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Monday, January 17, 2005



A row has broken out in the UK , more specifically in England and Wales , this week between the Police Federation, who represent grass roots police officers of all ranks  and the government run Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) regarding the number of  light sentences handed down to drivers who are responsible for accidents which result in loss of  life. The Crown Prosecution Service , of course, is not directly responsible for any  punishment imposed by the courts ; it  does however have control over what particular crime a person is ultimately charged with when or whether they are taken to court or not.


The Crown Prosecution Service took over the powers to decide which offences go to court in 1986 when previously the Police were responsible for deciding which cases should be prosecuted. The Police Federation have expressed the view that offenders in road traffic accidents which lead to serious injury and fatalities are getting off with the lesser offence of careless driving rather than the more serious offence of dangerous or reckless driving, allegedly because the CPS are driven by performance targets relating to the number of successful convictions. The CPS are disinclined to take any case to court unless there is a reasonable chance of a successful conviction based on the current law and the evidence presented in individual cases. They argue that they have no such targets and that their decisions are based purely on the likelihood of successful conviction. 


Police officers are often frustrated with the apparently light sentences handed down by the courts for a wide range of offences and the  families of those who have lost loved ones as a result of crime are of course rarely satisfied with the punishments handed down to offenders. It isn’t hard to understand the anger and frustration felt by families who have lost loved ones as the result of a driving offence when the offender appears to be getting off very lightly. The popular call for a mandatory charge of manslaughter for all drivers who cause fatalities with tougher custodial sentences and a life-long driving ban is understandable but isn’t possible under current legislation. In the case of driver caused fatalities, manslaughter, as the present law stands,  only applies when there has been, for example, a deliberate attempt to run someone down. And as the law stands a victim’s death does not,   by itself, turn an accident into careless driving or turn careless driving into dangerous driving.



At present , for causing death by dangerous driving , custodial sentences of up to six years are possible , but an offender  may receive a  lighter sentence in custody or in some cases  just  a heavy  fine and a driving ban if charged with the lesser crime of careless driving even if their actions resulted in a death..


English  law  judges  offences in terms of intent rather than simply the consequences of that offence on victims. The courts have to distinguish between deliberate acts and unintentional acts in deciding culpability and sentencing usually reflects the perceived degree of culpability and must allow mitigating circumstances where they exist. With many driving offences, for example speeding or drink driving, it would be difficult to prove that a driver used their vehicle with the deliberate intention of harming another however irresponsible they were being.


In current law there are three relevant offences; causing death by dangerous driving, dangerous driving and careless driving.  Both dangerous and careless driving are offences very difficult to prosecute unless they led to an accident. The difference between dangerous and careless driving is far from clear and both offences revolve around the degree to which the standard of driving falls below that expected or acceptable standard of a competent and careful driver .There are currently no statutory guidelines as to how “below the acceptable standard”  and “far below the acceptable standard” is determined rather like the notion of the “reasonable” force the law allows us to use in defending ourself.


Ultimately , even though we may feel  disgust when often horrific offences result in seemingly lighter sentences than we might expect or personally wish for , Justice isn’t absolute, it is an ideal. Justice as received or meeted out actually falls down to what can and cannot be proved in a court of law and what punishments are currently possible.         




References :-

johncoxon 2:11 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Are Briton’s a selfless nation?

According to a national survey ( commissioned recently by one of the major high street banks) Briton’s spend ,on average, a third of their week putting others first. The research comes up with the statistic that the nation spends a staggering 2.2 billion hours a year focussing on others.

According to the research, our partners are the main beneficiaries, followed by our children and then our work colleagues. Interestingly, a third of those Britons surveyed admitted to feeling guilt when they put themselves first. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 16 to 24 age group attested to feeling the most comfortable doing their own thing and sixty percent of that age group admitted to not feeling guilty about putting themselves first. But , overall, a worrying one in five of all respondents admitted to never putting themselves first.
The research identifies distinct groups of givers and labels them according to their relative altruisms and to whom their giving is directed. Apparently, the 16-24 year old group, dubbed 'Generation FF' , or 38 percent of them devote the majority of their time to friends, while 'Generation LLG', so called 'late life lovers' ) people over 55, the main focus of time giving was for their partners, although 17 percent of the respondents in this age group devote as much time to their pets as their friends. The survey also identified so-called ‘career climbers’, in the 24- 34 years age category whose primary focus of giving was on work colleagues. Generation ‘S’ for school , the 34-55 age group , it is claimed, are most likely to put their children first.

We have, as a nation, become accustomed to reading the results of a wide range of research in our national papers, and often the focus of research can seem somewhat bizarre and much of it, in my experience, simply confirms the obvious. The purpose of this latest ‘altruism’ survey seems a little puzzling and I can only surmise that, because the research was commissioned by a major bank, it is ultimately related to profit.

Whilst the results of this survey may be of interest in confirming a dynamic of British society, it would , of course , be necessary to conduct similar surveys in other countries before we start getting smug about ourselves. You also feel naturally suspicious of statements drawn from a very small survey based on questioning just over 900 people. It is not clear from the report, published in today’s Scotsman newspaper, whether the survey was restricted to Lloyds TSB customers.

References:- The Scotsman

johncoxon 12:30 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

john/Male/51-55. Lives in United Kingdom/Engalnd/Salford, speaks English and French. Eye color is brown. I am what my mother calls unique. I am also creative. My interests are photgraphy/local history.
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