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DEATH BY CARELESS DRIVING

Comment 28th July 2010

This offence, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 yrs imprisonment, should be abolished.  It was introduced in the wake of a number of media stories along the lines of "Killer Motorist Walks Free" and often focused on motorists using mobile phones when driving.

The existing (then and now) law of causing death by dangerous driving was perfectly adequate to deal with such cases.  An amendment to create a rebuttable presumption that using a mobile phone while driving is per se  dangerous would have been a far more appropriate way forward.

As it is, a motorist who makes a genuine mistake (and who does not make mistakes in 40 – 50 years of driving,) which causes death, is placed at risk of imprisonment.  It should be the act not the consequence which determines the level of culpability and the punishment.

A civilised society should not send people to prison for making a mistake.

 

I SHOULD SAY I HAVE NO VESTED INTEREST IN THIS MATTER

 

Why does this matter?

Any law which creates an offence which may lead to imprisonment is important.  This law threatens with imprisonment those who find themselves in the category "there but for the Grace of God go I".

Judges do show leniency to those who are judged to have made a genuine mistake but even placing such people at risk of imprisonment is inappropriate.  The fact that leniency is shown reinforces the view that the offence with the attendant punishment is inappropriate and would be better handled by extending the reach of the offence of death by dangerous driving as described above.

Government should do what is right and not pander to the emotionally charged stories in the popular press. 

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