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New sentencing guidelines for driving offences

11 July 2023

The new sentencing guidelines make for concerning reading for anyone finding themselves facing criminal charges for motoring offences. 

The Sentencing Council has published 12 new revised sentencing guidelines for those convicted of motoring offences in England and Wales. 

There are six new guidelines which include the following offences:

  • causing serious injury by dangerous driving 
  • causing serious injury by driving while disqualified
  • causing serious injury by careless driving
  • causing injury by wanton or furious driving
  • driving or attempting to drive with a specified drug above the speed limit
  • being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified drug above the specified limit

The new guidelines came into effect on 1st July 2023.  Six of the current guidelines were initially implemented in 2008, but now reflect new maximum sentences for the offences including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Both these offences now carry a maximum of up to life imprisonment.

In comparison, prior to these new guidelines the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving was 14 years imprisonment. It is considered inevitable that the increase in statutory maximum penalties will result in an increase in prisoner numbers in an already stretched sytem.

The new guideline for the offence of wanton and furious driving  incorporates sentencing in circumstances where a cyclist causes death or injury at any location for example in a field or on a dirt track.

For offences such as causing death by careless driving where the lowest level of careless driving had a non custodial starting point, that has now been replaced with a custodial starting point.  Offences such as causing death by careless driving can involve a misjudgement or mistake. This raises the question as to whether in circumstances where consequences are undoubtedly grave but culpability is low should that result in a custodial sentence especially in cases where there are no aggravating factors and the case just crosses into careless territory?  

It remains to be seen how the judiciary will ultimately interpret and apply these guidelines. Each case invariably turns in its own facts. One should not forget that many of us drive, but the new guidelines will have considerable impact on transport operators, haulage companies and any business with a fleet of drivers.  

If you require any further information or any assistance regarding motor crime defence, or to discuss any of the points raised, please contact neena.sharma@dwf.law

Further Reading