The Council's death by driving guideline is now in force
The Scottish Sentencing Council’s new sentencing guideline on death by driving offences comes into effect today (16 January).
It is the country’s first ever offence guideline and the first time that the Council has set out guidance to help courts select a specific type and level of sentence. It also aims to increase public understanding of how these highly complex and sensitive cases are dealt with by the courts.
The guideline, which was approved by the High Court in October, covers offences of:
- 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
- causing death by driving while unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified
It should be read alongside the Principles and purposes of sentencing guideline which sets out some of the possible purposes of a sentence, and the Sentencing process guideline which sets out the steps courts should follow in deciding a sentence.
In cases where the offender is aged 24 or under at the time of conviction, the Sentencing young people guideline also applies.
Chair of the Council, Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, said: “After years of research and engagement, I am pleased that the Council’s first ever offence guideline is now in effect, marking a significant step for Scotland’s criminal justice system.
“Causing death by driving offences are among the most serious, challenging, and sensitive cases dealt with by our courts. They involve tragic loss of life and have a devastating effect on the families of victims.
“We know that nothing can make up for the pain and loss involved in such cases, however we hope that the guideline will help bereaved families and others involved to better understand the sentencing process at court.
“It will also assist judges in the difficult task of deciding a sentence in these cases and help to increase general public understanding of the law and sentencing practice in death by driving offences.”
The guideline sets out sentencing ranges to assist with selecting an appropriate sentence. These reach up to 12 years’ imprisonment for the most serious death by dangerous driving offences, are based on current sentencing practice, and reflect the upper limits of sentences which have been imposed by Scottish courts.
The guideline also includes numerous aggravating factors, such as the victim being a vulnerable road user, which are likely to make sentencing more severe; and mitigating factors, such as a previous good driving record, which are likely to make a sentence less severe.
It also explains other issues that courts are required by law to consider, such as whether to reduce the sentence as a result of the offender pleading guilty.
In death by dangerous driving cases, the maximum sentence set by law is life imprisonment. Aggravating or mitigating circumstances may result in a sentence outwith the guideline ranges being imposed.
Further information about the guideline, including about the research and engagement carried out during its development, is available here.
The Council has also recently published information about sentencing guidelines in general.