Liberal Democrats have been accused of backing “light sentences for killer drivers” after all but one of the party’s county councillors refused to support a call for tougher punishments.
A Ukip motion urging Gloucestershire’s MPs to back the Crackdown campaign set up by the road safety charity Brake seeking harsher penalties for drivers who kill or injure people was agreed by the county council this week.
But almost all of the Lib Dems, and a single Green councillor, opted to abstain on the vote.
All Conservative, Labour and Ukip councillors backed the motion.
Mark Hawthorne, the Conservative leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I am bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t send a united message to the dangerous drivers on Gloucestershire’s roads.
“I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats are playing at.”
Councillor Lynden Stowe (C, Campden Vale) added: “The Liberal Democrats are always keen to talk up their role on road safety – but when it comes down to it, they back light sentences for killer drivers.”
Labour Councillor Barry Kirby (Grange and Kingsway) echoed a similar sentiment.
He said: “I am disappointed that Liberal Democrats on the council county failed to support the motion calling for tougher sentence for drivers that kill or injure.
“Every road death is a personal tragedy.
“People who drive under the influence of drink or drugs or drive without a licence or insurance who then go onto kill should face the full force of the law.”
But Councillor Chris Coleman (LD, St Mark’s and St Peter’s), a practising solicitor, branded the idea that his party is “soft on crime” as “absolutely ridiculous”.
He said: “The courts have the powers as it exists at the moment to give out tough sentences to people that commit this sort of crime and cause these disasters for victims’ families and friends.
“To suggest that the law isn’t working and at the same time not come up with any meaningful alternatives really is playing politics.”
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting when the motion was agreed, Councillor Richard Leppington (Ukip, Blakeney and Bream) who proposed the move, said: “Sentences for drivers who kill or seriously injure need to reflect the suffering of the victims’ families.
“These people feel completely let down by the system.
“We have to send out a clear message.”