Bodström turns on road killers

People who cause fatal car crashes could face tougher sentences under plans unveiled by Sweden's justice minister Thomas Bodström on Friday.

In a number of serious road accidents in the past few years drunk drivers have caused multiple deaths. In August 2003 a 62-year old woman and her 11-month old granddaughter were mown down near Umeå by an intoxicated man.

The man was jailed for one and a half years for drunk driving and manslaughter, and the sentence was confirmed by the appeal court and the Supreme Court. Many in Sweden condemned the sentence as too lenient.

Bodström said his proposal would see a new crime enter the statute book – Manslaughter in vehicular traffic.

“This is needed because these are special circumstances – this claims more human lives than a year’s worth of violent crime.”

As with all Swedish criminal offences, the new crime will be divided into two levels. People convicted of the more serious level of the offence – which would apply, for instance, to people who were drunk – will face a minimum sentence of one year.

The current minimum sentence for serious manslaughter is six months.

“There’s a big difference between getting into a car drunk and running someone over and causing a workplace accident, for example,” said Bodström.

The government says it hopes the new law will be in force by early next year, although it faces a general election in September.