Causing Death by Dangerous Driving

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The offence of causing death by dangerous driving is the most serious of motoring offences. If you have been charged with the offence or if you are subject to such an investigation, it is vital that you talk with one of our lawyers as soon as possible.

The Law

The offence is committed under s.1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. For you to be convicted of the offence, the prosecution would have to prove that you caused the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place.  The term “dangerous driving” is defined by s.2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in that the standard of driving falls so far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

What is “dangerous driving”?

The Crown will need to prove that the standard of driving was “dangerous” in accordance with the statutory definition above. Examples of dangerous driving can include:

  • Driving aggressively or racing;
  • Overtaking in an unsafe manner – particularly undertaking;
  • Knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle;
  • Being distracted whilst driving e.g. reading a map, smoking, eating, drinking, driving using a mobile phone or using an mp3 player; and
  • Ignoring traffic signs or signals;

What needs to be proved for me to be convicted?

1. Standard of driving

The standard of your driving must be proven to be “dangerous” in order for the Court to convict you of this offence. If there is little credible evidence dealing with this point then the Crown should struggle to secure a conviction against you. This only emphasises the importance of us reviewing all evidence in your case as soon as possible.

2. Cause of death

The Crown must prove that the manner of your driving resulted in the death of the other road user. This is a much more complex issue than it would appear upon first consideration. We would need to review all evidence in the case in as much detail as possible and explore all circumstances relating to the offence. There are some cases where the act of “dangerous driving” is so far removed from the eventual fatality that it should not be considered by the Court. Situations can be further complicated if there were multiple vehicles involved and, in which case it would require a great deal of investigation to confirm the full facts of the event and not just those advanced by the prosecution.

Defences

Every case is different and each would have to be considered in detail before we decide on what defence would be available to you. Examples of potential defences are:

  • The fault lay with the other road user or third party;
  • Your driving was not “dangerous” in accordance with the definition above;
  • Lack of credible witnesses for the Prosecution; and
  • Other contributory factors such as unknown defects on the vehicle in question

In some circumstances, we are able to explore the possibility of inviting the Crown to withdraw the charge and to lay a charge of causing death by careless driving in the alternative. This is often the best route to avoiding a custodial sentence. Every case must be judged on its own merits, however, and it is often best to plead not guilty to the charge and defend it all the way to trial.

Case study

We dealt with a case where our client was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving whilst over the prescribed limit in alcohol.

The case involved very tragic circumstances and the death of our client’s partner. Our client was tried at Chester Crown Court in 2016 and was ultimately acquitted of the death by dangerous charge as well as the charge of causing death by careless driving whilst over the prescribed limit.

He was convicted of causing death by careless driving and was able to avoid a custodial sentence. This was a very complex case that required a huge amount of time spent reviewing evidence as well as multiple expert witnesses for the defence. The case is an excellent example of how important it is to put forward the best defence possible in relation to achieving the desired outcome.

Penalties

The maximum penalty for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving is 14 years imprisonment, the minimum penalty recommended by the guidelines is two years in custody. You will also be disqualified from driving for at least two years and you will have to complete an extended retest to get your licence back at the end of the period of disqualification.

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