13 March 2008

Justice Committee consideration of the Consultation Sentencing Guideline on Death by Driving offences

The Justice Committee recently considered the Consultation Sentencing Guideline on Death by Driving offences produced by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The Committee will be making comments to the Council on the contents of the guideline but would also like your comments on issues relating to the guideline outside the Council's remit.

Firstly, we heard concerns from Roadpeace about the way that victims or families of victims of road crashes are dealt with. Roadpeace suggested that bereaved families in such cases were rather the poor relation in terms of services received from the criminal justice system. Their concerns were put to the Crown Prosecution Service, who acknowledged that they could do more and informed us of the recent improvements in services they provide. However, it is clearly not only the Crown Prosecution Service with whom families come into contact. There are a number of other agencies who contribute to the experience of bereaved families. The Committee would be interested in hearing what initiatives are being taken to improve the experience of victims across the criminal justice system, particularly in cases following road deaths. One suggestion from Roadpeace for example was to send a standard evaluation form to bereaved families, collated by perhaps the Probation Service or CPS Witness Units, to monitor their views on the service received.

Secondly, we heard concerns about the information available in these cases. Our witnesses had looked for example for statistics on whether drivers were disqualified after being involved in a fatal crash and been unable to find them. Roadpeace also expressed concern about information available to victims - whether an offender had appealed, not just the length of their sentence but what this meant in real terms such as when they would move to an open prison, when they would have weekend release. Again such information and statistics would be spread around many agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service, the Probation Service and the Courts. The Committee is therefore interested in whether the Ministry of Justice is in a position to collate such information and make it publicly available.

I look forward to hearing your views on these points. I attach a copy of the transcript from our oral evidence session for your information.

Rt Hon Alan Beith MP
Justice Committee