Monday, 14 September 2009

The law and ‘carelessness’

…a father whose son died when their car was hit as it carried out a U-turn; the driver of a council road sweeper who reversed into a pedestrian; an elderly man who misjudged the speed of a motor cyclist as he tried to turn right at a junction.

In each of these cases the driver plead guilty to the charge of causing death by careless driving and each was fined £1,000 and disqualified from driving for 15 months in two cases and for three months in the other case.

Several more guilty pleas in the more serious solemn cases are due in the coming weeks but so far no drivers have been jailed. The pattern in Scotland appears similar to that in the rest of the UK from the early statistics with comparatively few jail sentences in England and Wales.

Mitigating factors include serious injury to the driver; closeness of relationship to the deceased; positive assistance to the deceased at the scene and the contribution of the deceased to the incident.

Sometimes death results from a relatively minor error of judgment, to which every driver, however experienced, is liable from time to time.

In the UK we now have a crime where the accused can be shown to be acting in good faith and could be said to being doing his or her best, but that in the particular circumstances of the case failed to drive at a standard considered to be that of a competent and careful driver

The suggestion seems to be that this is unfair to drivers. It seems to me the whole notion of ‘carelessness’ is a deeply dodgy one. What we are dealing with is the wilful and conscious criminally negligent operation of dangerous machinery. The law takes no note of this at all. Are there no radical cycling lawyers? As for 'positive assistance' to someone you've just run down and killed... And as we know 'the contribution of the deceased to the incident' can now include not wearing a cycle helmet.