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We want to hear your views about our prosecution policy and so we conduct consultations to help inform our policy making.

Find out about current consultations and read the results of past consultations

Driving offences involving death

The main types of driving offences involving fatalities are 'dangerous' driving and 'careless or inconsiderate' driving. The driver's behaviour is what is important, not what the driver believes. Someone may be committing a dangerous driving offence even though they believe they are driving safely.

Find out more about driving offences involving death

CPS announces changes in policy on bad driving and publishes summary of responses to consultation


The Crown Prosecution Service received one of its widest responses from the public when it asked for comments on prosecuting bad driving. The responses to the consultation will result in changes to CPS policy on how driving offences are charged and prosecuted and also the service it offers to victims and witnesses. A summary of the responses is published today on this website.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald QC, said: "A 2002 review by Her Majesty's CPS Inspectorate into the way the CPS handles road traffic cases involving fatalities found a high standard of decision-making. It concluded that the correct charge was chosen by the CPS in the vast majority of cases.

"However the purpose of the present consultation was to open up our practices and procedures, to explain how and why we make decisions - and to ensure that we take account of any changes in public attitudes. We want the public to have confidence in the decisions we make.

"The 139 responses we received showed that people care very deeply about these cases and about the way the CPS handles them. It is clear that bad driving and its consequences, especially when a loved one dies, can cause unimaginable distress and the issues attract a wide range of views.

"We have looked very carefully at the comments we received and will take them fully into account as we review our policy on prosecuting driving offences.

"We want to make sure our prosecutors reach the correct charging decisions not only in line with current law, but also, where it is just and lawful to do so, that they take into account changing public attitudes and the desire of victims or their families and friends to see that justice is done."

The CPS policy on road traffic offences will be published later this autumn. Changes are likely to include:

  • More detailed guidance for prosecutors on when it is appropriate to charge manslaughter instead of a lesser offence so that the correct charge is chosen from the start;
  • Public concerns about the dangers of driving while using a mobile phone means that a charge of dangerous driving will now be the starting point for this offence, where there is clear evidence that danger has been caused by its use;
  • An enhanced service to bereaved families with prosecutors meeting families at an early stage to explain the charging decision and the court process.

The issue of whether a driving fatality should result in a charge of manslaughter prompted the widest range of views. Comments varied from 'all motoring deaths should be charged as manslaughter' to those who believed that this would devalue the charge and that 'it should only be used in the most serious cases'.

Sir Ken said: "Clearly we are not going to satisfy both of these viewpoints at the same time. But I think it is right that prosecutors are given new guidance so that where the individual cases warrant it, then a manslaughter charge is selected.

"It was also clear from the responses that there is widespread public concern about the use of mobile phones and other hand-held electronic equipment while driving.

"We accept that in cases where there is clear evidence that danger has been caused by their use - such as texting while driving - then our policy should spell out that the starting point for charging will be dangerous driving.

"I am very grateful to all those who have taken the time to respond to our consultation document. I am especially grateful to those respondents who have themselves been bereaved as a result of bad driving."

  1. A summary of the responses is published today on this website - see Consultations - Prosecuting bad driving - A consultation on CPS Prosecution Policy and Practice - Response to consultation. It follows the publication of the CPS consultation paper "Prosecuting Bad Driving" in December 2006.
  2. The CPS policy on prosecuting road traffic offences will be published later this autumn and will be available on the CPS website and in hard copy.
  3. For further information contact CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8180.