News Story 25. News Headlines.
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This Article was written by Steve Doughty: [Social Affairs Correspondent] it was publish in Britain on 10th. January, 2008... by 'The Daily Mail'. 
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The threat of jail was lifted yesterday from drivers who kill while at the wheel without a licence or insurance.  New rules for Judges say they should normally escape with a community punishment.  Even repeat offenders... who have a previous conviction for going unlicensed or without insurance... can avoid imprisonment under the instructions for the courts on how to deal with drivers at fault in fatal accidents.
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The ruling handed down by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, the body that sets punishment benchmarks for courts, frees millions of illegal drivers from the risk of imprisonment if they kill.  The council, led by Lord Chief Justice Lord Philips, made its decision despite carrying out a survey that found a large majority of the public think sentences for serious driving offences are too light.
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3,172 people were killed on Britain's roads in 2006.

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The community punishment rule will apply to new motoring laws that for the first time introduce a charge of causing death by driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.  The law carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.  Yet the courts will be told that only those who kill when driving while banned must go to prison.  At least one in ten of all motorists... 1.4 million... are thought to drive without insurance.  Some estimates put the number at 5 million.
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Most are poor, among them young men and immigrants desperate to get on the road but unwilling to pay average annual costs of 400 for insurance.  The insurance industry says uninsured drivers cause 375,000 accidents a year and are ten times more likely than others to drink and drive.  The new sentencing rules are likely to be given to the courts in the spring after approval by ministers and MPs on the Justice Select Committee.  They will apply to laws on killer drivers passed by Parliament in 2006.
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These were aimed at plugging the loophole by which careless or illegal drivers could cause fatal accidents, yet escape with light punishments because the law took no account of the deadly consequences of their behaviour.  Once the new sentencing rules have finally been agreed another new offence of causing death by careless driving will go into effect alongside that of causing death by driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.
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The laws will also mean drivers who race or speed, drink heavily or are deeply drugged, or read or send text messages at the wheel are likely to be charged with causing death by dangerous driving if they kill.  This offence, which dates back to the late 1990s, carries a maximum sentence of 14 years and those convicted are certain to be jailed.
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Many drivers who kill while using a hand-held mobile phone are likely to be charged with causing death by dangerous driving, but they could be charged with causing death by careless driving if the circumstances of the offence are less serious.  Causing death by careless driving will cover those who kill while distracted by tuning a radio, fiddling with a satellite navigation device, or while tailgating, overtaking on the inside, cutting up other drivers or rapidly switching lanes.
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The Daily Mail revealed earlier this week that those found to have shown 'momentary inattention' will get community punishments unless there are aggravating factors such as a bad driving record.  The new sentencing rules also go easy on police officers who kill while on or off duty.  The new rules on sentencing those who kill while driving illegally draw a distinction between disqualified drivers and those who drive without insurance or a licence.  Disqualified drivers will get at least six months in jail, the guidelines say.
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Community orders will be given to those driving without insurance or licences where there are no aggravating factors.  Even those whose offence is aggravated... for example by a previous offence... can still get a community punishment.  The law on causing death while driving illegally will cover drivers who are not considered at fault in a fatal accident.  Those who have driven badly will be charged under the dangerous or careless driving laws.
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Lorna Jackson, of road safety charity Brake, said: 'We need to crack down on people who think it's fine to drive without a licence or insurance.  These people should not be on the roads.  We are deeply concerned that even an aggravated offence will not bring a jail sentence.'  She added: 'They are getting away with it lightly.'
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Sentencing Guidelines Council member Peter Neyroud, a former chief constable of Thames Valley Police, acknowledged yesterday that the decision to recommend sentences short of jail for uninsured drivers clashes with public opinion.  A survey carried out for the Council showed that most people see driving without a licence or insurance as a very serious crime on a par with dangerous or drunk driving.
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The Crimes and the Punishment.

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Offence
Causing death by
dangerous 
driving
careless
driving
unlicensed or
uninsured
Minimum
Sentence
2 years
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Community
Punishment
Community
Punishment
Maximum
Sentence
14 years
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5 years
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2 years
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Typical
Sentence
5 years
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9 months
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Community
Punishment
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Aggravating factors include... previous convictions: more than one person killed: failing to stop: falsely claiming someone else was driving.
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Mitigating factors include... offender seriously injured; victim was a relative or close friend: lack of driving experience: offender genuinely believed he or she was licensed and insured.
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Daily Mail Comment...
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Last year, the Government pushed through a robust new law to imprison motorists who cause death while driving without a licence or insurance.  For a moment, it looked as if Labour was at last acting upon its ten-year-old election pledge to be 'tough on crime'.  It doesn't look like that any more.  The new law has yet to come into force... but already the Sentencing Guidelines Council has made a mockery of it.  In its latest rules for judges, it says those who kill while driving illegally should normally escape with a community punishment.
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So much for all the brave talk about stamping out the menace of illegal drivers and delivering justice to victims' families.  Mind you, it's hardly the fault of the sentencing council that offenders won't be punished as Parliament intended.  Like so many other laws, it can't be enforced... for the simple reason that the Government has failed to provide enough prison places.  'Tough on crime'?  Ten years on, those words ring more hollow than ever.
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Comment...
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Point 1... basically... we don't really agree with either approach.  The biggest problems stem from the ever increasing army of illegal drivers... and the Government are going to make it even worse... turning a blind-eye to illegal activities... while making life a lot more difficult for law-abiding drivers is a pathetic response. 
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Point 2... all these different kinds of offences should not be clumped together.  First, look at the issues relating to careless or dangerous driving offences... and apportion blame.  Then look at any aggravating or mitigating factors, considering these other issues... been disqualified and defying a Court ban... putting other people at risk because they have never held a licence... [serious offences even if the accident wasn't their fault.]  But simply having no Road Tax... or no Insurance are 'Economic Crimes'... you do not kill someone because you do not have these things.  They are not really any different from fiddling your Income Tax... working for cash in hand... or paying the plumber in cash so as to avoid VAT.
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Point 3... many of these people will not start paying their insurance just because the penalties have increased... if just gives them an even greater incentive to flee the scene of any accidents... which is the opposite of what you want.  These people will only start paying their Insurance if they think the chances of them getting caught have become very high.  So, as an example... if you have an Insurance system... where you require a valid windscreen sticker...  if you don't have one, you will probably be caught out within days... and you'll be facing a very stiff Fine.  Then you will have a much higher rate of compliance... and you won't need to send people to prison... which should be the objective.
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