The Practical Lawyer


Sentencing – careless driving

A lost his appeal against sentence following his conviction for causing death by careless driving. He had been sentenced to two years in prison, and disqualified from driving for five years (and until he passes an extended retest).

The initial comments of the Court of Appeal on the issue of sentencing are useful to note:

‘… it is important that we should re-emphasise the role of the courts when sentencing in cases of this kind. No prison sentence that the Crown Court is able to impose, whatever its length, can sufficiently reflect the loss of someone’s life. Instead, the role given to the court involves assessing the offender’s culpability in committing the offence and the harm he has caused, applying the Definitive Guideline, and subject to the maximum penalty which Parliament allows to be imposed. Sentencing for offences of this kind is highly sensitive to the circumstances of each individual case.’

Against that background, the CA considered the judge’s approach to sentencing. In applying the Definitive Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, the judge found this to be a case falling not far short of dangerous driving. However, A argued his driving should instead have been treated as falling within the second category, ‘other cases of careless or inconsiderate driving’. On that basis, his sentence was manifestly excessive.

A also argued that there was no evidence to support the judge’s categorisation of the offence – that he had simply misjudged a difficult bend, and there should have been a specific warning sign or reduction in the speed limit for that location. However, his estimated speed was about 10mph below the actual speed limit, and 8mph below the top end of the range given for the maximum speed at which the bend could safely be driven.

His arguments were rejected, and the judge had not misapplied the Guideline. The speed limit ‘did not indicate a level of speed at which it could not be careless, let alone safe, for the appellant to negotiate the bend, less still when it had been raining heavily and the road surface was wet. The appellant’s culpability is not reduced because there was no warning sign about this bend or reduction in speed limit at that point’. Also, the collision took place after A had driven through a series of bends – bends that he knew and should already have been driving at an appropriate speed.

Holgate J commented: ‘It should be recalled that Annex A on page 18 of the Guideline gives driving at a speed “which is highly inappropriate for the prevailing road or traffic conditions” as an example of dangerous driving, even where that driving is not “aggressive” and does not involve racing or “competitiveness”. The difference between a “highly inappropriate” speed in this context and an “excessive speed” amounting to careless driving falling not far short of dangerous driving, is plainly a matter of degree’. R v Monington [2018] EWCA Crim 2016. Source:


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