Driving Licences and Dangerous Drivers

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:57 am on 14 June 2022.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 10:57, 14 June 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered driving licences and dangerous drivers.

I am grateful to the Minister for her time today, given the sensitivity of the issues that we will be discussing. While the debate could have been called on behalf of any of the estimated 1,390 families who so very sadly lost a loved one to a road death in the last year, it is because of a grieving family in my constituency that I am here. Given their case is subject to an ongoing investigation, I recognise the rules of the House and the importance of ensuring that under the rule of law, judgment can be cast fairly.

I am sorry that I cannot lay out my constituent’s case in full. My understanding is that someone has been charged and it is important that the case is not jeopardised, but I can assure the family and the Minister that I will return to this issue once I can speak more freely. What I can say is that in December last year, my young constituent was tragically killed in a car crash, leaving behind her devastated family. It is important to note that the circumstances of the case raise concerns about drivers being able to continue to drive unless and until they are found guilty of driving-related offences. Although I am here on behalf of my constituent and her family, I hope that the Minister will consider the wider principle that affects any family who loses a loved one to dangerous driving.

As it stands, there is no law to stop any dangerous driver continuing to jump in their car after a tragic accident unless and until they not only are charged but are found guilty. I make it clear to the Minister that, of course, I recognise and wholeheartedly support the justice system upon which our rule of law is built: crimes must be investigated in full and presented before a jury to cast an impartial verdict. My call is not for guilt to be presumed before innocence—it is right that the tragic death of my constituent be investigated in full and all the evidence presented—but we must recognise that waiting for a trial in such a case can take years. It is wrong to allow somebody to continue to take to the road while they face an accusation of and investigation for death by dangerous driving. For the protection of others, for their own safety and for the peace of mind of the bereaved family, the person accused of killing their loved one by dangerous driving should not be back behind the wheel.

I cannot begin to imagine the anguish, grief and despair that a family has to face when they receive that dreaded knock on the door. It is a message that no family should ever have to hear. The pain is unimaginable, but it must be made even worse by the knowledge that nothing prevents the accused dangerous driver from driving while an investigation is still under way. We cannot bring loved ones back, but we can change the law to ensure that, while under bail conditions, nobody accused of death by dangerous driving is back on the road until the investigation is complete. It is really that simple.

Although I am unable to go into the details of my constituent’s case, I will tell the Minister about an investigation that has been completed. I understand from my hon. Friend Bridget Phillipson that her constituent, Carol King, tragically lost her partner, Richard Jordan, in a dangerous driving accident on 4 August 2019. Carol and Richard’s daughter was 19 months old when he died. Eleven days after burying her partner, Carol found out that she was pregnant, and she went on to have their second daughter in March 2020. The defendant was sentenced to six years and eight months’ imprisonment, and was also banned from driving for three years following his release. That person, who had previous convictions for driving offences and is responsible for the pain of a mourning family, will be back on our roads in a matter of years.

As it stands, the current laws and framework do not allow for the immediate removal of a driving licence from a person who is arrested or charged in connection with an offence of being over the legal limit for drink or drug-driving. Why can the police revoke a driving licence from members of the public when they fail an eye test or—as in my sister’s case—when they have an epileptic fit, but they do not have the power to remove a driving licence from someone who is driving when over the alcohol limit or under the influence of drugs?