Judges have to consider on a regular basis whether a convicted defendant should be sentenced to an immediate term of imprisonment or whether that term is capable of being suspended, subject to ongoing good behaviour requirements on the part of the convicted person.

A recent Court of Appeal decision has considered that dilemma and provided some guidelines.

Suki Randhawa of Kangs Solicitors comments upon the situation.

The Case Under Consideration | Kangs Careless Driving Defence Team

The Circumstances

  • At Cambridge Crown Court on 28th January 2020, the Defendant had pleaded guilty to an offence of causing death by careless driving following an accident on 18th February 2019 when the vehicle she was driving veered across the road into the wrong lane and collided head on with an oncoming vehicle resulting in the sad death of the driver of that vehicle.
  • The Defendant, who was badly injured, was of previous good character, there was no suggestion that she had driven in excess of the speed limit, the weather was dry, visibility was good and the road was straight but undulating.  There was no evidence of any mechanical faults with her vehicle, that she had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs or that she had been using her mobile phone. 
  • It was reported that, when spoken to at her bedside in hospital, the Defendant had told Police Officers that ‘I think I blacked out or fell asleep’ but ,subsequently, during interview, she stated that she did not recall making these comments and that she could not recall the accident. 

The Sentencing

  • Having accepted that the Defendant should be afforded maximum credit, the Prosecution maintained that a starting point of thirty six weeks immediate custody was appropriate, being within the appropriate range for sentencing and which provided for a high level Community Order to two years imprisonment.
  • The Judge agreed with the Prosecution and, having given credit, reduced the sentence to a term of twenty four weeks imprisonment.
  • The Judge refused to suspend the sentence indicating that there had been a number of avoidable deaths by defendants of good character in recent years and that an appropriate message had to go out.   

The Appeal                                                 

At the Hearing, the Defendant’s Counsel argued that the Judge should have imposed a suspended sentence, had not given proper weight or regard to her personal mitigation and had not given sufficient regard to the Sentencing Guidelines on the imposition of community and custodial sentences.

The appeal was successful with Appeal Judges noting that the Sentencing Judge had failed to take into account Section 125 of the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009 which provides:

every Court must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case’. 

The Appeal Judges noted the Definite Guidelines provide:

Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence:    

  1. defendant presents a risk or danger to the public,
  2. appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody,
  3. there is a history of poor compliance with Court Orders.

Factors indicating that it would be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence:     

  1. a realistic prospect of rehabilitation,
  2. strong personal mitigation,
  3. immediate custody will result in significant harm upon others.

In this case it was suggested that the factors when applied would clearly weigh in favour of a suspended sentence and that the Judge should have so found. 

How Can We Help? | Kangs Motoring Offences Defence Solicitors

The team at Kangs Solicitors is accustomed to assisting clients facing both motoring offences and offences where there is potential for a custodial sentence.

If you are faced with the above prospect, it is important that you obtain expert legal advice immediately. 

Please do not hesitate to contact our specialised team through any of the following if we can assist:

Sukhdip Randhawa
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396 | 07989 521 210

Aman Murria
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396 | 07989 521 210

Helen Holder
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396