Advanced Search

PDF Information

In order to open PDF documents you need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. The majority of computers have this software but if not you can download Adobe Reader free of charge.

Get Adobe Reader

Causing death by driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers

Date Updated: January 2012
Title: Road Traffic Offences
Offence: Causing death by driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers
Legislation: Road Traffic Act 1988 s.3ZB
Commencement Date: 18 August 2008
Mode of Trial: Either Way
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:  

  • On indictment -2 years imprisonment.
  • On summary trial - 6 months imprisonment.
  • Minimum mandatory disqualification 12 months.
  • Mandatory endorsement 3-11 points.
  • Discretionary re-test (s.36(4) RTOA 1988

Sentencing Range: See Culpability & Harm (below) for range and starting point. Disqualification minimum 12 months, endorsement and dsicretionary re-test

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines (If Any)

The SGC definitive guideline "Causing Death by Driving" applies to all offenders convicted of this offence and sentenced on or after 18 August 2008.  The guideline applies to a "first-time offender" aged 18 or over convicted after trial.

Culpability & Harm

Culpability arises from the offender driving a vehicle on a road or other public place when, by law, not allowed to do so; the offence does not require proof of any fault in the standard of driving.

Because of the significant lower maximum penalty, the sentencing ranges are considerably lower than for the other three offences covered by the SGC guidelines.  Many cases may be sentenced in a magistrates' court, particularly when there is an early guilty plea.

A fine is unlikely to be an appropriate sentence for this offence; where a non-custodial sentence is considered appropriate, this should be a community one.

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 an offender who is not permitted by law to do so.

Nature of offence: The offender was disqualified from driving OR The offender was unlicensed or uninsured plus 2 or more aggravating factors from the list below 

Starting Point: 12 months custody 
Sentencing range: 36 weeks - 2 years custody

Nature of offence: The offender was unlicensed or uninsured plus at least 1 aggravating factor from the list below 

Starting Point: 26 weeks custody 
Sentencing range: Community order (HIGH) - 36 weeks custody

Nature of offence: The offender was unlicensed or uninsured - no aggravating factors 

Starting Point: Community order (MEDIUM) 
Sentencing range: Community order (LOW) - Community order (HIGH)

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

When assessing the seriousness of any offence, the court must always refer to the full list of aggravating and mitigating factors in the Council Guideline on Seriousness as well as those set out in the table below as being particularly relevant to this type of offending behaviour.

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 an offender who is not permitted by law to do so.

In some cases, the extreme circumstances that led an offender to drive whiles 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 (eg having just missed a renewal date or relied on a third party to make an application) and also the validity of a licence (eg 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 driving licence.

Sentencers should take into account relevant matters of personal mitigation; see in particular guidance on good driving record, giving assistance at the scene and remorse.

Additional aggravating factors

  • Previous convictions for motoring offences, whether involving bad driving or involving an offence of the same kind that forms part of the present conviction (i.e. unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured driving)
  • More than one person was killed as a result of the offence
  • Serious injury to one or more persons in addition to the death(s)
  • Irresponsible behaviour such as failing to stop or falsely claiming that someone else was driving

Additional mitigating factors

  • The decision to drive was brought about by a proven and genuine emergency falling short of a defence
  • The offender genuinely believed that he or she was insured or licensed to drive
  • The offender was seriously injured as a result of the collision
  • The victim was a close friend or relative

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

R v Williams [2010] EWCA Crim 2552 - for an offence under this section of causing death by driving without insurance and without a licence, fault was not required. It was clearly Parliament's intention that if a person drove unlicensed or uninsured he would be liable for death that was caused by his driving however much the victim might have been at fault. The issue of causation was considered: it was sufficient that the cause was not negligible. 24 weeks custody was appropriate.

Ancillary Orders

  • Mandatory disqualification minimum 12 months and
  • Mandatory endorsement 3-11 points
  • Discretionary retest (S.36(4) RTOA 1988)

Links

Top of page

Return to the Sentencing Manual index