Varadkar may toughen road traffic Bill
Leo Varadker: "On mandatory sentencing, I do not favour it. It generally tends not to work. Judges do need discretion."
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar will consider making leaving the scene of a road collision an indictable rather than a summary offence.
But he has rejected a call for the imposition of mandatory sentences in cases of dangerous driving causing death.
The Minister is to bring the Road Traffic Bill 2013 to the Oireachtas “in the coming weeks”. But he said he would consult the Attorney General on the issue of making leaving the scene of a road traffic incident a more serious offence with a trial jury at Circuit Court level and the potential for a longer prison sentence. Currently as a summary offence it is dealt with in the first instance by the District Court.
He told Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins that crimes had to be dealt with proportionately under the Constitution. “In other words we could not provide that it is an indictable offence to leave the scene of a road traffic collision and not an indictable offence to leave the scene of an assault.”
Mr Collins yesterday published his Judicial Sentencing Commission Bill which calls for “clear sentencing guidelines without undue interference with judicial independence”.
He also called for an extension of the time limits for testing for drugs and alcohol. “By leaving the scene an accused contaminates all the evidence. After three hours he or she cannot be tested for alcohol or drugs,” he said.
The Limerick TD referred to a case in Limerick where a husband and wife were killed by a drunk driver who had almost twice the legal limit of alcohol. The defendant had previous convictions for dangerous driving and speeding. “He pleaded not guilty but was driving on the wrong side of the road giving the victims no chance to avoid him.” He was given a five-year sentence when 10 was the maximum, Mr Collins said.
Mr Varadkar said: “On mandatory sentencing, I do not favour it. It generally tends not to work. Judges do need discretion. We are all aware that in some cases there are aggravating and mitigating circumstances. That is the reason we have courts, judges and juries.”