R v Buckle [2015] EWCA 229

Causing serious injury by dangerous driving - sentencing 

Mrs Justice Swift DBE: 

"We do not accept counsel's argument as to the application of the Guidelines for
causing death by dangerous driving. We note that in those Guidelines, the sentencing
range for the most serious level of case is 7 to 14 years, i.e. at the top of the range is the
statutory maximum penalty for the offence. That indicates that the Sentencing
Guidelines Council considers that there are cases of causing death by dangerous driving
where a multiplicity of aggravating factors will have the potential to take the case to the
very top of the sentencing range for the offence.

We consider that the same approach should be adopted with the maximum sentence for
causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The issue is whether the current case was,
as the sentencing Recorder found, an offence of the most serious of its type and
therefore warranted use of the maximum starting point. In addressing that issue we are
not looking for a single specific set of circumstances which would put this, or any other
case, at the top of the spectrum. The aggravating factors will differ from case to case,
but in each case, the Court is entitled to determine, on the individual facts of that case,
whether a starting point at - or very close to - the maximum level is warranted.

 In this case, the appellant chose to drive when he was very substantially in excess of the
drink-driving limit. He did so even when it should have been obvious to him, from his
own lack of stability and the reluctance of one of his passengers to get in the car, that he
was unfit to drive. Once in the car, he drove at an excessive speed and so badly that he
crossed to the wrong side of the road and collided with a tree. The results of that
collision were very serious and, in fact, could have been fatal. One only has to look at
the images of the crashed car to see that the collision could have resulted in the death of
one or more of the passengers or, had there been other traffic around, the occupants of
another vehicle. As it was, however, serious and permanent injuries were caused to,
not one, but two young people.

To those factors must be added the background of the appellant‘s previous offending.
Over an extended period of time, he had shown a flagrant disregard for the rules of the
road. This was his fifth conviction for drink driving. He was sentenced for the most
recent offence only a few months before the current offences. He was prepared to drive
despite his disqualification and irrespective of the fact that he had no licence or
insurance. We take the view that all those features taken together mean that the
Recorder was fully justified in using as her starting point the maximum sentence for the
offence.

That leaves the submission which is made in relation to the credit given for the guilty
plea. In this case, the evidence that the appellant was the driver of the car was
overwhelming. There were four members of his family in the car and no other
candidate who could possibly have been driving it. In those circumstances we consider
that the credit of 30% given by the Recorder was, if anything, generous to the appellant.

Therefore, apart from in the very limited respect to which we have already referred
relating to the extended driving test, the appeal is dismissed."