Should the penalty for drink driving be increased?
First published: 24th January 2009
I think that a sentence of one year for killing a young woman on a pedestrian crossing is far too lenient, imposed earlier this week. Even the current maximum of ten years is insufficient. We should look at the circumstances: the driver had already been banned: he had been told that he was not capable of operating a heavy, fast-moving, and therefore dangerous machine safely, but he chose to do so anyway. He did not make an effort to improve his driving - he was speeding and ignored a traffic light. He was doing something dangerous, in a way that increased the danger, and he knew it. Someone died as a result. Why is this different from murder?
Similarly, anyone who has passed a driving test must know that alcohol slows our reactions and impairs our judgement. Getting behind the wheel when drunk is intentionally endangering other people.
Judges should have the flexibility to take all the circumstances into account when sentencing, but they must remember the seriousness of the offences. We should treat injuries due to drink driving and driving while banned as the violent crimes they are.