Disqualified drivers will be risking long jail sentences if they take to the wheel and cause an accident, under tough new measures announced by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Disqualified drivers who cause death on the roads will face prison sentences of up to 10 years, and those who cause injury will be liable for a four-year jail sentence.
Political pressure for tougher penalties for irresponsible driving have been growing since the death in 2013, of Ross and Clare Simons, aged 34 and 30, who were riding a tandem near Bristol and were knocked down by a car driven by Nicky Lovell, who had 69 previous convictions, including 11 for driving while disqualified and four for dangerous driving.
He had been spotted by police, whose sirens indicated to him to pull over, but set off at speed, with police in pursuit, clipped a parked car, crossed the road, smashed into the Simons’ tandem, and ran away on foot.
Because he faced multiple charges, the judge sentenced Lovell to 10 years and six months in prison, but other drivers who have killed while disqualified have been to prison for much shorter terms. The maximum penalty for the single charge of causing death while driving when disqualified is two years, and there is no specific offence of causing injury whilst driving when disqualified.
In 2012, 16 drivers were prosecuted for and 13 convicted of causing death by dangerous driving while disqualified, unlicensed or uninsured.
The Simons case was raised in the Commons by the local MP, Chris Skidmore, and led to a petition to Downing Street with more than 15,000 signatures calling for longer prison sentences.
The Ministry of Justice said yesterday that the law will be changed “shortly” to introduce the new penalties. Mr Grayling said: “I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties. Disqualified drivers should not be on our roads for good reason. Those who choose to defy a ban imposed by a court and go on to destroy innocent lives must face serious consequences for the terrible impact of their actions.”