Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dangerous Drivers locked up for Longer ??

http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/newsrelease231209a.htm "Dangerous drivers who seriously injure others should spend longer in jail, Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced today."

That's certainly the case, but it is certainly not the problem.

The problem is that dangerous drivers don't end up in jail in the first place. That's because it is extremely difficult to get a conviction on a charge of dangerous driving. Because it is difficult to get a conviction, there tend to be few prosecutions, and hence there is not much point in the police wasting their time trying to clamp down on dangerous driving. The underlying problem is, the way the law is drafted is very sloppy and the way the Highway Code is drafted is also sloppy.

"A person is regarded as ‘driving dangerously’ if: - The way they are driving falls far below what would be 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."

It's pretty easy for a lawyer to run rings around this. What does 'falls far below' mean? What is a 'competent and careful driver'? What level of competence? How careful? Are most drivers careful? I would suggest not, given that most drivers exceed the speed limit (in the absence of speed cameras at least).

When sentencing, the judge has to take account of aggravating and mitigating factors. For example, as an aggravating factor, we have:

"A prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving"

Now this is usually almost impossible to prove. All the police have to go on is a single incident. You will be very lucky to be able to find witnesses, and there's usually very little effort to find them, except where it's a fatal 'accident'.

As a mitigating factor, we have:
"The absence of previous convictions"

What the hell?? So we have a law that makes it all but impossible to get a conviction in the first place, and as a mitigating factor, we have the absence of previous convictions!

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