Death by Dangerous Driving v. Manslaughter

Death by Dangerous Driving v. Manslaughter

Postby orbiter » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:27 pm

A writer to the Times poses the question, Why should there be a difference? which of course applies to cyclists as well as the instance quoted. Does anyone have an answer?
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Postby thirdcrank » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:18 pm

In the early days of the motor car the charge was manslaughter. I understand that it was extremely difficult to secure convictions because the defence often ran the line that this was just an accident that any law-abiding person might be involved in. 'My client is a motorist, not a criminal.' Of course, because of jury room secrecy, nobody knows why a jury reaches a particular decision but the general feeling was that this was the reason for a lot of illogical acquittals. The offence of causing death by dangerous driving in its various incarnations has been the result.

(If anybody is enraged by the logic behind this, I'm just explaining what I understand to be the reason. I did not write the script. You can't rave on about magna carta, innocent until proven guilty and all the rest of it, but then don't complain when the system does not come up with the decisions you favour.)
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Postby workhard » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:30 pm

my understanding based on limited personal research some years ago after the death of a friend is that a charge of manslaughter requires the death to have been caused by recklessness and / or criminal negligence. Since Joe and Joanna Juror probably don't regard crap driving as being either negligent or reckless there is no way they will convict......
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Postby orbiter » Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:41 pm

workhard wrote:my understanding based on limited personal research some years ago after the death of a friend is that a charge of manslaughter requires the death to have been caused by recklessness and / or criminal negligence. Since Joe and Joanna Juror probably don't regard crap driving as being either negligent or reckless there is no way they will convict......


Doubtless tc & workhard are right but I would have thought dangerous driving exceeded recklessness.
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Postby thirdcrank » Tue Oct 14, 2008 11:13 pm

Over the years they have played about with the wording several times and the result has never really been satisfactory.

In simple terms 'reckless' driving has been taken to mean pretty well the worst sort of lunatic driving. I have no figures but I do not think there are many prosecutions.

'Dangerous' and 'driving without due care and attention' one and two levels down from reckless respectively.

The most obvious flaw in the logic is that driving without due care and attention is a form of dangerous driving.

Until relatively recently, one obvious practical result was that if the driving was the sort that would usually be prosecuted as careless, then there would be no prosecution for causing death by dangerous driving. A lot of bereaved people were unhappy to discover that the person responsible for their loss was only fined a couple of hundred quid for due care. I understand that causing death by careless driving is now a specific offence.

I may be out of date but I think that the CPS now only prosecute for driving without due care and attention if there is evidence of more than a momentary lapse of driving standards. Historically, most due care prosecutions have been the result of a road accident - the fact of the collision proving the driving error and negating any suggestion that what the driver did was just a question of judgment, which is what you tend to get if bad driving is witnessed but there is no accident. The CPS policy meant that many fewer accidents resulted in prosecutions so reporting officers anticipated the decision rather than submit a pointless file.

It is the slippery slope which leads to people being killed and not much happening.
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Postby essexman » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:05 am

Do i remember them changing the law recently to include some very specific circumstances to always count as dangerous driving? as opposed to careless driving or whatever the lesser offence is?
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Postby thirdcrank » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:17 am

I think that the Crown Prosecution Service charging policy was changed.

The point being that a court can only deal with the offence charged. While in some circumstances, a charge may be reduced if the facts revealed by the evidence warrant it, it cannot be increased, so charging policy is very important.
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Postby ManchesterCyclist » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:43 am

As well as being immune from manslaughter charges, motorists who kill or injure are also protected from investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. Under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) employers and the self-employed are obliged to ensure the safety of others. In any other scenario, an accident would be preserved, and a team from the HSE would make a detailed analysis of the causes of the accident. They would then report with suggestions on future preventative measures. If this was a road collision, 20mph urban speed limits would be recommended within weeks, and road deaths would fall very quickly. But instead, the HSE ignores road deaths and injury: In road traffic collisions, the police sweep away the evidence and the imperative is to get motorised traffic moving again as quickly as possible.
Until this mindset changes, or the legal fraternity set up a test case involving the HSE, our roads and highways will remain dangerous and sometimes lethal for vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
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Postby meic » Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:25 pm

I heard an interview with a lady who I think was the Head of HSE, where she mentioned this exemption and suggested that the situation should change. She did, I think, conceed that there was no chance of politicians doing this in the face of the British attitude to road use.
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Postby jmaccyd » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:03 pm

Interesting debate this as a motorist was killed, and another seriously injured on the A10 in Enfield a couple of Friday's ago and it was reported that a male driver had been arrasted/or charged with manslaughter. Must admit to raising my eyebrows as it seems an unusual charge to bring over a motoring death. There was also another case recently where a driver, having caused serious injury to another motorist, was successfully charged with GBH
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Postby Simon L6 » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:20 pm

I've pursued the HSE on this and they simply shrugged it off. I'm proud to point out that it was Roger Geffen who made the point to the parliamentary committee on road safety that the HSE should be required to investigate deaths caused by work vehicles.

Not least among the considerations would be the role of designers. People draw stuff that requires vehicle movements. If you draw a block that weighs 20kg then you have to justify it. Draw a hole in the ground that takes 50 skip lorries to empty and you don't. There's something wrong there somewhere.
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Postby jmaccyd » Sun Dec 14, 2008 7:15 pm

jmaccyd wrote:Interesting debate this as a motorist was killed, and another seriously injured on the A10 in Enfield a couple of Friday's ago and it was reported that a male driver had been arrasted/or charged with manslaughter. Must admit to raising my eyebrows as it seems an unusual charge to bring over a motoring death. There was also another case recently where a driver, having caused serious injury to another motorist, was successfully charged with GBH


Link for this manslaughter charge,

http://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/new ... _Chrissie/
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Postby thirdcrank » Sun Dec 14, 2008 7:35 pm

In the end, does it really matter what somebody is charged with if the punishment fits the circumstances of the case?

To be convicted of murder, the mental element to prove is 'malice aforethought' but until about 50 years ago (?) that was 'express or implied'. Implied malice meant that if you killed somebody, even accidentally, whilst committing a serious crime (known in those days as a felony) it was murder. And, theoretically, the rope. Fair enough, I hear many cry, but it led to a lot of 'perverse' acquittals by juries who did not feel that somebody should be hanged in a particular case.

Since a mandatory life sentence has been the punishment for murder, all manner of reasons have been accepted to reduce that charge to manslaughter. There has been a tug-o-war going on for some time between the judiciary who want discretionary sentencing for murder and politicians who feel that they must act tough.

I know that may people on here feel that sentences for drivers who kill are inadequate and they may have a point, but I cannot see how calling it manslaughter - for which there is normally no mandatory life sentence - would make much difference.
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