Members of the public are being asked to give their views on new draft guidelines for judges sentencing those who kill people by their driving.
Lady Dorrian, chairwoman of the Scottish Sentencing Council, said the new guideline will bring “significant benefits” to both the public and to the courts and will help judges make what can be “challenging” sentencing decisions.
The draft guideline makes clear the differences between the statutory “causing death by driving” offences which include causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs.
The other offences are causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and causing death by driving when the driver is unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified.
It provides steps for judges to consider when assessing the level of seriousness and any aggravating or mitigating factors.
A 12-week consultation has now opened for members of the public and interested organisations to give their views on the draft guideline before it is finalised.
Lady Dorrian said: “Causing death by driving offences are very serious in nature and are of significant public concern.
“They can be amongst the most complex and emotive cases before the courts and a guideline that explains how the sentences are decided, listing some of the factors taken into account, will be helpful to public understanding.
“The guideline will also assist in relation to the predictability of a sentence.
“In court, the guideline will assist judges in making what, at times, can be challenging sentencing decisions.
“There can be a significant difference between the harm caused, in these cases a fatality, and the culpability, or level of blame, of the offender.”
She said the council is keen to hear from all who are interested, including individuals, criminal justice and third sector organisations and any other interested bodies.
The draft guideline, which can be seen on the Scottish Sentencing Council website, provides a set of three steps for each offence.
At step one a table sets out features to be considered in the case based on its level of seriousness, such as the manner of driving, and whether the driver had consumed alcohol or drugs or was distracted by a mobile phone.
A table at step two sets out sentencing ranges for each level of seriousness, while another at step three lists factors which may aggravate or mitigate the seriousness of the offence.
Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “Losing a loved one due to driving offences is devastating and sentencing decisions can be difficult to understand.
“I’m pleased this consultation will let the voices of those who have experienced this to be heard.
“We will encourage our networks to respond.”
Lawyers also welcomed the consultation.
Stuart Munro, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee, said: “If implemented, the guideline has the potential to have a significant impact on Scottish solicitors and the clients they serve in what can be both challenging and sensitive cases.”
Simon Brown, of the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association, said: “The work the Council is doing to simplify the sentencing process and make it more transparent is very important, particularly in cases such as these where emotions often run high.”
The consultation runs until November 22.