Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving
Triable either way
Maximum when tried summarily: Level 5 fine and/or 6 months
Maximum when tried on indictment: 5 years
- It is unavoidable that some cases will be on the borderline between dangerous and careless driving, or may involve a number of factors that significantly increase the seriousness of an offence. As a result, the guideline for this offence identifies three levels of seriousness, the range for the highest of which overlaps with ranges for the lower levels of seriousness for causing death by dangerous driving.
- The three levels of seriousness are defined by the degree of carelessness involved in the standard of driving:
- the most serious level for this offence is where the offender’s driving fell not that far short of dangerous;
- the least serious group of offences relates to those cases where the level of culpability is low - for example in a case involving an offender who misjudges the speed of another vehicle, or turns without seeing an oncoming vehicle because of restricted visibility;
- other cases will fall into the intermediate level.
- Where the level of carelessness is low and there are no aggravating factors, even the fact that death was caused is not sufficient to justify a prison sentence.
- A fine is unlikely to be an appropriate sentence for this offence; where a non-custodial sentence is considered appropriate, this should be a community order. The nature of the requirements will be determined by the purpose (Criminal Justice Act 2003, s.142(1)) identified by the court as of primary importance. Requirements most likely to be relevant include unpaid work requirement, activity requirement, programme requirement and curfew requirement.
- Offender mitigation particularly relevant to this offence includes conduct after the offence such as where the offender gave direct, positive, assistance at the scene of a collision to victim(s). It may also include remorse – whilst it can be expected that anyone who has caused a death by driving would be remorseful, this cannot undermine its importance for sentencing purposes. It is for the court to determine whether an expression of remorse is genuine.
- Where an offender has a good driving record, this is not a factor that automatically should be treated as mitigation, especially now that the presence of previous convictions is a statutory aggravating factor. However, any evidence to show that an offender has previously been an exemplary driver, for example having driven an ambulance, police vehicle, bus, taxi or similar vehicle conscientiously and without incident for many years, is a fact that the courts may well wish to take into account by way of offender mitigation. This is likely to have even greater effect where the driver is driving on public duty (for example, on ambulance, fire services or police duties) and was responding to an emergency.
- Disqualification of the offender from driving and endorsement of the offender’s driving licence are mandatory, and the offence carries between 3 and 11 penalty points when the court finds special reasons for not imposing disqualification. There is a discretionary power (Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s.36(4)) to order an extended driving test/re-test where a person is convicted of this offence.
Offence seriousness (culpability and harm)
A. Identify the appropriate starting point
|Examples of nature of activity||Starting point||Range|
|Careless or inconsiderate driving arising from momentary inattention with no aggravating factors||Medium level community order||Low level community order to high level community order|
|Other cases of careless or inconsiderate driving||Crown Court||High level community order to Crown Court|
|Careless or inconsiderate driving falling not far short of dangerous driving||Crown Court||Crown Court|
The seriousness of the offence should be the initial factor in determining which requirements to include in a community order. Offence-specific guidelines refer to three sentencing levels within the community order band based on offence seriousness (low, medium and high). See below for non-exhaustive examples of requirements that might be appropriate in each.
At least one requirement MUST be imposed for the purpose of punishment and/or a fine imposed in addition to the community order unless there are exceptional circumstances which relate to the offence or the offender that would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so. For further information see the Imposition guideline.
A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence.
Offences only just cross community order threshold, where the seriousness of the offence or the nature of the offender’s record means that a discharge or fine is inappropriate
In general, only one requirement will be appropriate and the length may be curtailed if additional requirements are necessary
Offences that obviously fall within the community order band
Offences only just fall below the custody threshold or the custody threshold is crossed but a community order is more appropriate in the circumstances
More intensive sentences which combine two or more requirements may be appropriate
Suitable requirements might include:
Suitable requirements might include:
Suitable requirements might include:
* If order does not contain a punitive requirement, suggested fine levels are indicated below:
BAND A FINE
BAND B FINE
BAND C FINE
The approach to the imposition of a custodial sentence should be as follows:
1) Has the custody threshold been passed?
- A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
- There is no general definition of where the custody threshold lies. The circumstances of the individual offence and the factors assessed by offence-specific guidelines will determine whether an offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Where no offence specific guideline is available to determine seriousness, the harm caused by the offence, the culpability of the offender and any previous convictions will be relevant to the assessment.
- The clear intention of the threshold test is to reserve prison as a punishment for the most serious offences.
2) Is it unavoidable that a sentence of imprisonment be imposed?
- Passing the custody threshold does not mean that a custodial sentence should be deemed inevitable. Custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime.
- For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.
3) What is the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence?
- In considering this the court must NOT consider any licence or post sentence supervision requirements which may subsequently be imposed upon the offender’s release.
4) Can the sentence be suspended?
- A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.
The following factors should be weighed in considering whether it is possible to suspend the sentence:
Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence
Factors indicating that it may be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence
Offender presents a risk/danger to the public
Realistic prospect of rehabilitation
Appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody
Strong personal mitigation
History of poor compliance with court orders
Immediate custody will result in significant harmful impact upon others
The imposition of a custodial sentence is both punishment and a deterrent. To ensure that the overall terms of the suspended sentence are commensurate with offence seriousness, care must be taken to ensure requirements imposed are not excessive. A court wishing to impose onerous or intensive requirements should reconsider whether a community sentence might be more appropriate.
Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that:
- the custody threshold has been passed; and, if so
- the length of imprisonment which represents the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence;
the court should obtain a pre-sentence report, whether verbal or written, unless the court considers a report to be unnecessary. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case.
Magistrates: Consult your legal adviser before deciding to sentence to custody without a pre-sentence report.
For further information and sentencing flowcharts see the Imposition guideline.
B. Consider the effect of aggravating and mitigating factors (other than those within examples above)
The following may be particularly relevant but these lists are not exhaustive
Factors indicating higher culpability
- Other offences committed at the same time, such as driving other than in accordance with the terms of a valid licence; driving while disqualified; driving without insurance; taking a vehicle without consent; driving a stolen vehicle
- Previous convictions for motoring offences, particularly offences that involve bad driving
- Irresponsible behaviour, such as failing to stop or falsely claiming that one of the victims was responsible for the collision
Factors indicating greater degree of harm
- More than one person was killed as a result of the offence
- Serious injury to one or more persons in addition to the death(s)
Factors indicating lower culpability
- Offender seriously injured in the collision
- The victim was a close friend or relative
- The actions of the victim or a third party contributed to the commission of the offence
- The offender’s lack of driving experience contributed significantly to the likelihood of a collision occuring and/or death resulting
- The driving was in response to a proven and genuine emergency falling short of a defence
- Offence committed whilst on bail for other offences
- Failure to respond to previous sentences
- Offence was racially or religiously aggravated
- Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on his or her sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation)
- Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim’s disability (or presumed disability)
- Previous conviction(s), particularly where a pattern of repeat offending is disclosed
- Planning of an offence
- An intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence
- Offenders operating in groups or gangs
- ‘Professional’ offending
- Commission of the offence for financial gain (where this is not inherent in the offence itself)
- High level of profit from the offence
- An attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
- Failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others about the offender’s behaviour
- Offence committed whilst on licence
- Offence motivated by hostility towards a minority group, or a member or members of it
- Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim(s)
- Commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Use of a weapon to frighten or injure victim
- Deliberate and gratuitous violence or damage to property, over and above what is needed to carry out the offence
- Abuse of power
- Abuse of a position of trust
- Multiple victims
- An especially serious physical or psychological effect on the victim, even if unintended
- A sustained assault or repeated assaults on the same victim
- Victim is particularly vulnerable
- Location of the offence (for example, in an isolated place)
- Offence is committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public
- Presence of others e.g. relatives, especially children or partner of the victim
- Additional degradation of the victim (e.g. taking photographs of a victim as part of a sexual offence)
- In property offences, high value (including sentimental value) of property to the victim, or substantial consequential loss (e.g. where the theft of equipment causes serious disruption to a victim’s life or business)
- A greater degree of provocation than normally expected
- Mental illness or disability
- Youth or age, where it affects the responsibility of the individual defendant
- The fact that the offender played only a minor role in the offence
Form a preliminary view of the appropriate sentence, then consider offender mitigation
- Genuine remorse
- Admissions to police in interview
- Ready co-operation with authorities
Consider a reduction for a guilty plea
Consider ancillary orders, including disqualification and deprivation of property
View guidance on available ancillary orders