YP Comment: Killer drivers could face life...but will judges use new sentencing powers?

BY raising the prospect of life imprisonment for reckless motorists convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, the Government is, at the very least, admitting that existing sentencing protocols do not best serve the public interest and, specifically, those grieving families mourning the loss of irreplaceable loved ones.

Dangerous drivers face the prospect of life sentences.

Though the Ministry of Justice’s review is welcome after The Yorkshire Post, and others, highlighted the leniency of the courts, it comes with a caveat.

Even though drink-drivers and other maniac motorists convicted of causing death by dangerous or careless driving can face 14 years imprisonment, not one offender has received this sentence in the past five years – the average custodial sentence is less than four years and the offender is only likely to lose their liberty for half of this period if they behave while behind bars. If the Government decrees that such offences should, in future, equate to life imprisonment in the most serious instances, how can Ministers be certain that the judges will actually use any new powers at their disposal?

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As such, it’s important that the families of victims are not given false hopes by the Ministry of Justice, a department which has been in a perpetual state of chaos ever since Liz Truss, a politician with absolutely no experience of legal affairs, was made Lord Chancellor by Theresa May.

This review will only work if there is a fundamental review of the punishments applied to all motoring offences from the most minor to the most serious – and how these laws are enforced on a day-to-day basis.

Drivers still persist with using their mobile phones while behind the wheel because there is very little likelihood that they will be caught. And, in some of the tragic cases highlighted in recent weeks, the offenders in question have had so many previous convictions to their names that either the law is no deterrent – or they should not have been on the road in the first place.

Perhaps one way forward is for serial offenders to be banned for 10 years – or longer – before their repeated recklessness leads to the deaths of innocent individuals.

Going for growth

IF YORKSHIRE’s economy does, in fact, outperform the UK average in 2016, the forecast of accountancy giant EY, it will be a significant vote of confidence in the diversity and resilience of businesses in this region.

However, future challenges should not be under-estimated – far more growth is still being generated in London and South East and the country is even less the wiser about Brexit following Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s latest ruminations.

It is also important that regional and national politicians guard against complacency after George Osborne, the former chancellor, expressed regret that he could not deliver a devolution agreement for the Leeds City Region.

Leaving aside the view that Mr Osborne is, in fact, slightly out of touch because of ongoing attempts to reach a countywide settlement that will be the most ambitious in Britain, these figures are a reminder that Yorkshire is bucking the trend in spite of politicians failing to settle their devolution differences, to invest sufficiently in the region’s creaking transport infrastructure and to come up with a credible skills strategy so present and future generations can fulfil their potential and enhance their incomes.

With Yorkshire still on the wrong side of the North-South economic divide, and with the wealth gap between deprived and prosperous communities in this region growing by the day, complacency is not an option as 2017 draws near.

Action stations in Leeds

THE proposed three new stations for Leeds do have the potential to enhance train travel in the largest European city without a light transit railway. However Leeds City Council does need to consider if this plan is suitably ambitious, whether it can be advanced in good time after it took the best part of a decade to build recently completed stations at Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge and if there will be sufficient trains to transport long-suffering passengers.

Take the proposed station intended to serve Leeds Bradford Airport. This will be located on the Leeds to Harrogate line which is regularly serviced by two carriage trains that are already dangerously overcrowded in the rush hour. If airport travellers use this service in significant numbers – and the council would not be pressing ahead if the business case didn’t stack up – will there even be room for them on the trains? This question can’t be ignored.