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Bill establishing vehicular manslaughter passes in the House

Nearly four months after it was debated, the Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019, which will lengthen jail time and toughen fines for traffic offenses for people who kill while driving dangerously or recklessly, passed in the House of Assembly yesterday.

The bill was left in committee stage but was unanimously passed yesterday.

During debate on the bill on March 11, Minister of Transport Renward Wells said the bill will crush the perception that traffic fatalities do not deserve stiff penalties.

“These amendments in this bill seek [to] remove the perception that road deaths as a result of reckless driving are a less important family of killings or the taking of human life,” he said.

Wells added, “The perception that a roadway offense is of a lesser variety to other intentional killings is supported now in law by the lesser penalties imposed by the law for the conviction of that offense as compared to other homicide offenses.”

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019, seeks to increase penalties for people convicted of killing in the course of dangerous or reckless driving that could result in prison sentences of up to 15 years for offenders.

It changes the name of the offense to vehicular manslaughter and allots new maximum prison times for various scenarios.

The bill also says a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by dangerous driving would be liable to a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Currently, the penalty for manslaughter by dangerous driving is a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for a term of four years; or both.

The bill states that a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The bill also provides that a person who is convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while driving without a valid license, or driving an uninsured vehicle, or allowing a passenger to ride in the vehicle without wearing a seat belt, could face up to five years in prison.

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