Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, held a debate in Parliament yesterday on sentencing for dangerous driving, following the tragic deaths of two of Alok’s constituents, John Morland and Kris Jarvis in February.
The half-hour debate, which was held in Westminster Hall, was also attended by John and Kris’s fiancées, Hayley Lindsay and Tracey Fidler and some of their supporters.
The Justice Secretary has already committed to reviewing all driving related offences and penalties and the debate provided an opportunity for MPs to try to influence that review. During the debate, Alok called on the Government to review sentences for those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, so that the law puts victims and the families of victims, ahead of criminals.
Speaking during the debate Alok Sharma said: “John and Kris were family men, and as a result of the accident seven children lost their father; parents lost their sons; brothers and sisters lost their siblings; and the fiancées of John and Kris, who are present and are listening to the debate, Hayley Lindsay and Tracey Fidler, lost the love of their lives...the reality is that those families started a life sentence on 13 February… By contrast, Walters got 10 years and three months for killing two innocent men.”
Hayley Lindsay and Tracey Fidler have launched an e-petition, which calls for drivers to receive a maximum sentence of 14 years per person who has been killed, with each sentence to run consecutively and not concurrently. The e-petition has already been signed by 25,000 people and can be viewed here.
There were contributions from eight other backbench MPs from all three of the main political parties to the debate, which is unusually high for a half-hour debate. Alok pointed out during the debate that this demonstrated: “the strength of feeling across the House on the issue.”
Speaking in response to the debate, Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, the Right Honourable Mike Penning MP, confirmed that the Government will hold an extensive public consultation on the issue of sentencing.
The Minister also confirmed that the Government will consider whether current penalties adequately reflect the nature of driving related offences. Mr Penning said: “I will not pre-empt the review but I agree that we need to look carefully at whether the punishment fits the crime. We should look at the difference between driving a car and killing somebody—when drunk, or without insurance, or a licence, or any of those things we know people should have—with the intent to do that and killing a person with intent in any other way. That will be part of the review.”
Following the debate, Alok Sharma said: “For me this is the start of the campaign in Parliament for tougher sentences for dangerous driving. The minister responding to the debate has committed to holding a public consultation on the issue of sentencing. When this is published I will be urging as many people as possible to take part, to make absolutely clear the strength of public feeling. I will also be seeking a longer debate in the House of Commons to maintain the momentum of this campaign.”
Alok continued: “In the meantime, a group of MPs will be holding a roundtable in Parliament with families across the country who have lost loved ones due to dangerous driving and Tracey, Hayley and I have a meeting scheduled with the Ministry of Justice to press the case for a change in the law.”
To read the full debate click here.
Photo: Alok Sharma with Hayley Lindsay and Tracey Fidler in Westminster Hall
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