3 March 2014
Brake, the road safety charity
Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for campaigning in parliament to reform the law on dangerous driving.
Chris launched his campaign in response to the tragic deaths of two of his constituents, Ross and Clare Simons, at the hands of a dangerous driver in January 2013.
Ross and Clare were knocked off their tandem bike and left for dead by Nicholas Lovell, who was banned from driving at the time. He had 11 previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified.
Lovell was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. The judge, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, imposed a sentence of 10 years and six months, the maximum the charge would allow after Lovell had pleaded guilty, as well as a life-time driving ban. However, Lovell could be out of jail in as little as six years.
Ross and Clare's families were shocked that Lovell could be released so soon after killing their loved ones. After the trial, Chris told them he would do everything in his power to secure better justice for bereaved families. Together with Ross and Clare's families, he launched a campaign to ensure disqualified drivers who kill are given much stronger sentences.
As part of the campaign, Chris and the families handed in the 'Justice 4 Ross and Clare' petition to 10 Downing Street, with over 15,000 signatures from supporters all over the country.
On 27 January 2014, Chris secured a backbench debate on dangerous driving, which was strongly attended by MPs from all parties. The debate heard a range of MPs relay the harrowing and tragic cases of their own constituents who had been killed by reckless law-breaking drivers. They spoke of family anguish and the devastation that senseless road deaths wreak on communities.
Chris's debate illustrated the depth of all-party support for changes in the law. Other MPs called for removing the distinction between 'causing death by careless driving' and 'causing death by dangerous driving' to stop drivers who kill and injure being let off on a lesser charge with much lower penalties, as well as tougher sentences for repeat offenders and for drivers who kill or injure.
Chris hopes to secure another meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, to get an update on the government's plans and intentions for possible future legislation. Chris is also hopeful that the Sentencing Council will review the points raised in the backbench debate.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "We are very glad that Chris has brought this vitally important issue to the fore. Every day on our roads risky, illegal drivers end lives senselessly, inflict terrible injuries, and cause devastation to families, friends and communities. Every MP who spoke in the dangerous driving debate had stories of tragedies in their constituency where victim families were left feeling betrayed by our justice system. It is critical that sentences for these crimes properly reflect the seriousness of the devastation they cause, to ensure justice for families and to deter risky, illegal driving."
Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, said: "I'm extremely humbled to receive this award, but only wish that it didn't have to be in the tragic circumstances of Ross and Clare's deaths. Both families of the couple have worked so hard to ensure that we have raised the campaign for tougher sentences for serial dangerous drivers who are already disqualified from driving to a national level. We will be continuing the campaign to change the law on dangerous driving - as the debate in Parliament showed, this is something that MPs from all parties want to see happen, and now is the time for change."
Read about Brake's Crackdown campaign for tougher penalties for drivers who kill and injure.
Notes for editors
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.
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.
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Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com.