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Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving

Causing Death by Careless Driving


This guidance also applies in cases where the suspect failed to provide a specimen of analysis. This offence can be committed through:


  • Being unfit to drive through drink or drugs
  • Being over the prescribed limit of alcohol
  • Having failed to provide a specimen for analysis
  • Having failed to permit blood to be analysed when it was taken whilst suspect was incapable of giving consent


Unlike cases of dangerous driving, the culpability relating to the actual manner of driving is lower in this type or case but the overall culpability is increased by the fact that the offender has driven after consuming drugs or an excessive amount of alcohol. Accordingly, there is considerable parity in the levels of seriousness with the deliberate decision to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs aggravating the careless standard of driving onto a par with dangerous driving.


Refusing to provide a specimen for analysis may be a calculated step by a suspect to avoid prosecution for drink driving. The court hearing cases such as this are entitled to draw an adverse inference from a refusal to supply a specimen and the guidelines specifically state that the court should be mindful of this when a defendant tries to persuade them that only a small quantity was consumed.


The number of factors that need to be concerned mean there is a wide range in penalty and sentencing for this offence starts at 18 months in custody but can be as high as life imprisonment for the most serious of offences.


Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving


This offence is an “either way” offence which means it can be dealt with in either the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court depending on the seriousness of the allegation. The maximum the Crown Court can impose is 5 years in custody whereas the magistrates have lesser powers and can impose 6 months custody as a maximum so the venue plays an important role in determining the end-result.


The three levels of seriousness are categorised by the degree of carelessness involved in the standard of driving exhibited by the defendant. The most serious level is when the offender’s level of driving fell not that short of dangerous so there can sometimes be an inevitable overlap between careless/dangerous which makes the court’s job more difficult.


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


The starting point for the most serious level of causing death by careless driving is intentionally less than that in the guidelines for causing death by dangerous driving to reflect the different standard of driving behaviour. The range still leaves scope for court discretion however, within the 5 year maximum, to impose longer sentences where the case is particularly serious.


Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers


This is also a triable either way offence and at present the maximum the magistrates’ court can impose is a 6 month custodial penalty. If dealt with in the Crown Court then the maximum is two years imprisonment.


Culpability in this type of case arises from the offender driving the vehicle on a road or in a public place when, by law, they should not be doing so. The offence does not require any proof of fault in the standard of driving which makes possible arguments against certain evidence difficult.


Because of the significantly lower maximum penalty, the sentencing ranges are considerably lower than for the other three offences covered in this guideline; many cases may be sentenced in a magistrates’ court, particularly where there is an early guilty plea.


A fine is unlikely to be an appropriate sentence for this offence; where a noncustodial sentence is considered appropriate, this should be a community order.


Since driving whilst disqualified is more culpable than driving whilst unlicensed or uninsured, a higher starting point is proposed when the offender was disqualified from driving at the time of the offence.


Being uninsured, unlicensed or disqualified are the only determinants of seriousness for this offence, as there are no factors relating to the standard of driving. The list of aggravating factors identified is slightly different as the emphasis is on the decision to drive by someone who is not permitted to do so by law.


In some cases, the extreme circumstances that led an offender to drive whilst unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured may result in a successful defence of ‘duress of circumstances. In less extreme circumstances, where the decision to drive was brought about by a genuine and proven emergency, that may mitigate offence seriousness and so it is included as an additional mitigating factor.


A driver may hold a reasonable belief in relation to the validity of insurance (for example having just missed a renewal date or relied on a third party to make an application) and also the validity of a licence (for example incorrectly believing that a licence covered a particular category of vehicle). In light of this, an additional mitigating factor covers those situations where an offender genuinely believed that there was valid insurance or a valid licence.


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