Public consultation launched for Scotland’s first offence sentencing guideline - on death by driving
30 August 2022
The Scottish Sentencing Council is holding a public consultation on Scotland’s first offence guideline, covering offences of causing death by driving.
The draft guideline sets down the sentencing ranges for judges to follow when deciding sentences for the statutory offences in Scotland involving causing death by driving.
A 12-week consultation has now opened for members of the public and interested organisations to have their say on the draft guideline before it is finalised.
Chair of the Council and Lord Justice Clerk (Scotland’s second most senior judge) Lady Dorrian, said: “This guideline will bring significant benefits to both the public and to the courts. Causing death by driving offences are very serious in nature and are of significant public concern. They can be amongst the most complex and emotive cases before the courts and a guideline that explains how the sentences are decided, listing some of the factors taken into account, will be helpful to public understanding. The guideline will also assist in relation to the predictability of a sentence.
“In court, the guideline will assist judges in making what, at times, can be challenging sentencing decisions. There can be a significant difference between the harm caused - in these cases a fatality - and the culpability, or level of blame, of the offender.
“It is vital to us that we get the widest possible range of views and I would urge people to take this opportunity to help shape our first offence guideline, which will also serve as a template for future offence guidelines. We are keen to hear from all who are interested, including individuals, criminal justice and third sector organisations, and any other interested bodies. We will carefully consider each response to help us scrutinise the draft before it is finalised.”
The draft guideline makes clear the differences between the statutory causing death by driving offences: causing death by dangerous driving; causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs; causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving; and causing death by driving: unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified drivers.
It provides a set of three tables for each offence. The first table lists features to be considered for the offence, based on their level of seriousness (A, B, or C). The second table sets out the sentencing ranges for each of these levels of seriousness. The third table lists some of the factors which may aggravate (increase) or mitigate (reduce) the seriousness.
Stuart Munro, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee, said: “If implemented, the guideline has the potential to have a significant impact on Scottish solicitors and the clients they serve in what can be both challenging and sensitive cases. It is important, then, that both legal practitioners and members of the public have an opportunity to comment on this important piece of work. We look forward to responding to the Scottish Sentencing Council’s consultation on Scotland’s first offence guideline and will encourage our members to do the same.”
Simon Brown, of the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association, said: "The SSBA are pleased to take part in the Scottish Sentencing Council’s consultation on this first offence guideline. The work the Council is doing to simplify the sentencing process and make it more transparent is very important, particularly in cases such as these where emotions often run high."
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland said: “Victim Support Scotland welcomes the Scottish Sentencing Council’s public consultation on this guideline. Losing a loved one due to driving offences is devastating and sentencing decisions can be difficult to understand. I’m pleased this consultation will let the voices of those who have experienced this to be heard. We will encourage our networks to respond.”
A consultation paper, along with the draft guideline and a draft impact assessment, are available on the Council’s website. The consultation paper sets out the background to the draft guideline, explains the reasons for the approach taken, and asks a number of questions to seek views. The impact assessment sets out what the Council thinks the costs and benefits of the guideline will be, and the likely effect it will have on the criminal justice system generally.
The guideline will serve as a template for the structure and approach of the Council’s future offence guidelines. The Council is currently preparing offence guidelines on sentencing certain sexual offences (rape, sexual assault and making, distributing or possessing indecent images of children), domestic abuse offences, and environmental and wildlife crime. It is also preparing a further general guideline on sentence discounting.
The deadline for responding to the consultation is Tuesday 22 November 2022.