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Make an example of dangerous drivers, Cameron tells judges

By Alex Stevenson

The coalition will explore increasing the maximum sentences for dangerous driving, David Cameron suggested in prime minister's questions this lunchtime.

The prime minister told MPs he wanted judges to feel empowered to "take exemplary action" in the most "appalling" cases and pledged to make justice secretary Chris Grayling examine the matter.

He was responding to a question from the Conservative MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, who raised the case of a motorcyclist sentenced to 18 months behind bars earlier this month.

Graham Godwin, 36, had 45 traffic convictions, was a disqualified and uninsured driver and had been drinking and smoking cannabis when his driving resulted in the death of Paul Stock as he walked home from the pub.

Prosecutors had decided not to pursue him for causing death by dangerous driving because of a lack of evidence.

"My constituents' widow Mandy Stock understandably believes it is time for parliament to recognise the danger caused by serial disqualified drivers and also to increase the maximum sentence for dangerous driving," Graham told the prime minister.

Cameron responded by noting support for Graham's call from both the government and opposition benches. He acknowledged both the coalition and Labour governments had sought to increase the penalties "associated with drivers who end up killing people" and pledged to set up a meeting between the MP and Grayling.

The prime minister then added: "I do think it's important we give our courts a sense that when there are appalling, extraordinary crimes they can take exemplary action. I do think that's important in a justice system."

Last year it emerged more than one in three drivers who leave others either dead or severely maimed end up avoiding a custodial sentence.

Mrs Stock said after the death of her husband she was deeply frustrated by the CPS' decision not to pursue a death by dangerous driving charge.

"Graham Godwin is a repeat offender who knows how to play the system," she complained after the verdict last week. "As usual, this works in the criminal's favour.

"Nothing will bring Paul back. But justice needs to be done. His life was worth more than 18 months. This is not justice."

The maximum sentence for those convicted of causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is five years. Those convicted of causing death by dangerous driving face a maximum period behind bars of 14 years.