Mike Penning, the Justice Minister, has stated he will change the law before Easter to close a loophole that allows ‘killer’ drivers to get back behind the wheel as soon as they leave prison.
Reckless drivers who kill people will be kept off the road for longer under tougher penalties to be introduced by ministers. The law as it currently stands means that the most dangerous drivers who are convicted and imprisoned for causing death on the roads can serve out their driving bans while they are in prison.
In some cases, this means offenders who have killed people by dangerous or careless driving are able to get back behind the wheel soon after they are released because their disqualification periods have expired. Mike Penning, the Justice Minister, has stated he would change the law early this year to close the loophole and ensure that all such driving bans begin only after offenders have left prison.
Ministers have already promised to allow judges to extend driving disqualification periods so that motorists who cause deaths are kept off the road for longer. However, Mr Penning, a former fireman, said he wanted to ensure that the worst offenders can never get back behind the wheel as soon as they are freed from jail. He said:
“If you have lost a loved one to a motorist who was drunk, driving recklessly or using a mobile phone, it is nothing short of an insult to see the killer leave prison and get straight behind the wheel of a car again.”
“It will be my New Year’s present to the families of thousands of victims to ensure this does not ever happen again.”
In 2013, some 430 people were convicted of causing death by driving. But campaigners say Judges are failing to impose long enough bans or sentences on drivers who kill people on the roads.
As the law stands, disqualifications begin on the first day of a sentence. The government last year said it would give Judges new powers to issue longer driving disqualifications so that offenders remain off the road once they leave jail.
But this can only happen once the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is passed by Parliament, allowing new rules to be brought into force. The Bill is currently stuck in a parliamentary tug-of-war between the House of Lords and the Commons and no date has been set for implementation of such rules on reckless drivers.
Mr Penning said he would take-up new powers which already exist under the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act to ensure that all driving bans for the most serious offenders who cause death on the roads start on the day that they leave custody. He said the new rules would be in place within weeks, and before Easter at the latest. He also added:
“We want to make our roads safer and that means making sure criminals jailed for serious offences like this can’t jump back behind the wheel the moment they are released,”
“In future, anybody jailed for causing death on the roads will have to serve out their driving ban after they have left prison.”