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The petition

The title of petition 548682 is “Tom’s Law – Give police the power to suspend driving licences”. It received 104,868 signatures and was closed on 25 March 2021. The full text is as follows:

“We want Police Officers to be able to provide a suspension notice from the moment an offender is caught drink, drug or dangerous driving until they appear in court. It would then be for the Judge to decide whether a ban continues or they are able to continue to drive again.

On 24th February 2019 Tom McConnachie was killed in a hit & run by a drink driver who left Tom fatally injured in the road & drove to Okehampton & set fire to the vehicle. The offender was able to continue driving for 11 months before being disqualified as only a court can disqualify a driver.

With Tom’s Law we want Police Officers to be able to issue a suspension notice to an offender when arrested at the Road side to stop them from driving until they attend court to protect other Road users.”

Government Response

The Department for Transport produced a Government response to the petition on 11 February 2021, as follows:

“Ministers are aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Tom McConnachie and extend their sympathy to family and friends.

This case involved failing to stop at the scene of collision. Another petition regarding the sentencing of drivers who cause death and fail to stop has recently gained over 100,000 signatures and will now be considered for debate in Parliament.

The Road Safety Statement 2019 sets out the Government commitment to reducing road casualties and supporting responsible road users by identifying and prosecuting the few who make our roads less safe for the many. The Department of Transport have also established a combined roads policing project team with the Home Office and the NPCC, with a broad aim to improve road safety by adopting a new collaborative and evidence-led approach to road traffic enforcement.

It established a Roads Policing Review driven by DfT, Home Office and Police. In addition, the Government has published a Call for Evidence on Roads Policing and a summary of responses will be published in late Spring.

Where there is evidence that the driver caused harm, there are a range of other offences available. Failure to stop will be treated as a further and aggravating factor in the sentencing decision, including the common law offence of perverting the cause of justice which has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for failure to stop and report offences is six months’ imprisonment.

Turning to the suggestion that in certain circumstances a driving ban should be imposed pending investigation and trial, under the Bail Act 1976, the police can impose bail conditions for particular purposes, one of which is to ensure there is no further offence committed while on bail. A driving ban as a condition of police bail may be appropriate for some cases. Decisions on when to use these powers are operational matters for the police, and the rights of a defendant, not yet convicted, and the potential benefits to public safety from reducing the risk of further offences have to be balanced. The magistrates’ courts also have the power to impose an interim driving disqualification before sentencing in a case or transferring the case to another court.

The Government take this issue seriously and the Department for Transport is looking into the issue of fail to stop collisions and whether there are further options that can be pursued.”

Existing Police Powers

As noted in the Government’s response to the petition, a driving ban can be imposed as a condition of bail. Bail can be granted either by the courts, under the Bail Act 1976, or the police, using powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). The police can grant bail either pre-charge or post-charge. Pre-charge bail can include ‘street bail’. There is no information published as to how often this pre-charge bail includes restrictions, such as a driving ban. In response to a Parliamentary question on the use of this power in 2015, the Transport Minister reported that his understanding was that the power was “rarely used.”

Police officers also have the power to immediately suspend driving licences where drivers fail a roadside eyesight test.

Documents to download

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