who kill or seriously injure all too often receive lenient sentences. By delaying the introduction of new tougher sentences, the Government is causing further suffering to families who have lost loved ones in road crashes. The Government must implement these tougher sentences as first priority, delivering on their promise to road crash victims, and then initiate a review of the flawed legal framework for road justice.”
 
[ENDS]
 
Notes to editors:
[3] Ministry of Justice response to Written Question from Judith Cummins MP, Bradford South.
Dangerous Driving: Sentencing, Commons, 137592: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the press release entitled Life sentences for killer drivers, published by his Department on 15 October 2017, what progress he has made on (a) implementing an increase to the maximum penalty for the offences of causing death by (i) dangerous driving and (ii) careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs to life imprisonment and (b) creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
Answered by: Rory Stewart MP, Justice Minister, on 27 April 2018
The government is committed to making sure that the courts have sufficient powers to deal with driving offences appropriately and proportionately. We will bring forward proposals for changes in the law as soon as parliamentary time allows. These proposals will take account of, and incorporate, all of government’s proposals for safer roads, including those arising from the Department of Transport’s review of cycle safety.
 
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
 
We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Victim support

Key facts

  • In 2014, 1.25 million people were killed and 20-30 million injured globally in a road crash, it is not known how many of these were as a result of criminal driving; [1]
  • An average of five people are killed on UK roads every day; and over 60 people are seriously injured in a road crash in the UK every day; [2]
  • Globally, the police investigate almost three times more road deaths than homicides [3];
  • Brake receives £109,000 annually from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to provide support to bereaved road crash victims in England and Wales. Whilst the MoJ grants funding to PCCs who may choose to use it to support road crash victims, no other funding earmarked specifically for road crash victims is provided by the MoJ.
  • In 2014 the Ministry of Justice announced that the National Homicide Service would receive £2.75 million annually until 2017 to provide services to victims of homicide and manslaughter, this does not include road crash victims;
  • £35.71 million of the £83.41 million awarded by the Ministry of Justice core department in grants (2014-15) went to Victim Support , specifically to fund the National Homicide Service, Court Based Victim Service and the Core Victim Service in England and Wales [5];
  • The Ministry of Justice assigned £24 million to Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales between 2014-15 to fund victim support services[6];

Introduction

Every day, five families in the UK must face the unbearable news that their loved ones will never come home because they have been killed in a road crash, while a further 60 families will be left to come to terms with the often life-altering impact of a serious injury received in a road crash.

Sudden, violent and often resulting from criminal behaviour, the impact of road crashes on the bereaved and injured, both immediately and longer-term, can be devastating. Reactions in grief and loss are impossible to predict but it is vital that the government takes a careful and nuanced approach to road crash victims: keeping them aware, informed and supported through a time of great personal trauma.

When considering the support given to the victims of road crashes, we must consider:

  • The mind-set of the victim;
  • Who is responsible for keeping them informed and updated?
  • What structures are in place to give a voice to road crash victims?
  • What improvements can be made to the current system?

Brake aims to answer these questions in the text below.

Learn more about Brake’s support services for road crash victims.

Victim psychology

Globally, an average of 1.25 million people are killed and between 20-30 million injured on the roads, yet in spite of this frequency it is impossible to predict how victims will react in the aftermath of a road crash. While common reactions include anger, shock, numbness, guilt and fear; the unexpected and often violent nature of road crashes affect people differently based upon their circumstances and experiences. [7]

The trauma resulting from loss and injury in a road crash can have a dramatic effect upon the emotional, physical, social and financial well-being of the victims. They can feel isolated and stigmatised, family dynamics can be disrupted and mental health can be impaired, causing greater problems in the long-run. In some cases, more complex problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop as a result of these influences. [8]

In the aftermath of the road crash, how the victims are treated is central to their mental well-being. Evidence reveals that victims frequently perceive themselves has having been treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, they feel uninformed, isolated and lost within the system. This has been described by some professionals as a form of ‘secondary victimisation’ as it leaves those who are already fragile feeling as though they have been swept aside by procedural justice. [9]  

Studies have shown, however, that early interventions, offering support in an informative and proactive manner, are a way of helping individuals and families recognise the course of reactions and expectations following exposure to trauma and traumatic bereavement. [10]

Studies have recommended interventions that:

  • Treat the trauma reaction as normal, and within context, rather than as a medical problem to be fixed; and
  • Teach the bereaved person to understand and deal with their reaction through information, guidance and support. [11]

Not all road crash victims want or require support services, some prefer to rely on their own informal support networks. Often, what is important is that clear and coherent information is readily available for them to access. As this provides bereaved families with the ability to make their own informed choices about what is best for them and regain their autonomy.

This is the service that the Brake helpline aims to deliver, giving structured support designed to help people work through their experiences and come to terms with what has happened, however long that may take.

Government support

Ministerial responsibility

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is responsible for the welfare and support for victims of crime within the UK. This places many road crash victims, both bereaved and injured, within their mandate due to the frequency of collisions resulting from law-breaking driving. Unfortunately, this division of road crash victims between those who are victims of crime and those who are not, has led to uneven distribution of the services available to the bereaved and injured. [12]

The police currently provide all victims of fatal road crashes with a copy of the Brake Bereavement pack. Funded by the MoJ, this literature is designed to support those affected by road deaths; giving clear, accurate information and relevant contact details for services available to road crash victims. However, this the only ministry-funded support that those who are not classed as being ‘victims of crime’ will receive. [13]

Meanwhile, Scotland’s bereavement pack is currently funded by the Scottish government and in Northern Ireland the pack is funded by the Northern Irish police force (PSNI) not the government. Neither of these countries provide financial support to the Brake helpline.

Policy

Currently, the MoJ is pursuing a strategy aimed at “putting the victim first” in the criminal justice system. This policy aims to place the victim’s needs at the heart of the criminal process by making it more accessible and responsive for those who have experienced loss due to criminal actions and for whom this may be their first experience of the legal system. [14]

Subsequently, the MoJ updated its definition of ‘victim of crime’ to include all victims of road crashes involving illegal behaviour, and released its updated Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. The Code states, that in terms of road crashes:

 “If a family is bereaved following a road traffic collision where the police are investigating whether a criminal offence has been committed, a family spokesperson may be nominated.” [15]

This ‘spokesperson’ is the designated contact point for the police and other victim support services to keep families informed and updated on the relevant legal developments and court proceedings.

Although this policy was designed to help victims with little understanding of legal procedures, an inspection by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons stated that:

“Taking all these factors into account, we found that the overall standard of communications by the CPS with the bereaved family was poor in 75% of cases. There was no evidence of any specific monitoring by managers of the quality of communications or whether there had been compliance with the guidance.” [16]

This could be seen as evidence that the criminal justice system is not fulfilling its role to help victims navigate and understand Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) procedures. Furthermore, road crash victims have yet to be represented on the MoJ’s Victim’s Panel and neither the DfT nor the MoJ has made an effort to report the number of people killed or injured by law-breaking drivers. [17]

Political neglect combined with a social culture that is inclined to view road crashes as ‘an accident’ has left many affected by road crashes feeling like second-class victims. The level of charges and sentences to those convicted of causing death behind the wheel is a particular source of distress among families who have lost a loved one.

Drivers who kill, harm and endanger are often let off with grossly inadequate penalties, in some cases for inappropriately-termed charges, like ‘causing death by careless driving’. This often causes terrible insult and upset to bereaved and injured victims, leaving many feeling betrayed by our justice system as they are faced with a reality that only three in five people convicted of killing someone while driving are jailed, with an average sentence length of under four years. [18]

As a result, many victims are left facing the reality that Brake is now calling on the government to immediately review guidelines for both charging and sentencing criminal drivers.

Learn more: Read our fact pages on death and injury charges, the prosecution process and road policing in the UK.

Take action: Get involved with our Roads to Justice Campaign

Funding

In 2014, the MoJ awarded £35.71 million of its core department grants to victim support services; funding the National Homicide Service, the Court Based Victim Service and the Core Victim Service. Unfortunately, families bereaved by law-breaking drivers do not qualify as ‘homicide bereaved’, meaning they are unable to access the support provided by the Homicide Service to families bereaved by murder or manslaughter. [19]

In 2015 there were over two times the number of road deaths [20] than homicides [21] that took place in the UK. Yet the National Homicide Service will receive annual MoJ funding of £2.75 million (2015-2017). This is 25 times the amount of direct funding the MoJ grants to road crash victim support on an annual basis through Brake’s victim support services.

Furthermore, although the Victim’s Surcharge income rose to £52.9 million in 2014-15 (from £39.3 million in 2012-13), as the MoJ sought to ensure that criminals, not taxpayers, were contributing more to victim support services; funding for road crash victims has not increased [22]. The MoJ has instead chosen to freeze its national road crash support funding in 2013, leaving additional services reliant on funding from other departments or from the Police and Crime Commissioners [23].

Currently, the MoJ does not provide direct funding for those seriously injured in road crashes, though PCC are free to provide support for these victims should they choose to do so.

Support structures

Victims’ Commissioner

In 2013, Baroness Newlove was appointed to the post of Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales with the objective of promoting the interests of victims to the government and the wider public; encouraging best practice in victim support and keeping the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime under constant review. [24]

In her Annual Report 2013-14, Baroness Newlove supported a wider definition of ‘victims of crime’, however, she failed to include the vast majority of those injured by law-breaking drivers. Since then the MoJ has updated its understanding of ‘victim of crime’ to include those affected by law-breaking drivers. [25]

In 2016 the Victim Commissioner’s office released ‘What works in supporting victims of crime’, targeted at pulling together a comprehensive review of how best to respond to those affected by crime. Yet, in spite of its goals, the document failed to refer to any research into the needs of road crash victims, and didn’t even include this category of crimes in its search terms, despite the inclusion of ‘burglary’, ‘theft’, ‘vandalism’ and other crimes that do not involve fatalities; another example of the ‘invisibility’ of road crash victims compared to victims of other, and less serious crimes.

Police and Crime Commissioners

The Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are locally elected representatives charged with overseeing how crime is tackled within a police force region, with the aim of cutting crime and ensuring the police are an effective force. They are there to give a voice to the public at the highest level within the police and hold forces to account.

In 2013, the MoJ released the Victims’ Services Commissioning Framework which highlighted the importance of PCCs to the successful development of victim support services, and stated that maintaining a “collaborative approach to identifying outcomes” was vital. [26]

The 40 PCCs have since adopted the ‘local commissioning model’, shifting victim support responsibilities from the direct control of the MoJ to the PCCs’ remit. As a result in 2014-15, the MoJ assigned £24 million to PCC funding, ring-fenced for victim support. However, currently only a few of the PCCs are choosing to pursue specialist support services for road crash victims. [27]

Family liaison officers

Family liaison officers (FLOs) are police officers trained to work with the bereaved families to secure their confidence and trust, provide support, distribute information about the investigation and support agencies and to gather evidence relating to the investigation. It is standard operating procedure for the FLOs to hand out copies of the Brake bereavement pack to all victims affected by a fatal road crash and, in accordance with police protocol, they are obliged to highlight the Brake helpline.

Globally, the police investigate more road deaths than homicides, however a recent study of police road crash investigation found that many officers did not value road crash investigation, yet a recent inspection of UK road traffic incident investigation by the HMIC revealed a need for prioritisation by police. The report highlighted the good work carried out by the FLOs but noted that the role was not a “full-time” role nor as “valued” by many other members of the police force. [28]

Service providers

In England and Wales the government and some PCCs continue to fund specialist third-sector organisations to provide victim support services to those affected by road crashes. The national service, provided by Brake, offers crucial emotional support, information, connections to local specialist support (e.g. group support and counselling) and advocacy. PCC-funded support services for road crash victims varies from region to region, and is unavailable in many areas of the country.

Organisations which provide support to injured and bereaved victims include:

  • Brake: Provides support to those who have been injured or bereaved through a national helpline part-funded by the MoJ and online resources available on the Brake website. Brake provides the only government-funded support automatically provided to grieving road crash victims in the form of our bereavement packs.
  • Roadpeace: Provides support through a national helpline for road crash victims and networking with other victims through support programmes; practical information guides on post-crash legal procedures and advocacy and casework support.
  • SCARD (Support and care after road death and injury): Provides emotional and practical support to those bereaved, injured or affected by a road crash. It offers a helpline staffed by volunteers; literature on practical issues and access to free legal advice and professional counselling.
  • Learn + Live: Work to reduce deaths and injuries among young drivers and passengers, it also offers advice and support for families who have lost a young person where illegal, drink or drug driving was not involved.
  • The Samaritans: Operates a 24-hour helpline for anyone in need.

 

Additional resources

Victim’s Information Service: A nationwide service to help victims find local support after a crime takes place. The online service is designed to bring together information on what will happen following a crime and how to complain if anything goes wrong. This resource has received criticism for containing minimal information for families bereaved by crashes, and none for those injured, although information on support services for those injured or intimidated by other crime is provided. [29]

Victim Contact Scheme: Keeps victims and their close relatives aware of what is happening with the offender convicted during their case. This includes updating the victims on any changes to their sentence (i.e. parole for good behaviour) and informing them how and when they will be released.

However, none of these additional services are designed to specifically support those bereaved and injured during road crashes. Currently, Brake’s bereavement packs are the only government-funded support automatically provided to bereaved road crash victims.

Additional links

Roads to Justice
Brake’s helpline for road crash victims
Brake’s support guides for road crash victims
Sudden: supporting people after sudden death
Code of Practice for Victims (2015)
Victim Information Service
Victims’ Commissioner
European Federation of Road Traffic Victims (FEVR)


End notes

[1] WHO, Global status report on road safety, 2015
[2] DfT, Reported road casualties GB: Main results 2015, 2016
[3] European Federation of Road Crash Victims (FEVR)
[4] MoJ, Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15, 2015
[5] MoJ, Annual report and accounts 2014-15, 2015
[6] MoJ, Ministry of Justice funding awarded to Police Crime Commissioners for the commission and provision of victim support services in 2014/15, 2014
[7] FEVR, Justice and the post-crash response in the UN Decade of Action in road safety, 2015
[8] Wedlock, E & Tapley, J., What works in supporting victims of crime: a rapid evidence assessment, 2016
[9] Wedlock, E & Tapley, J., What works in supporting victims of crime: a rapid evidence assessment, 2016
[10] Dyregrov, A.; Early Interventions: a family perspective; 2001; Advances in Mind-Body Medicine; Vol.17, 160-196.
[11] Dyregrov, A.; Early Interventions: a family perspective; 2001; Advances in Mind-Body Medicine; Vol.17, 160-196.
[12] FEVR, Justice and the post-crash response in the UN Decade of Action in road safety, 2015
[13] FEVR, Justice and the post-crash response in the UN Decade of Action in road safety, 2015
[14] MoJ, Our Commitment to Victims, 2014
[15] MoJ, Code of practice for victims of crime, 2013
[16] HMIC & HMCPSI; Joint inspection of the investigation and prosecution of fatal road traffic incidents; 2015
[17] RoadPeace, The discrimination of road crash victims in England and Wales: update, 2016
[18] RoadPeace, The discrimination of road crash victims in England and Wales: update, 2016
[19] Victims’ Commissioner, Annual Report 2013-14, 2014
[20] DfT, Reported road casualties GB: Main results 2015, 2016
[21] Office of National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2016, 2016
[22] MoJ, Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15, 2015
[23] MoJ, Ministry of Justice funding awarded to Police Crime Commissioners for the commission and provision of victim support services in 2014/15, 2014
[24] MoJ, Code of practice for victims of crime, 2013
[25] Victims’ Commissioner website
[26] MoJ, Victims’ Services Commissioning Framework, 2013
[27] MoJ, Ministry of Justice funding awarded to Police Crime Commissioners for the commission and provision of victim support services in 2014/15, 2014
[28] HMIC & HMCPSI; Joint inspection of the investigation and prosecution of fatal road traffic incidents; 2015
[29] RoadPeace, The discrimination of road crash victims in England and Wales: update, 2016


Last updated: November 2016

Victims families' anger at delayed introduction of tougher sentences for killer drivers

News from Brake
Friday 15 June 2018
 
  • Eight months on from announced changes, road crash victims demand action now
  • Delay to policy implementation denying families justice – Derek Raynor’s killer, convicted of causing death by dangerous driving in May 2018, will likely serve just half of 6-year sentence rather than a maximum of life
  • Brake Parliamentarian of the Year, Judith Cummins MP, adds her voice to calls for action
 
Road safety campaigners have urged the Government to introduce announced changes to sentencing for killer drivers, as families across the UK await justice. Eight months on from the Government’s announcement of tougher sentences for drivers who kill and seriously injure [1], Brake, the road safety charity, and families of road crash victims across the UK are still waiting for changes to the law to deliver justice.
 
On 15 October 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced plans for killer drivers to face life behind bars, following successful campaigning from Brake on behalf of road crash victims. Life sentences are to be introduced for those who cause death by dangerous driving or cause death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, and a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving will be created.
 
Eight months on from the announcement, and despite repeated questioning in the House of Commons by Bradford South MP Judith Cummins – Brake’s Parliamentarian of the Year and a vocal campaigner on tackling dangerous driving [2] - the Justice Minister has been unable to say when the tougher sentences would be implemented [3].
 
The Government’s eight months of inaction has angered the families of road crash victims who are calling for the changes to be implemented now. Derek Raynor, 81, was tragically killed when using a pedestrian crossing in Hammersmith on 4 March 2017. The driver had been travelling double the 30mph speed limit when he ran a red light and struck Mr Raynor. The driver pleaded guilty to causing Mr Raynor’s death by dangerous driving but was sentenced to just six years and four months in prison. Sentencing the case in May 2018, seven months after the Government announcement but with its implementation still on hold, Judge Nicholas Cooke QC stated, “If I had unfettered discretion, you may be facing rather longer in custody.”
 
Timothy Coaker, nephew to Mr Raynor, is demanding the Government introduce the new laws now. Mr Coaker said:
“Derek was tragically taken from us by the very definition of a dangerous driver; a repeat offender who showed no remorse for his actions. Yet, Derek’s killer will serve just three years behind bars whilst Derek is gone forever.
 
The Government’s delay in implementing tougher penalties has denied my family the justice that we need and that Derek deserves. No doubt countless other families across the UK are suffering the same heartache. The Government has a duty to families like mine to ensure that justice is delivered by bringing in these new laws now, not several months or years down the line. There can be no excuse.”
 
Commenting on the delay in implementation, Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake, said:
“It is completely unacceptable that these new tougher sentences have not yet been implemented. There is absolutely no reason why it should take so long to deliver the justice that families, like Derek Raynor’s, deserve.
 
Drivers who kill or seriously injure all too often receive lenient sentences. By delaying the introduction of new tougher sentences, the Government is causing further suffering to families who have lost loved ones in road crashes. The Government must implement these tougher sentences now.”
 
Adding her voice to calls for the Government to implement tougher sentences now, Judith Cummins MP said:
 “My heart goes out to Mr Raynor’s family. They deserve better than a Government which is dragging its feet over much needed reforms to our criminal justice system.
 
I have continuously campaigned for tougher sentences to help crack down on dangerous driving in my constituency and across the country. But despite repeated questions in parliament, I am yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to the when these vital changes will be brought forward.
 
It has taken far too long already. The Government’s inaction is piling further misery on to victim’s families such as Mr Raynor’s and far too many others - they must act now.”
 
 
[ENDS]
 
Notes to editors:
 
Read Judith Cummins MP’s Brake blog on this issue here.
[3] Ministry of Justice response to Written Question from Judith Cummins MP, Bradford South.
Dangerous Driving: Sentencing, Commons, 137592
 
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the press release entitled Life sentences for killer drivers, published by his Department on 15 October 2017, what progress he has made on (a) implementing an increase to the maximum penalty for the offences of causing death by (i) dangerous driving and (ii) careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs to life imprisonment and (b) creating a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
 
Answered by: Rory Stewart MP, Justice Minister, on 27 April 2018
The government is committed to making sure that the courts have sufficient powers to deal with driving offences appropriately and proportionately.
 
We will bring forward proposals for changes in the law as soon as parliamentary time allows. These proposals will take account of, and incorporate, all of government’s proposals for safer roads, including those arising from the Department of Transport’s review of cycle safety.
About Brake
Brake is a national road safety and sustainable transport charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies.
We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.