An important part of the Road Safety Act 2006 comes into force on Monday 18 August 2008. From that date a new offence of “causing death by careless driving” will be available to prosecuters accross the United Kingdom.
Currently as the Law stands if a person dies as the result of careless driving that death cannot be taken into consideration when determining the charge or at sentencing. So, if the crown were unable to prove the driving was of a sufficiently poor quality so as to be classed as dangerous, then the driver would not be facing a possible custodial sentence.
With the fothcoming change in the law both the crown and judges can take into consideration a death caused by careless driving. In England, the sentencing guidelines tell magistrates to impose a sentence of between one and three years in custody in most cases. However, in Scotland there are no such “guidelines” and as such the sentence will be open to the courts. We will no doubt get some guidance from the High Court of Justiciary regarding how this offence should be sentenced once either the Crown or a convicted person appeals to the High Court over the sentence imposed.
There is worry among some people that as careless driving is easier to prove than dangerous driving, COPFS will choose to charge at the lower level when a charge of causing death by dangerous driving is more appropriate. However, this change in the law is being overwhelmingly welcomed by road safety campaigners. For too long people have been escaping justice because of a “scandalous” legal loophole.