Laws that bring in life sentences for killer drivers will finally be introduced next year, after the government pledged tougher sentences.
Causing death by speeding, driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, using a mobile phone or racing, will carry a maximum life sentence instead of the current 14 years.
The new law is part of major sentencing reforms announced by Robert Buckland, justice secretary. He said: “This government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.”
Tragically, it was the death of a little girl that finally forced the legal shake up.
The parents of 4-year old Violet-Grace Youens have been the driving force behind the change in the law. Their daughter, Grace was killed in 2017 by Aidan McAteer who was driving a stolen car at 83 mph. Although McAteer was sentenced to the maximum 14 years, he could be released next year because he entered an early guilty plea.
Diane Parker, partner and head of personal injury commented: “We welcome the proposed legislation. The current legal framework is flawed in that the seriousness of the offence is not adequately reflected in the sentence. Families already suffering the trauma of losing a loved one then face further heartache when they see the lenient sentences handed out. Unfortunately, until the law is changed, there is little else the courts can do.”
Following her death, Grace’s parents launched an online petition, calling for a life sentence for those causing death by dangerous driving. The petition gathered more than 167,000 signatures and gained the backing of road safety campaigners.
Violet’s dad, Glen Youens, said: “We could not be more proud of our daughter; she’s been gone three years and in that time she directly saved two lives through organ donation, encouraged many others to save lives by signing the register and now her story has changed the law.
“She lived a short life, but her legacy will last forever. I know this is just the start but if other families who lose their loved ones don’t have to suffer the injustice, then it goes a small way to piecing together their broke hearts.”
Joshua Harris, director of Brake added: “Road crime is a real crime and it is high time that the government, and the law, recognised this.
“The government must now implement these tougher sentences as a first priority, delivering on their overdue promise to road crash victims.”
“We all want safer roads, but we will only achieve this if the law treats road crime with the seriousness it deserves.”