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Accidents happen on the road every day. Unfortunately, some can be particularly serious and may attract severe punishment including the consequences of being involved in a car accident that results in someone’s death. At Thorley Stephenson, our road traffic lawyers understand the impact and consequences of a conviction for a motoring offence. We use our many years of experience in defending clients across a range of road traffic matters to get the best result for you.

Causing Death by Dangerous Driving in Scotland - The Law

Causing death by dangerous driving is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988. An individual is vulnerable to a charge with causing death by dangerous driving where:

  • The way that they are driving falls below what would ordinarily be expected of a competent and careful driver;
  • It would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous; and,
  • They cause someone else to die as a result.

The defining feature of this offence is that it must have resulted in causing the death of someone. The term ‘dangerous’ is defined as there being danger of injury being caused to any person or of serious damage to property. It is important to understand that in determining that you have been driving dangerously, the prosecution will have to consider what you were aware of at the time you were driving and what you could be expected to be aware of in the circumstances.

Owing to the gravity of the offence, the sentencing available to the courts is equally severe, with a maximum of 14 years' imprisonment.

It is important to be aware that the length of the term of imprisonment that a court imposes will almost always depend on the evidence and facts in the circumstances.

The courts tend to try to segregate conduct into categories:

  • Driving that was indicative of a deliberate disregard of road traffic rules or a significant intake of alcohol which had severely impacted the ability to drive properly, are both types of conduct which are likely to attract the maximum penalty;
  • Driving at excessive speed or entertaining an avoidable distraction, e.g. reading or having driven while under the influence of narcotics could result in a slightly less severe sentence; and
  • Attempting to drive while having had little to no sleep, speeding or undertaking a particularly dangerous manoeuvre could attract a lesser sentence.

The courts are afforded a degree of discretion in sentencing in order to determine the most appropriate sanction for causing death by dangerous driving. The court can also impose a minimum disqualification of two years from driving.

There are a number of factors which a court will take into account when determining the most appropriate sentence, including:

  • The driver having previous convictions;
  • The driver’s flagrant disregard for warnings as to their conduct;
  • Any attempt by the driver to avoid punishment;
  • The driver’s driving being in response to a genuine emergency; and
  • The lack of driving experience that the driver had.

The Difference Between Careless and Dangerous Driving

It is important to understand that there is a very fine line between ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ in the context of road traffic offences resulting in someone’s death. Under the 1988 Act, careless driving is deemed as being where a driver does not take the necessary care and attention that would be expected of a driver in the circumstances, or where they do not have reasonable consideration for other road users.

The punishment for causing death by careless driving, although not as severe as for dangerous driving, is still weighty:

  • A maximum of 5 years imprisonment
  • A minimum disqualification of 12 months from driving
  • A court will consider the same factors as mentioned earlier in the context of dangerous driving, in determining the appropriate sanction for this offence. 

Why instruct Thorley Stephenson?

At Thorley Stephenson, we provide expert legal representation for road traffic offences. Our team are regularly instructed to assist in some incredibly challenging cases.

We were recently involved in a case concerning a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. Our client Mr Kalman Edwards, 78, from Edinburgh, had been dropping his daughter off at Waverley Train Station on 19 May 2014. On arriving at the train station, Mr Edwards found that the entrance ramp had been blocked by a security barrier that had recently been added. In an attempt to get back to the main road, Mr Edwards reversed out of the area. As he reversed, his foot hit the accelerator as opposed to the break, causing the car to increase in speed and hit Rev Thomas Sinclair. Rev Sinclair, 76, had been attending a meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the area, and died at the scene of the accident.

In court, we emphasised that the circumstances were such of a genuine accident, and should not attract an overly stringent penalty. Mr Edwards was deeply regretful of the situation, and the court was convinced of this in light of our arguments and the evidence we presented to it. It decided to disqualify Mr Kalman from driving for 4 years.

Contact Thorley Stephenson

At Thorley Stepheson, we understand how anxious the prospect of being charged with a road traffic offence can make people. Our team of dedicated road traffic solicitors have several years of experience of advising on a number of road traffic charges, including those offences resulting in death. Our experience in criminal law and skills in courtroom advocacy afford us a considerable advantage in defending road traffic cases. We believe that it is important that our clients have confidence in our abilities, and will be available to answer any questions that you have in respect of road traffic laws. If you are facing a road traffic charge, or are perhaps in need of any other legal assistance, please contact us on 01315569599 and speak to our team today and find out how we can help.

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