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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.

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CPS responds to review of decision making in road death cases

13/11/2008

A review of the way the Crown Prosecution Service deals with road traffic cases involving fatalities shows that the organisation has made good progress, said Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC.

Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate today published its second thematic review into Decision Making, Conduct and Prosecution of Road Traffic Offences Involving Fatalities in England and Wales.

The report found that the quality of prosecutors' decision-making was good and that cases were handled well after charge. The standard of advocacy was also good, with CPS prosecutors well-prepared for court cases and empathetic in their interaction with victims' families.

Mr Starmer said: "We welcome the Inspectorate's report. It acknowledges that the CPS has made good progress in the way we handle these very sensitive cases.

"The new offences that recently came into force - such as causing death by careless driving - allow our prosecutors to deal with the criminality involved in road traffic fatality cases in a much more satisfactory manner than has been the case until now.

"We introduced new guidance to prosecutors to support our Policy on Prosecuting Cases of Bad Driving and updated that guidance in August this year to take account of implementation of the new offences. As with all our legal guidance, this will be regularly reviewed and the views of the Inspectorate will be taken into account."

In some difficult cases where the decision was very much in the balance, the inspectorate found that prosecutors could have charged a more serious offence or gone ahead with some cases that were discontinued. However, it also recognised that the new offences that have been introduced now give prosecutors the opportunity to charge a more appropriate offence, giving better access to justice for families.

Mr Starmer said: "We will try to make sure that charging decisions are made as quickly as possible and in such a way that they reflect the true gravity of each case. Every decision involving a fatality should be approved by the Chief Crown Prosecutor of the relevant Area in any event.

"We will examine whether further training is necessary, particularly for those prosecutors who have been given the responsibility of handling these cases at Area level and we will also review our links with other agencies to make sure that cases of this nature are dealt with as quickly and as well as possible."

ENDS

  1. For further information, please contact CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8079. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926
  2. The CPS policy on prosecuting cases of bad driving
  3. The CPS legal guidance for prosecutors listed by offence
  4. The CPS press office fact sheet on driving offences involving fatalities
  5. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court

    The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008.

    More about the CPS

    The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol