- Scotland is consulting on sentencing guidelines for causing death by driving.
- The proposed guidelines include less use of prison and shorter prison sentences.
- Driving bans are increased in both Scotland and England and Wales with Causing death by dangerous driving and Causing death by careless driving carrying a minimum five-year disqualification (compared to two years previously).
Launched on 22nd August, less than two months after a consultation was launched in England and Wales, Scotland is consulting on sentencing guidelines for causing death by driving.
This is the first time Scotland has developed sentencing guidelines for specific offences. Their consultation is limited to four 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.
AVZ Sentencing webinar
On 17th October, Action Vision Zero (AVZ) is holding a webinar on the sentencing consultation in England and Wales. Chaired by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, speakers include:
- Ollie Simpson, Sentencing Council of England and Wales
- Chief Constable Jo Shiner, Sussex Police and NPCC lead for Roads Policing
- Roger Geffen from Cycling UK
- Tom Franklin, Magistrates Association CEO
- Jo Morris, Criminal Bar Association, and
- Professor Sally Kyd who wrote the definitive book on Driving Offences.
Comparison with Scotland
Below AVZ summarises some key differences between the proposed guidelines from the Scottish Sentencing Council and compared them with those of the Sentencing Council of England and Wales (which covered more offences):
- five causing death by driving offences;
- three serious injury/injury by driving offences;
- three basic offences (dangerous driving, drug driving and being in charge of a vehicle whilst over the limit).
Scotland conducted both a literature review and an exploration of public opinion with focus groups with 30 people in total, including bereaved relatives.
No new research on causing death by driving was published by the Sentencing Council in England and Wales. But research had been conducted 14 years ago that was related to a previous consultation on causing death by driving guidelines.
And the Sentencing Council has just published a review of the effectiveness of sentencing on re-offending. Key findings included:
- The lack of evidence for prison working as a deterrent on the person sentenced or the general population.
- Short custodial sentences could make re-offending worse. This review covered sentencing in general and did not focus on motoring offences.
Causing death by dangerous driving
The recent introduction of a maximum lifetime custodial sentence for Causing death by dangerous driving and Causing death by careless driving under the influence applied to Scotland as well as England and Wales. But the Scottish Sentencing Council has based its proposed guidelines on recent sentences given at court. This resulted in lower custodial sentences than in England and Wales
Causing death by dangerous driving, proposed custodial sentence ranges (years)
|England and Wales||Scotland|
Note: England and Wales sentencing ranges are classified as A/B and C whilst Scotland uses a numerical classification.
Official statistics show more convictions for Causing death by dangerous driving in England and Wales—more than would be expected. Scotland had an annual average of 10 Causing death by dangerous driving convictions whereas England and Wales averages 15 per year. NB that the England and Wales population is 10-11 times greater than that of Scotland.
Causing death by careless driving
The contrast is even starker with Causing death by careless driving. In Scotland, more drivers have been fined for Causing death by careless driving than have been imprisoned for this offence. In England and Wales, fines are almost never used with causing death by driving.
Causing death by careless driving, proposed custodial sentence ranges (years)
|England and Wales||Scotland|
|Level 1/A||1-4||Level 2 Community Payback Order- 18 months imprisonment|
|Level 2/B||0.5-3||Level 2 Community Payback Order|
|Level 3/C||Medium level community order- 1||Fine of up to £2,500- Level 1 Community Payback Order|
Causing death by driving: unlicensed, uninsured or disqualified drivers
Scotland has one offence whereas England and Wales also has a separate offence for causing death by driving whilst disqualified. But this/these offences are used very rarely.
Causing death by driving: unlicensed, uninsured or disqualified drivers, proposed custodial sentencing ranges (years)
|Driving whilst disqualified||Driving whilst unlicensed or uninsured|
|England and Wales||Scotland||England and Wales||Scotland|
|Level 1/A||4-7||Level 2 Community Payback Order- 18 months imprisonment||36 weeks-2||n/a|
|Level 2/B||2-5||n/a||High level community order- 36 weeks||Level 1-Level 2 Community Payback Order|
|Level 3/C||High level community order-2||n/a||Low level community order- High level community order||n/a|
The Scottish consultation includes no discussion of disqualification whereas the England and Wales consultation proposes to include general information about disqualification in their guidelines.
In both Scotland and England and Wales, the mandatory minimum driving ban for both Causing death by dangerous driving and Causing death by driving whilst under the influence has been increased from two years to five years.
And Causing death by driving: unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified drivers carries a minimum driving ban of two years.
The Scottish consultation closes 22 November and you can respond here. For more information, see
- Statutory offences of causing death by driving: Draft impact assessment (Aug 2022)
- Public perceptions of sentencing in Scotland: Qualitative research exploring causing death by driving offences (Feb 2021)
- Causing death by driving offences literature review (Sep 2018)
Do come to our webinar on sentencing of causing death and serious injury in England and Wales. This consultation closed on 29 September but an extension was possible due to the mourning period. AVZ will be finalizing and submitting our response after the webinar. Contribute to the discussion and help us understand why England and Wales appears to be so much more punitive than Scotland.