Offender sentenced under old law - with lower maximum penalty

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 February, 2009, 12:00am

A jail sentence of one year and eight months may appear to many people to be a lenient sentence for a driver convicted of dangerous driving causing death, especially given the recent public outcry for heavier penalties for such drivers.

But a government source said that the male driver who was jailed for that period yesterday committed his crime before July 4 last year - the date when the maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death was increased from five years' imprisonment to 10 years, so the offender was sentenced under the old law.

The source added the court had not yet sentenced any person under the new law, as the court was still processing cases that occurred in May.

The Transport and Housing Bureau will convene a meeting on Friday with lawmakers, the Transport Advisory Committee and relevant government departments to canvass opinions on the need to further raise the penalty for dangerous driving causing death. But the source said the government would not rush any further action before evaluating the effect of the new law.

'We do not know yet how [the new penalty] will affect the court's future judgment of the offence, so we cannot say at this point if [a maximum penalty of] 10 years is too little or whether it needs a further increase,' the source said.

The increased maximum penalty for the offence came as a result of a long public campaign, which included Biker Force - an advocacy group founded by the families of drink-drive victims, who maintained that prison terms for dangerous drivers, which they said ranged between eight months and two years, were far too short.

Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong proposed that the government consider treating dangerous driving causing death as manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

But the source said that would need careful discussion among various stakeholders, and also consideration of police statistics and overseas examples, and not just individual incidents.