The Government has published new plans to make the roads safer for everyone. The plans include several changes for people at every stage of life, and also for more specialised drivers like HGV drivers and motorcycle riders.

Length of Sentence – Not Always a Surprise

Is it possible to know the sentence you might get before you plead?

In some cases, yes, and that might be enough for a defendant to plead guilty. For some, if they know they won’t go to prison, then they won’t fight a trial.

In the Crown Court a sentence indication can be sought by asking for a ‘Goodyear direction’.

The point of the Goodyear procedure is to allow a defendant to make the choice to plead guilty, which remains entirely their own, with as much information as possible.

How can I find out?

A defendant is entitled to ask the judge for an indication of the maximum sentence if they were to plead guilty at that stage in the proceedings. This is called a Goodyear indication.

Does the judge have to tell me what I might get?

It is a matter for the judge whether they wish to give an indication, following guidance from the Court of Appeal in Goodyear

[2005] EWCA Crim 888.This guidance is designed to make sure that there is no improper pressure on the defendant, purposefully or not, and no ‘bargaining’ with the judge takes place.

What will the judge say?

The Court of Appeal said:

“In our judgment, any advance indication of sentence to be given by the judge should normally be confined to the maximum sentence if a plea of guilty were tendered at the stage at which the indication is sought.”

Can the judge say no?

The judge is able to refuse in any circumstances, and is advised in Goodyear to refuse to indicate a sentence where there is likely to be any other pressure on the defendant, or where the judge is unable to properly judge the culpability of the defendant, perhaps because the Crown does not accept the proposed basis of plea.

A judge may also defer giving an indication until a pre-sentence report is obtained, or the judge can familiarise themselves with the case sufficiently.

Should a judge refuse, a defendant can seek another indication at a later stage.

Does a judge have to stick to what they say?

If an indication is given, for example that the case will not warrant a custodial sentence on a guilty plea, that indication is binding. It is binding on the judge who made it, but also any other judge who might sentence the defendant.

There are exceptional circumstances where an indication might not be binding, but only if it is fair to the defendant. In Shane Newman [2010] EWCA Crim 1566, the defendant had pleaded guilty following a Goodyear indication that the judge said he was wrong to give.

The judge offered the defendant the chance to vacate his plea in an attempt to rectify the mistake, but the defendant chose not to. The Court of Appeal agreed this was the correct course and the defendant had not suffered.

How long does an indication last?

An indication does not subsist indefinitely, however. Where no guilty plea is tendered in response to the indication, it ceases to have effect.

Recently, in Jacob Utton [2019] EWCA Crim 1341, the defendant sought an indication. He got one but pleaded not guilty. The following day, he had a change of heart and asked his solicitors to have the case re-listed so he could plead guilty.

The trial judge in Utton did not consider she was bound by her earlier Goodyear indication, given that Utton had pleaded not guilty with it in mind. The Court of Appeal agreed that she was not bound by it.

So, as you can see sentencing law and procedure remains a minefield for the unwary, fortunately all our solicitors and advocates are well versed in all aspects of this process.

Children

The Department for Transport has granted funding of £225,000 to Good Egg Safety to develop a training course for fitting child seats. This is in response to information that most parents don’t know how to install a child seat in their car correctly.

Additional funding will go towards developing educational resources for schools and researching road safety for children with special education needs.

Young Adults

The largest at-risk age group on the road is young adults, so the Department for Transport is considering ways to make young drivers safer. This includes consulting on several new learning and licence schemes; the potential use of Graduated Learner Schemes pre-test, and Graduated Driving Licences post-test.

These schemes and licences are used already in the USA, Canada and Australia. The pre-test scheme imposes requirements for a learner before they can take their test, usually a certain number of hours of instruction. The post-test scheme involves restrictions on a new licence for several years or until a certain age.

In California, for example, new drivers under eighteen cannot drive unsupervised at night, carry passengers under 20 unless supervised, or use mobile phones including hands-free devices.

One change along these lines recently in the UK was for the revocation of a new driver’s licence, meaning they have to re-sit their test. This revocation applies if six penalty points are acquired within two years of their test

Driving tests will also continue to be updated to take into account technological changes, similar to the recent move to include satnav driving in the test.

Adults

The Government will consult on the use of penalty points for people who don’t use their seatbelt, as well as the current fine. This consultation comes as a result of 27% of fatalities on the road in 2017 involving people not wearing a seatbelt.

Portable breathalysers are being developed, meaning police officers will be able to take a sample that is good enough for court proceedings at the side of the road. At the moment a preliminary test is taken by the roadside and an official test has to be taken at the police station. The proposal would free up officers for other duties quicker.

The Government is also researching the feasibility of ‘alcolocks’. This is a device which immobilises a car until someone under the limit blows into a tube. These would be introduced for those convicted of drink-driving to try and prevent re-offending.

New cycling offences are also being considered so that those who cause serious harm can be dealt with in a similar way to those who cause serious harm by driving.

Elderly

The second-largest at-risk age group on our roads are the elderly; the Government will continue to fund Mobility Centres for those who are unable to drive, most of whom are sixty-five or over.

Safety tests will also be updated to use old-age crash test dummies, as well as female dummies. This is in a bid to reduce injuries in those groups by allowing cars to be designed differently.

A consultation will also be launched into whether to require drivers to undertake mandatory eye tests at seventy, and upon licence renewal every three years thereafter.

HGV Drivers

Drivers who drive for a living are already tightly regulated by the use of tachographs and more stringent testing. The Government will consult on banning tyres older than ten years, as well as on changes to side guards, which protect pedestrians and cyclists if the HGV changes direction while alongside someone.

Motorcyclists

The Government will develop a new training regime for bikers, including a compulsory theory test before they can ride on the road, and changes to the current CBT (Compulsory Basic Training). They also plan to develop post-test training further and increase the uptake of this Enhanced Rider Scheme.

Better protective equipment is also under development, and the SHARP system of rating helmets is being continued and improved. The Government are also working with the UK protective clothing industry to understand how to encourage riders to wear the best equipment.