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Sentencing Guidelines for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

IntroductionAssessing SeriousnessAncillary ordersSentencing ranges and starting pointsOffence guidelinesAnnex A


This guideline applies to the four offences of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing death by careless driving and causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving sets out the approach for prosecutors when considering the appropriate charge based on an assessment of the standard of the offender’s driving. This has been taken into account when formulating this guideline. Annex A sets out the statutory definitions for dangerous, careless and inconsiderate driving together with examples of the types of driving behaviour likely to result in the charge of one offence rather than another.

Because the principal harm done by these offences (the death of a person) is an element of the offence, the factor that primarily determines the starting point for sentence is the culpability of the offender. Accordingly, for all offences other than causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers, the central feature should be an evaluation of the quality of the driving involved and the degree of danger that it foreseeably created. These guidelines draw a distinction between those factors of an offence that are intrinsic to the quality of driving (referred to as “determinants of seriousness”) and those which, while they aggravate the offence, are not.

The levels of seriousness in the guidelines for those offences based on dangerous or careless driving alone have been determined by reference only to determinants of seriousness. Aggravating factors will have the effect of either increasing the starting point within the sentencing range provided or, in certain circumstances, of moving the offence up to the next sentencing range.1 The outcome will depend on both the number of aggravating factors present and the potency of those factors. Thus, the same outcome could follow from the presence of one particularly bad aggravating factor or two or more less serious factors.

The determinants of seriousness likely to be relevant in relation to causing death by careless driving under the influence are both the degree of carelessness and the level of intoxication. The guideline sets out an approach to assessing both those aspects but giving greater weight to the degree of intoxication since Parliament has provided for a maximum of 14 years imprisonment rather than the maximum of 5 years where the death is caused by careless driving only.

Since there will be no allegation of bad driving, the guideline for causing death by driving; unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers links the assessment of offender culpability to the nature of the prohibition on the offender’s driving and includes a list of factors that may aggravate an offence.

The degree to which an aggravating factor is present (and its interaction with any other aggravating and mitigating factors) will be immensely variable and the court is best placed to judge the appropriate impact on sentence. Clear identification of those factors relating to the standard of driving as the initial determinants of offence seriousness is intended to assist the adoption of a common approach.

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