Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED April 29, 2003

The court stipulated sentencing guidelines for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving and careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.Three appeals against sentence and one Attorney General's reference were listed together to give the court the opportunity to issue fresh guidelines as to sentencing for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving and careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs. The Sentencing Advisory Panel of February 2003 gave advice recommending new guidelines to help sentencers to strike an appropriate balance between the level of culpability of the offender and the magnitude of he harm resulting from the offence. The court considered and endorsed much of the advice in setting new guidelines.HELD : (1) The primary consideration was the culpability of the offender, where the offender had knowingly put more than one person at risk, or where the occurrence of multiple deaths had been reasonably foreseeable. (2) The inclusion of driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest ought to be included in the list of aggravating factors. (3) The maximum term of imprisonment for the basic offence of dangerous driving was to be increased from 2 to 5 years as there was an unduly large gap between the maximum of two years for dangerous driving and ten years for an offence in which the same standard of driving had resulted by chance in death. (4) Causing death was a very serious crime, but culpability was the dominant factor when assessing just where in the level of serious crimes the particular offence came. The list of aggravating factors and mitigating factors in R v Boswell (1984) 1 WLR 1047 were endorsed but made more extensive. They were not to be regarded as an exhaustive statement. (5) The number of deaths resulting from dangerous driving was relevant to length of sentence, while the sentence would be increased to reflect more than one death the sentence had to remain proportionate to the nature of an offence that did not involve any intent to injure. (6) A sentence could be reduced due to the extent of the offender's own injuries however only very serious life changing injury should have a significant effect on the sentence. An indication of the scale was provided by the facts of R v Malony (1996) 1 CAR (S) 221. (7) The starting point of sentence length for causing death by dangerous driving was: (i) 12 to 18 months see Brown (2002) 1 CAR (S) 504; (ii) 2 to 3 years for intermediate culpability; (iii) 4 to 5 years for higher culpability; (iv) 6 years for most serious culpability; and (v) a case justifying the maximum of 10 years was Noble (2002) EWCA Crim 1713. (8) Cases of careless driving under the influence of drink were not to form a separate category. (9) The risk represented by the offender in relation to disqualification was reflected in the level of culpability which attached to the driving so that matters relevant to fixing the length of the driving disqualification for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving would be much the same as those factors relevant to sentence. (10) Following their own advice, the court dismissed the first appeal against sentence, allowed the second and the third and varied the sentence in the Attorney General's reference.Judgment accordingly.

[2003] EWCA Crim 996