Prior to this offence the prosecution would need to prove dangerous driving to permit the court to have the option of a prison phrase. The weight of proof needed to prove dangerous driving could be considerable. In 04 there were approximately 3,500 people wiped out on UK roads and only 406 prosecutions with regard to causing death through dangerous driving. It is estimated that currently only one in ten fatalities caused on UK roads result in a prosecution for causing death by dangerous driving. This is down to the definition of dangerous driving and the level of bad driving that is needed to be shown to substantiate this type of prosecution.
Many cases will now be prosecuted under the new legislation and lots of will result in prison sentence being imposed, where previously such a phrase was not possible. This new legislation does create something of the dilemma for the courts however. Should they sentence on the degree of criminality or even on the consequences from the offending? Say a driver committed a minor error such as failing to notice a cyclist whenever pulling out of a 4 way stop, however this error resulted in the death from the cyclist. The degree of criminality is low however the results of the offence is actually high. Should the car owner be sent to prison?
Remarkably the magistrates court have yet to be given any kind of guidance in the new magistrates court sentencing guidelines released on August 4th 2008 and will therefore have to look to installments of causing death by dangerous driving for any guidance.
Over the years UK courts possess moved towards looking at the consequences of the traveling and away from the criminality or even level of driving when considering sentencing, although it is fair to say it is still the balancing act.
The reason the actual courts have relocated towards taking much more account of the result's to act as a discouraging factor and was summarized by the then attorney general in 2006 as he said "This court has said many times that a vehicle driven dangerously comes down to a lethal tool. It can and will kill and that is the reason why custody is almost always inevitable."
The deterrent message is clear and it seems the government is reinstating the discouraging factor message by introducing the new law.
Just about all drivers in the UK ought to now be aware that the momentary lapse of focus could result in not only the death of another but also the imprisonment involving ourselves.
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