Karl Turner, Kingston Upon Hull East MP, has won Brake and Direct Line's Road Safety Parliamentarian of the Month Award for his successful campaign for justice for families who experience the devastation of a serious injury at the hands of a dangerous driver.
Currently, there is no charge that specifically recognises the causing of serious injury while driving. Those who inflict serious injury through reckless and irresponsible behaviour may only be charged with 'dangerous driving', which carries a maximum of two years in jail, or 'careless driving', which carries a maximum penalty of a fine and disqualification. Read Brake's campaign for justice for seriously injured victims of dangerous driving.
Before Karl entered Parliament, he worked as a criminal barrister on dangerous driving cases. He was struck by the inadequacy of sentencing for dangerous drivers who have inflicted serious injury.
When he was elected in 2010, Karl was approached by the father of constituent Katie Harper. Katie and her mother were hit by an overtaking vehicle. Katie, 23, suffered horrendous injury meaning she is unlikely to ever walk again and had to spend months in hospital, including multiple breaks to her pelvis, two broken arms, facial injury and serious nerve damage to her leg. Her mother was left with permanent injuries to her hands. Her father has had to retire early to provide round the clock care to his family. Read more about the case.
Karl was moved to use his influence to rectify the indecent lack of justice for families who have been affected by serious injury caused by dangerous drivers. Read about Karl's campaign.
Karl met with Brake in May 2011 to discuss action he could take. He took advice from Judge Mettyear, who said he believed every judge would support action on the issue. He agreed it is an anomaly that dangerous driving causing serious injury carries a maximum sentence of two years, whereas causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum of 14 years. Karl also met with Chief Constable Tim Hollis and then Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey who gave their support.
On 17 May 2011 Karl presented a Private Member's Bill to Parliament, calling for an increase in the maximum sentence for conviction of dangerous driving from two years to seven to better reflect the impact on the families of victims.
On 22 June Karl led a debate in Parliament on sentencing for dangerous drivers, to raise awareness. He also Karl tabled an Early Day Motion, calling on fellow MPs to support the campaign. On 6 July, he asked a question to David Cameron, asking for support to improve justice for seriously injured victims of dangerous drivers. Mr Cameron agreed it was an issue that needs to be addressed.
Karl then met with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Victims Minister Crispin Blunt. During the meeting Ken Clarke agreed there was an anomaly in the law and he would seek to address this.
Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: "Brake welcomes this new offence, which will help provide justice to families whose lives have been ripped apart by dangerous drivers. As a charity that supports bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims, we hear first-hand about the pain and suffering they experience, and repeatedly see these families being grossly let down by the justice system, which only adds to their trauma. We congratulate Karl for his success in playing a key role in bringing about this vital change in the law."
Karl Turner MP said: "I am delighted to have won Brake and Direct Line's Parliamentarian of the Month. I am pleased that the government have seen sense and listened to calls for an increase to the sentence for dangerous driving. This offence can destroy lives leaving victims brain damaged, paralysed and sometimes with amputations. The government should be putting the victim at the heart of our judicial system and this change in the dangerous driving law goes someway to doing that."