Keeping Up Is Hard to Do:
A Trial Judge’s Reading Blog


On July 7, 2022, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, released a Consultation Paperentitled: Motoring Offences Guidelines.  The report notes that “[f]ollowing Government consultation in 2016, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 has raised the maximum penalties for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years’ custody to life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for causing death by driving whilst disqualified was raised from 2 years to 10 years’ imprisonment in 2015. These changes in maximum penalties should be reflected in revised guidelines” (at page 2).

This Consultation paper considers the following offences:

Causing death by dangerous driving;

Causing death by careless driving;

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs;

Causing serious injury by dangerous driving;

Causing serious injury by careless driving;

Causing injury by wanton or furious driving;

Dangerous driving;

Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers;

Causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers;

Causing death by driving: unlicensed or uninsured drivers;

Driving or attempting to drive with a specified drug above the specified limit; and

Being in charge of a motor vehicle with a specified drug above the specified limit.

For each offence, the Report sets out a list of proposed factors affecting culpability.  For instance, in relation to dangerous driving, the Council makes the following recommendations:

High Culpability:

• Deliberate decision to ignore the rules of the road and disregard for therisk of danger to others;

• Prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of dangerous driving;

• Consumption of substantial amounts of alcohol or drugs leading to gross impairment;

• Offence committed in course of police pursuit;

• Racing or competitive driving against another vehicle;

• Disregarding warnings of others;

• Lack of attention to driving for a substantial period of time; and

• Speed greatly in excess of speed limit.

Medium Culpability:

• Brief but obviously highly dangerous manoeuvre;

• Engaging in a brief but avoidable distraction;

• Driving knowing that the vehicle has a dangerous defect or is dangerously loaded;

• Driving at a speed that is inappropriate for the prevailing road or weather conditions;

• Driving whilst ability to drive is impaired as a result of consumption of alcohol or drugs;

• Disregarding advice relating to driving when taking medication or as a result of a known medical condition which significantly impaired the offender’s driving skills; and

• Driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest.

Lesser Culpability:

• Standard of driving was just over threshold for dangerous driving; and

• Momentary lapse of concentration.

Dangerous Driving Causing Death:

For the offence of dangerous driving causing death, the Report points out that “[t]he majority (93 per cent) of offenders” in 2020, were sentenced “to immediate custody” (at page 7).

The Council indicates that “the starting point and range for medium culpability broadly reflect the levels for medium culpability manslaughter, although for lesser culpability we propose slightly higher levels. These sentencing levels reflect the Council’s view that the worst cases of manslaughter are worse than the worst cases of dangerous driving, where there is no intent to cause harm. At the other end of the scale, the least serious cases of manslaughter may well involve less culpability than the least serious cases of dangerous driving where, inherently, someone is in charge of a machine with the capacity to kill and should be driving it with due responsibility” (at page 8).

Proposed Starting Points and Ranges:

The Council recommends the following starting points and ranges:

CulpabilityStarting PointRange  
High12 years’ custody8 – 18 years’ custody.  
Medium  6 years’ custody4 – 9 years’ custody.
Lesser  3 years’ custody2 – 5 years’ custody.