LEGAL EAGLE: Serious offence if person hurt

Dangerous driving
Dangerous driving
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I had an accident recently and I was arrested for dangerous driving. I’m a bit worried as a friend of mine said that this has recently been turned into a more serious offence. Is this right?

The offences of dangerous driving and causing death by dangerous driving have existed for a long time. They still do and the possible sentences and penalties haven’t changed. On December 3, 2012 a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving was introduced. This offence has a greater maximum sentence than the basic offence of dangerous driving – 5 years imprisonment rather than 2 years.

Before the new offence even if someone caused another person a serious injury as a result of driving dangerously, they could only be prosecuted for the basic dangerous driving offence unless the relevant factors for prosecution as an assault existed. I suspect this is what led to the new offence being enacted. Previously there would be cases where somebody could have been very seriously injured, possibly with life changing consequences, as a result of a person’s dangerous driving. However, regardless of how bad the injury or the driving, if found guilty of dangerous driving the maximum sentence that could possibly be imposed would have been 2 years custody. Many people will have thought this led to some unfair results.

The test for dangerous driving is the same and quite technical whichever offence you are talking about. In general it requires the driving to be obviously of a very low standard and dangerous refers to danger of injury to any person or serious damage to property. For the new offence serious injury also has to have been caused. Serious injury means physical injury/injuries that, in terms of an assault, would amount to grievous bodily harm - commonly accepted to be no more or no less than really serious harm.

As well as the sentence a person found guilty of the new offence must be disqualified from driving for at least 2 years and until they have passed an extended driving test.

There are also offences of careless driving and causing death by careless driving but no offence of causing serious injury by careless driving but a court would be likely to treat an offence of careless driving more seriously if an injury had been caused.

The new legislation will only affect you if it is alleged that you have caused a serious injury by your driving.

These offences are serious matters and it would be wise to get some legal advice. Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist Criminal Solicitors that work in Sunderland and the surrounding areas. To speak to a Solicitor ring 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.