The Sentencing Guidelines Committee has announced that drivers who kill could escape jail despite last month’s recommendations from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which stated that drivers using hand-held devices including mobile phones could face two years in jail.
This could have an adverse effect on employees who drive company cars, or use their vehicle for work purposes.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council has recommended that if a driver has a momentary error of judgement resulting in an accident, even if it proves fatal, a heavy custodial sentence may not be imposed.
Deputy chairman of the Council, Sir Igor Judge, said:”Sentencing in cases where death results from the misuse of a car on the road is always extremely sensitive. Obviously the consequences are appalling. Very heavy sentences are appropriate where the standard of driving involves flagrant disregard of the safety of other road users.
“But sometimes death results from a relatively minor error of judgement, to which every motorist, however experienced, is liable from time to time. Cases like these present sentencing judges with very difficult decisions because the gravest consequences have to be balanced against varying levels of culpability.”
This comes less than a month after the CPS released detailed guidelines for prosecutors on when it is appropriate to charge manslaughter instead of a lesser offence. The CPS regards actions like sudden lane changes as dangerous driving.
Gavin Jones, head of risk management at Masterlease, said: “Statistics suggest that those who drive in connection with their work are significantly more likely to be involved in an accident on the road and business vehicles are involved in more than a third of all accidents, so what is important for drivers and employers alike is how to interpret some of these offences. Therefore, it is vital that the recommended guidelines are consistent, so risk managers can ensure their policies comply.”