Susan Elan Jones MP led a debate in Parliament on Wednesday 30th November 2016 on the subject of ‘Road Safety and the Government’s proposed sentencing review’.
The Clwyd South Labour MP, who received road safety charity Brake’s award of 2015 Parliamentarian of the Year for her campaigning work, previously introduced a bill to Parliament calling for higher penalties for drivers who drive unlicensed or uninsured. This year, she tabled a series of questions to the Government on the issue on the week Theresa May became Prime Minister.
Susan Elan Jones MP said: “I met recently with the Transport Minister and over the summer I tabled a number of questions to Government Ministers. I finally got a commitment that the Government would announce a proper consultation on sentencing for road traffic offences by the end of the year.
“I am not giving up because every delay to this campaign is a slight to justice and an insult to the families of those innocent victims who die on our roads. There is a lot of support for fairer laws that will help secure justice and make our roads safer”
In her speech which was responded to by a Justice Minister on Wednesday at 4pm in Parliament’s Westminster Hall, Susan said:
“In January 2014, I stood before the House of Commons and called on the Government to review the sentencing guidelines for maximum penalties for driving offences that lead to death or serious injury. I urged the Government to make changes to the rules and guidelines set out by law that mean that drivers who end the lives of innocent people on our roads sometimes have their sentences reduced to mere months”.
“In the village of Overton in my constituency of Clwyd South, a nine-year-old boy was tragically killed in 2009 whilst he was crossing the road. The driver who so carelessly mowed young Robert down was unlicensed and was uninsured. He hit Robert, took his life, and drove away. He did not stop to help. He did not stay to report the accident. He drove away. He drove away, re-sprayed his car and attempted to cover up his crime. This driver, who took Robert’s life so abruptly incurred a pitiful sentence of 22 months. That was the very limit of what was possible under the law for that offence. This man hit a child, took a young boy’s life and, after driving away to leave that child to die, was sentenced to a grand total of 22 months and a four-year driving ban. The driver served only 10 months in jail. As I said in January 2014, when I brought this to the House of Commons- almost two years ago- this cannot be right. As I asked- almost two years ago – the Government absolutely must reconsider what sentencing is in place”.
“Tougher penalties are not being used because judges are being held back by guidelines that prevent them from handing out longer sentences. And I know from so many families I’ve spoken to that there are instances where those tougher penalties were needed”.
“The average sentence served by driver who kill or seriously injure another human being whilst driving is currently just 11 months. Families are losing loved ones because of reckless, dangerous and negligent driving and the law is not doing enough to hold those responsible to account”.
“As I said in 2014, I think it absolutely right that our criminal justice system differentiates between those who make a mistake, commit a crime and acknowledge that crime, and those who, as in the case involving Robert Gaunt, flee, hide and pervert the course of justice. I wholeheartedly support the provision of a range of different sentences for driving offences; what I am calling for today is a logical development of the current system and more consideration of what sentences are given.
“The rules and guidelines set out by the law mean that drivers who end the lives of innocent people on our roads have their sentences reduced, reduced and reduced until, bit by bit, they decline to mere months. Drivers who plead guilty before their trials have their sentences automatically reduced by a third, and most will be released on licence after serving only half their given sentences.
“For the families of those who are killed, that is clearly not justice”.