Victims' families 'relieved' as stricter killer driver laws come into force

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Ciara Lee and Mark Hollands

New legislation giving judges the power to hand down life sentences on drivers who kill has come into force this week, although concerns have been raised over the time it took the law to go through.

Royal Borough residents Mark Hollands and Ciara Lee both lost a relative to dangerous drivers and have long campaigned for tougher punishments on killer motorists.

Mark lost his daughter, Bryony aged 19 when she was killed by a dangerous driver in 2015, while Ciara lost her husband, Eddy, 46, when he was hit on his motorcycle by a van driver on the M4 in July 2018.

The pair have expressed their relief that the new legislation has been in statute since Tuesday, with the proposed law change first announced back in 2017.

Courts will be able to impose life sentences on dangerous drivers who kill or careless drivers who kill whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.

The changes form part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, with the previous maximum penalty for such offences being 14 years.

A new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving has also been created as part of the reforms.

The news comes after years of campaigning by families such as Mark and Ciara’s, while Maidenhead MP Theresa May has also been outspoken on tougher sentences for killer drivers.

Back in July 2020 the former Prime Minister tabled a bill which sought to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years to life imprisonment.

While a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation seeking views on driving offences that cause death and serious injury closed in February 2017.

Mark said: “I am relieved that it is finally in the statute book and into law, although I am pretty disgusted that it has taken the Government over five years since the consultation.

“A lot of families will have gone through the same suffering we have, and while new legislation takes time to get through Parliament, there is no excuse for it having taken that long.”

The Government hopes that the new reforms will encourage people to think twice before driving dangerously but Mark claimed these people do not listen.

“I think the sort of people who are likely to commit these offences do not think and consider the prospect of getting caught or that it will happen to them,” he said.

“But what it will do is give judges in the worst cases the option of keeping them incarcerated for longer.

“Since Bryony was killed we have seen a number of instances where judges say they are restricted by the maximum sentence.

“I am glad we have achieved something resulting from Bryony’s death and finally the Government have done what they said they were going to do five years ago.”

Ciara said: “What is really good about this law change is it gives judges the flexibility to sentence in an appropriate way for loss of life that has occurred.

“For families like mine it is not about revenge – I would like the driver who killed Eddy to get a longer sentence and that is not revenge; it is about the punishment fitting the crime.

“It is a really positive step but there is so much more we can do, and it is about finding ways to shift the cultural mindset.”
Ciara added: “I have had to teach myself to be comfortable with being late on the school run rather than stressed – we have had to learn the hard way that life is so precious and rushing is unnecessary.

“You can never explain how horrific it is to say goodbye to someone one morning and then an hour later their life has been extinguished. It is like a bomb blast going off.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "This Government is delivering on its commitment to make our streets safer.

"We have changed the law so that dangerous criminals are given the sentences they deserve and kept behind bars, and we are backing the police with the powers they need to keep us safe."

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "The laws coming into force today show the Government’s Beating Crime Plan in action and will help drive down crime, better protect victims and make streets safer up and down the country."

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for further comment. 

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