The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has introduced a new offence of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving which came into force on 3rd December 2012.
This new offence amends the Road Traffic Act 1988 by inserting the following after section 1:
1A Causing serious injury by dangerous driving
1. A person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.
2. In this section “serious injury” means-
a) in England and Wales, physical harm which amounts to grievous harm for the purposes of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and
b) In Scotland, severe physical injury.
Sentencing: on summary conviction – 12 months imprisonment or the statutory maximum (6 months in England and Wales and 12 months in Scotland - until the commencement of Section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003) and
on indictment to 5 years maximum or a fine or both.
The purpose of the new offence is to fill the gap between Section 1 (Causing Death by Dangerous Driving) and Section 2 (Dangerous Driving) to enable the courts to give longer sentences in cases where people are seriously injured in road traffic accidents as a result of dangerous driving.
There exists already, however, an offence of Causing Grievous Bodily Harm by Wanton and Furious Driving which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment. This requires the prosecution to prove that the person in charge of a carriage or vehicle, by wanton or furious (i.e. dangerous) driving, or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, [did or caused] to be done any bodily harm to any person. – Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
As this offence can be committed anywhere and with any type of carriage then the restraints of the Road Traffic Act relating to ‘a road’ or ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ do not apply. Therefore, would it not have been simpler to have increased the penalty for this offence without the need of introducing yet another criminal offence onto the statute books?
James Keenan LCGI, MITAI