THE parents of a 16-year-old girl who was hit by a car and killed have welcomed a tough new sentence for dangerous drivers.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has announced a new offence of “causing serious injury by dangerous driving”, which will carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Current legislation only allows for a two-year jail term for the same crime, despite some victims of car crashes being left with injuries that destroy their lives and are dependent on round-the-clock care.

George Galli-Atkinson and his wife Giulietta have been campaigning for tougher sentences and better road safety since their daughter Livia was knocked down and killed near her home in The Coppice, Enfield, on her way to receive a ballet award.

Mr Galli-Atkinson said: “This is long overdue, because these people have been getting away with it for a long time, which is crazy.

“If one driver comes along and hits a person and kills them, they can be jailed for seven years, but another driver who hits them but doesn't kill them, but does change their quality of life considerably, the maximum sentence available is two years.

“Effectively, the second person can be dependent on other people for their survival, but the only way the Crown Prosecution Service could increase the sentence would be to push for a grievous bodily harm charge, which is complicated.”

Livia died in January 1998, but the driver convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, who mounted the curb and hit her, was given just a fine of just over £2,000 and a five-year driving ban. Despite the family appeal, the sentence was not increased.

Mr Galli-Atkinson, who with his wife set up the annual Livia awards recognising police work tracking down criminal drivers, added: “This is fantastic news, but we would rather people drive safely and legally than anyone having to go to prison.”

And he thanked MP for Enfield Southgate David Burrowes, who has worked with the Galli-Atkinson family for the past five years to try to introduce these tougher sentences.

Mr Burrowes proposed an amendment to a law in 2006 which was turned down. He said: “The Galli-Atkinsons have worked with me for the past five years in a campaign to plug the gap in law between the sentence for killing someone through dangerous driving and causing serious injury.

“We have just heard the good news that, after I unsuccessfully attempted introducing an amendment to the Road Safety Bill in 2006, the Government has now finally agreed to increase the sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

“It is an example of the fruits of years of hard campaigning and the influence constituents can have locally and nationally.”

Mr Clarke said he had “listened to the victims of dangerous drivers, their families, MPs, judges and road safety groups” and would be changing the laws in the upcoming Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Mr Burrowes will be co-hosting the Livia Awards on November 9.