Reading West MP Alok Sharma, who has been supporting the national campaign, launched by his constituents Tracey Fidler and Hayley Lindsay, for tougher sentences for dangerous driving has made a written submission to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on dangerous driving.
Tracey and Hayley’s partners, Kris Jarvis and John Morland, were tragically killed by a dangerous driver as they cycled through Purley in 2014.
As a part of promoting Tracey and Hayley’s campaign Alok has taken them to meet relevant ministers, including the then Prime Minister David Cameron. Alok also led two debates in Parliament to highlight the need for tougher sentences for dangerous driving.
Following sustained campaigning, including from fellow MPs representing their own constituents affected by the scourge of dangerous driving, the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation seeking views on whether the current maximum penalties available to the courts should be increased.
Alok's letter on the consultation to the Minister for Prisons, Sam Gyimah, is set out below.
Alok, will be taking Tracey and Hayley, to meet with Minister Gyimah later this month so he can hear directly from them on the need for a change in the law.
Alok said: “I know just how hard Tracey and Hayley have been campaigning for a change in the law and I hope the government will bring forward sentencing proposals which reflect the heinous nature of the crime which lead to the loss of Kris and John.”
Alok letter to Minister Gyimah reads:
“I am writing to offer my views on your Department’s consultation regarding driving offences and penalties relating to causing death or serious injury.
As you may be aware, I have for several years been supporting a campaign started by my constituents, Ms Tracey Fidler and Ms Hayley Lindsay, calling for tougher sentences for those convicted of death by dangerous driving. The Ministry of Justice holds correspondence with me about this campaign.
By way of background, Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay were the fiancées of Kris Jarvis and John Morland who were hit and killed in my constituency on 13th February 2014 by a vehicle being driven by Alexander Walter. Mr Walter was already disqualified from driving, was driving 70mph in a 30mph zone whilst being pursued by police, was two and a half times over the alcohol limit and had taken cocaine in the previous 24 hours.
Mr Walter was subsequently found guilty of two counts of death by dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking but only received a sentence of 10 years and 3 months.
Understandably, Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay feel that the current sentencing framework is too lenient and they have been campaigning for a change in the law so that a driver who is found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving receives the maximum sentence, of 14 years, per person who has been killed, with each sentence to run consecutively and not concurrently.
Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay set up an e-petition, which received over 102,000 signatures when it closed in March 2015. This petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/67911
This level of signatures is quite remarkable since Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay did a vast majority of the work themselves in promoting this petition.
In support of Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay’s campaign, I held a Parliamentary debate calling for tougher sentencing for dangerous driving in November 2014, which secured a commitment from the responding Minister, the Rt. Hon Mike Penning MP, that the Government would hold an extensive public consultation on the issue of sentencing, which I am delighted that your Department is now undertaking.
In December 2014, I organised a bi-lateral meeting in Westminster for my constituents with Mr Penning, in his then role as Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims. This meeting provided Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay with an opportunity to discuss the full details of their campaign with Mr Penning. Their ask was very clear – much tougher sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving.
Subsequently, I organised a meeting for Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay with the then Prime Minister, David Cameron in February 2015. Mr Cameron was extremely sympathetic and wrote to the then Justice Secretary, Mr Grayling, asking him to consider ways that prison sentences for causing multiple road deaths could be extended. No doubt your officials will be reviewing all of this correspondence and the suggestions made as part of your consultation process.
Following the 2015 General Election, I wanted to ensure that Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay’s campaign was not forgotten, and therefore held another extremely well attended Westminster Hall debate on the subject of penalties for dangerous driving in September 2015. I, and other Members participating, highlighted the need for much tougher penalties in relation to causing death by dangerous driving. After the debate, I, together with the families of Kris Jarvis and John Morland, met with your predecessor as Minister for Prisons, Andrew Selous MP, to press for the promised consultation to commence.
I therefore very much welcome the consultation that your Department has launched and in addition to making the general point that driving offences relating to careless and dangerous driving should receive tougher penalties, I set out below my commentary on questions 3 to 5 of the consultation.
Response to the Consultation:
Question 3: Do you think that the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving adequately reflects the culpability of the offending behaviour or should it be increased from 14 years’ imprisonment to life?
Whilst Ms Fidler and Ms Lindsay have been campaigning for a change in the law so that a driver who is found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving receives the maximum sentence, of 14 years, per person who has been killed, I do believe that the maximum penalty should be increased from 14 years to life imprisonment. Consideration should also be given to a minimum level of sentence which has to be served in its entirety without any remission.
I also share my constituents’ views that sentences for causing multiple deaths by dangerous driving should run consecutively, and not concurrently.
Question 4: Do you think that the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs should reflect the same culpability (and therefore the same maximum penalty) as causing death by dangerous driving?
I do share the view that the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs should reflect the same maximum penalty as causing death by dangerous driving. In the case of Alexander Walter, which I have referenced earlier in this letter, Mr Walter was under the influence of both drink and drugs, and responsible for killing two individuals.
Question 5: Should consideration be given to a longer minimum period of disqualification for offenders convicted of causing any death by driving offence?
I am aware that for offences committed on or after 13th April 2015, where a court imposes a disqualification in addition to a custodial sentence or a detention and training order, the court must extend the disqualification period by one half of the custodial term imposed, to take into account the period the offender will spend in custody.
However, where both a disqualification and custodial sentence are imposed, I believe that the disqualification should only commence once the custodial sentence has been served.
I would be grateful if you could please ensure that this submission is taken into consideration as part of the consultation, and I look forward to meeting with you next month to discuss this matter further. In conclusion, I hope in addition to all the submissions you receive, your Department will also pay attention to the online petition organised by my constituents which over 102,000 people from across the country have signed.
Alok Sharma MP"