TOUGH new sentencing powers that pave the way for killer drivers to face up to life imprisonment have, understandably, been welcomed by those bereaved families mourning loved ones killed by the recklessness of others.
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As The Yorkshire Post’s Drive For Justice campaign, run in partnership with sister titles, demonstrated so vividly, these are traumatised families suffering a life sentence of their own and, on too many occasions, have been betrayed by the leniency of the courts.
Yet, while Justice Minister Dominic Raab’s pronouncement will find favour with law-abiding and safety-conscious drivers who don’t want innocent lives put at risk by those selfish motorists who still get behind the wheel while under the influence of drink or drugs, or continue to use their mobile phone while at the controls of their vehicle, the politician needs to assert himself in other ways.
Given the misgivings of grieving families, and others, stem from the reluctance of courts to use existing sentencing powers at their disposal – not a single person has been handed the maximum 14-year sentence for death by dangerous driving since the new law came into force in 2004 – what will the Minister do if judges continue to show discretion in applying the law of the land rather than being influenced by public and political opinion?
And then there’s the legal differentiation between careless and dangerous driving. By its very nature, all acts of carelessness are dangerous – a momentary lapse in concentration can be fatal – and there needs to be greater enforcement of those minor motoring transgressions before the actions of the drivers concerned, particularly the newly-qualified, become more reckless. While cameras play a role, the reduction in police patrols is not helping to make Yorkshire and Britain’s roads safer for all. Though Mr Raab’s new guidelines are important, the challenge now is full enforcement of the Highway Code in order to reduce the likelihood of terrible tragedies occurring in the future.