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.

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