Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Monday, 4 September 2017

DEATH BY DANGEROUS AND/OR CARELESS DRIVING

DANGEROUS DRIVING:A person drives dangerously when the way they drive falls far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

CARELESS/INCONSIDERATE DRIVING. Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995. 12.- If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.

The charge of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving is a much more serious charge than Causing Death by Careless Driving with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison but its definition differs in only one word: it can be brought when driving 'fell far below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver'.

The above definitions or words very similar are the bases on which the CPS initiates charges.  When death occurs as a result of the lesser charge the maximum punishment is five years imprisonment; a considerable reduction cf the more serious offence.  Although the lesser offence is either way it is highly unlikely that any JP has ever sat on such a charge: as far as I am aware neither I nor any former colleague of mine ever did.  I would opine that my comments to follow are those of a layman with perhaps a smattering of legal knowledge and awareness and those with professional experience might have a field day with their literary rotten tomatoes.

The basis of dangerous driving would appear, from the definition above, to be founded upon a comparison of an offender`s driving ability  with that of a "competent and careful driver".  But how would the definition be interpreted if the offender had inherently demonstrated that he was not at the time a competent and careful driver but of such a standard only that he possessed a valid driving license? That would IMHO lead to a very searching definition of the words "competent and careful" and if it could be shown that the offender did not fulfil that secondary requirement he could not then be subject to an accusation of dangerous driving.  With that in mind I would refer you to this recent case. Going by the report the actions of the offender were far from careless; they were culpably dangerous. Road traffic lawyers might disagree.  In any event I would opine that in this case where the offender pleaded guilty it is not unlikely that when originally presented with the more serious charge he was offered a plea bargain insofar as a guilty plea to careless driving would reduce considerably his expected jail time.  

I would conclude by offering the thought that the definition used for death by dangerous driving is in need of re thinking so that there is less opportunity for aggressive and truly evil drivers to be offered similar plea bargains in future. Manslaughter and murder might be examples where the demarcation line is more clearly drawn and could serve as a basis for putting away deserving offenders for the longer custodial periods they deserve. 

1 comment:

  1. As a motorcyclist who follows similar cases with interest, I am surprised only by the fact that any custodial sentence at all was given, but not that it was suspended.

    Consider the case of Brian Hampton, the... man... who killed 16 year old moped rider Jade Clark. He ploughed straight into the back of her on an open stretch of road while being banned for drink-driving and having obtained insurance fraudulently (I personally have no doubt that he was three sheets to the wind at the time) . He then drove away from the scene, leaving Jade exposed to be struck by following traffic. Afterwards, he engaged in a very-nearly effective cover-up to hide the evidence of his crime.

    He continued to maintain his innocent ("I thought it was a pothole"), never apologised, never admitted responsibility, and then had the audacity to appeal the two year sentence that he received for the road traffic offences.

    So I find it hard to be in any way calm or reasonable about sentences involving powered two wheel traffic. Deep breaths, chap, one day we might be considered to be real boys and girls.

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