Drivers who kill could escape being sent to jail under new sentencing guidelines for the courts.
The new proposals are set to put judges on a collision course with prosecutors (Judges sentence, prosecutors prosecute, so where's the collision?) because they appear to end a crackdown on dangerous driving, announced last month. (there was no crackdown). Under the plans, people whose driving is considered "careless" rather than "dangerous" should be spared prison and given a "community" penalty instead. (Why put "Community" in quotes? - it's a long-established type of sentence).
The new rules - to be published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council - appear to undermine the determination of the Crown Prosecution Service to punish rogue drivers. (the CPS doesn't punish anyone -it's not their job). Last month the CPS published guidelines recommending that motorists caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving could be jailed for two years. (Wrong. They reiterated the existing law in (nb) advice to their own staff. They have no business advisingthe courts).
However under the new changes, to be set out in a consultation document, drivers who cause fatal accidents while using a mobile phone could escape prison if they were "avoidably distracted". (These are not changes. They are new guidance on new legislation)
Only those found by the courts to have been "dangerously distracted" by a mobile phone, an iPod or another electronic device, will be routinely jailed,(really?) it was reported last night. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is headed by Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, and lays down rules (not rules - guidelines. The Council's title is a giveaway) on sentencing for judges and magistrates.
Others who will (might) not be imprisoned for killing by careless driving will be those found to have been "undertaking" on the inside, tailgating, running red lights by mistake, or pulling out of side turnings into other vehicles. (It all depends on the circumstances - that's what the courts are there for).
Factors that count as careless will also include driving while distracted by tuning the radio or lighting a cigarette. (so no change there).
The council's guidelines are being set down to help the courts deal with new road traffic laws brought in during 2006 in response to repeated complaints (mostly from The Sun) that those who kill while driving were being dealt with too leniently.
The laws will replace the old crime of causing death by careless driving with a new offence of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving. (There was no 'old law' - this is new).
Last night the Ministry of Justice declined to comment. A spokesman for the CPS said that any proposals were only "draft". The CPS would be invited to take part in the consultation.
Last night a spokesman for the road safety group Brake said: "Someone who kills through careless driving should go to jail unless there are extremely persuasive mitigating circumstances." (such as a genuine human misjudgement?)