CPS consultation on guidance for charging offences arising from driving incidents

The Crown Prosecution service has produced a consolidated guidance document on the guidance for charging offences arising from driving incidents. The document is available in accessible format here, and in pdf format here, and is open for consultation until November 8th.

There are two key aspects of the new guidance. The first is a proposal to make the sentencing of those drivers responsible for the deaths of family members, or those with whom they had a close relationship, more lenient.

The document states

Any case which involves the death of another will inevitably be one of the most serious matters that will be dealt with by prosecutors. Whilst the serious nature of these cases usually means that a prosecution will be in the public interest, prosecutors must acknowledge the greater emotional impact felt by a driver where the death he/she has caused is that of a relative or someone with whom they share a close personal/family relationship.


These types of cases are more commonly referred to as “nearest and dearest” cases. When reviewing such cases, prosecutors must balance the circumstances of each individual case with the consequences to the driver who has suffered significant personal loss from the bereavement. Whilst there may be sufficient evidence to prosecute, we recognise that in some instances such prosecutions would be inappropriate and should not proceed on public interest grounds due to the life long consequences of losing a loved one and being responsible for that loss...

Where the degree of culpability of the driver is low and the fatality was as a result of the standard of driving falling below that required by law with no evidence of danger to other road users, it is unlikely that a prosecution will be in the public interest. Examples of this may include minor errors of judgement such as failure to look properly before turning at a junction due to a momentary lapse of attention; or, where the illegality arose as a result of a genuine mistake on the part of the driver, for example, a mistaken belief that he/she was insured.

In other words, causing death by careless driving may no longer result in a prosecution if the deceased individual was known to the driver responsible.

The other noteworthy aspect of the guidance is the suggestion that it is 'very unlikely' to be appropriate to bring prosecutions against emergency service drivers, and also against members of the public responding to an emergency, unless their driving is strictly classified as 'dangerous'. Again, the document states

In the course of their duties, police officers, ambulance drivers and fire-fighters may need to drive a vehicle in response to an emergency in a manner which would otherwise be considered unacceptable. It is very unlikely to be appropriate to proceed with a prosecution on public interest grounds if a police officer, ambulance driver or fire-fighter commits a driving offence while responding to an emergency call unless the driving is dangerous or indicates a high degree of culpability... 
There will sometimes be cases when a person who is not a member of the emergency services will have to drive in response to an emergency situation.  For example, a parent taking a sick child to hospital. As with members of the emergency services, the considerations outlined above will also apply in these cases.

That is, members of the public driving in response to an emergency will not face prosecution, unless their driving falls into the 'dangerous' category.

Consultation responses can be made in a variety of ways, as detailed in the right margin here.

[The consultation overlaps with a parliamentary debate on 17th October on the treatment of the victims of driving offences by criminal justice system. This follows an Early Day Motion tabled in response to British Cycling's Campaign for a Justice Review]