The twisted wreckage of a tragic road traffic collision was put on display at Westminster as part of a campaign by road safety charity, Brake, raising the question of whether the law is too lenient on drivers that kill.
The police, prosecutors and the courts all contribute to making our roads safer by discouraging bad driving and punishing those who transgress appropriately. This is effective in a lot of cases, but disappointingly we do see instances where bad drivers are treated too leniently.
The damaged vehicle was the result of a horrifying car crash that killed 25-year-old Joseph Brown-Lartey. The campaign, ‘Justice for Joseph’, was set up by parents Ian and Dawn Brown-Lartey’s in following the death of their son, which was caused by an unlicensed and uninsured driver who received what many people considered a lenient sentence of six years.
For more information, see: Justice For Joseph Heads to Downing Street
A poll commissioned by charity, Brake, revealed that 66 per cent of people believe drivers who kill as should be jailed for a minimum of 10 years.
Brake's Roads to Justice campaign calls for reckless drivers who maim or kill as a result of their actions to face tougher penalties, arguing that victims and their families are "betrayed time and again by our justice system".
A consultation is set for September and campaigners hope changes to the law will come into effect by 2018.
Brake’s survey of 1,000 people also found 91% believe drivers who cause a fatal crash after drinking alcohol or taking drugs should be charged with manslaughter, which carries a possible life sentence.
Ian Brown-Lartey, Joseph’s father, said: "It's just like we've been kicked in the teeth twice. You lose your son and then the legal system that you trusted lets you down too."
Dawn Brown-Lartey, Joseph's mother, said there was "no deterrent" to stop people driving dangerously, and said: “Judges are bound by guidelines and the guidelines need to be changed.”
In cases like this it’s not just bad, it’s dangerous for the driver and others around them and lenient sentences send out the wrong message to society that this is in some way tolerated.
Through the thousands of civil road traffic accident cases we handle, we see first-hand the devastating consequences – a family who has lost a loved one or people left with serious and life-changing injuries. When a driver is found to be at fault, it‘s obviously difficult and distressing for the victim and/or their family to understand how they can get off with such a light sentence while they are left with a lifetime of pain and anguish.
In 2013, more than 1,700 people died on UK roads. Although this figure has dropped in recent years, it is still an unacceptable number when many could have been avoided.
The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is 14 years – but very rarely do we see maximum sentences imposed for motoring offences. How bad does it need to be? There could also be longer driving bans.
We support Cycling UK’s ‘Roads Justice’ campaign, which is calling for the same thing.
Jennifer Maloney is a serious injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
The specialist personal injury lawyers at Slater and Gordon are experts in helping people with road traffic accident compensation claims and guiding them to brighter outcomes.
For a free consultation, call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.