TAILGATERS who cause death by dangerous driving could now face harsher punishments following guidelines produced by the Scottish Sentencing Council.

These guidelines covering the offence of causing death by driving, could see aggressive driving such as tailgating added to the highest sentencing range.

The guideline aims to deliver greater consistency in sentencing those who plead guilty or are convicted of the offence and assist public understanding of how such cases are dealt with by the courts.

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It covers four offences: causing death by dangerous driving; causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs; causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving; and causing death by driving while unlicensed, uninsured or disqualified.

The final guideline has been strengthened in a number of areas following a public consultation on a draft version and will now be submitted to the High Court for approval.

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Aggressive driving such as tailgating has been added to the highest sentencing range for death by dangerous driving, putting it at the same level as racing.

A number of sentencing ranges for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and causing death by driving while uninsured, unlicensed or disqualified have also been increased.

In addition, driver inexperience has been removed from the list of mitigating factors for all offences apart from causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.

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The guideline also sets out sentencing ranges to help judges decide an appropriate punishment when dealing with an offender.

The ranges, which reach up to 12 years in prison for the most serious death by dangerous driving offences, are based on current practice and reflect the upper limits of sentences which have been imposed by Scottish courts.

In addition to the consultation, the guideline has been shaped by extensive research and engagement work carried out by the council, including a public perceptions study involving the families of victims and a national survey exploring public attitudes to sentencing in Scotland.

Council chairwoman Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, said: “Causing death by driving offences are among the most serious, complex, and sensitive cases dealt with by our courts.

“Although relatively uncommon, they are of significant public concern and have a devastating effect on the families of victims.

“While nothing can make up for the tragic loss of life involved, we believe that a sentencing guideline will provide clarity for bereaved families and others affected by death by driving cases.

“It will assist judges in the difficult task of deciding on a sentence and help to increase public understanding and awareness of the law and sentencing practice in relation to death by driving offences.

“Following the consultation process, the guideline has been strengthened in a number of areas such as the inclusion of aggressive driving in the highest level of seriousness for death by dangerous driving offences.

“A number of factors have also been added to the list of aggravations, while sentencing ranges have increased for certain offences.

“I am extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to consider the guideline and respond to the consultation.

“The feedback we received, and the wider research undertaken by the council, has been vital in ensuring that the guideline is fit for purpose.”