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New group to urge for change in investigation, prosecution and sentencing of road traffic cases

A new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been launched today that will focus on the justice system’s response to road traffic collisions, including the investigation, prosecution and sentencing in such cases.

Set up with the help of the charity RoadPeace, the Justice on our Roads APPG is chaired by Green Party politician Jenny Jones, who earlier this year was created Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb.

The vice-chairs are Stephen Twigg, MP for Liverpool West, and Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, who has been campaigning on behalf of the families of his constituents Ross and Clare Simons, killed on a tandem ride in January 2013 when they were hit by a car driven by a disqualified driver.

The group’s logo, in the picture above, provides a stark reminder of the human cost of collisions on the road; the word ‘Justice’ is formed by the names of the 112 cyclists who lost their lives on Great Britain’s roads in 2013.

According to the Department for Transport, in the 12 months to September 201, the latest period for which official data are available, 1,730 people lost their lives on Great Britain’s roads, while a further 21,650 were seriously injured.

Baroness Jones said: “Because there’s no premeditation, road crashes and road crime have traditionally been a low priority for our criminal justice system.

“This can lead to further devastation, including financial, for both the bereaved and injured, whether driver, pedestrian or cyclist.

“Improving the treatment of victims of crime is a key objective for the government.  At a time when public spending is being reduced, it is critical that victims of road crime are not forgotten.”

She said that the chief aim of the APPG launched today “is to increase awareness of both the need and the opportunities to improve the justice system’s response to road crashes and road crime.

“It will focus on the post-crash response - collision investigation and inquests, criminal prosecution and sentencing, civil justice and services for victims of road crashes - but also cover the police’s role of traffic law enforcement in reducing danger on our roads. 

Cynthia Barlow, chair of RoadPeace, whose daughter Alex was killed by a lorry in London in 2000, said: “Road deaths are not ‘accidents’, they are preventable and avoidable tragedies. 

“Families bereaved by a road death need to know that what happened has been taken seriously, will be investigated properly, and that measures to prevent further similar tragedies will be implemented.

“At the moment that doesn’t happen. Road crime is still not seen as real crime by the justice system, with victims of road crime systematically neglected.

“Those killed and injured by law breaking drivers are not properly represented in the statistics,  the new Victim’s Code does not apply to those injured by drink drivers, careless and speeding drivers, and in hit and run crashes and, if there is a criminal prosecution, the charge may not even mention the fact that someone has been seriously injured.

“We need to do better than this, to ensure that lessons are learned and appropriate action taken. The new APPG is a key part of that process.

“We are proud to have Baroness Jones as our Chair. Jenny has an extensive record campaigning on road safety and traffic law enforcement in London but her energy and dedication is needed nationally,” she added.

RoadPeace, together with organisations including British Cycling and CTC – which in June last year launched its own Road Justice campaign – have lobbied the government to look into how police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts handle cases where vulnerable road users such as cyclists or pedestrians are the victims.

Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron said that he had ordered a review of how the criminal justice system deals with such cases, although that has not yet been concluded.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

13 comments

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stumps [3186 posts] 1 year ago
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hmmm, to little to late in my opinion. Any suggestions / ideas this group come up with will fall on deaf ears as we are into the last year of a sitting govt who will only try and put through legislation that will win them votes and be easy to do.

New road traffic legislation is a minefield they wont want to waste time on.

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Initialised [270 posts] 1 year ago
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Will this save any lives? Maybe. Hopefully.

What would save lives is making sure all new cars and all new and existing commercial vehicles are fitted with collision avoidance technologies.

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Garrrrrr [7 posts] 1 year ago
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Never too late if we keep their attention focused on this, rather than the "issues" Mp's would rather distract us with. Please sign & share this: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65953

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fatbeggaronabike [759 posts] 1 year ago
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The group’s logo, in the picture above, provides a stark reminder of the human cost of collisions on the road; the word ‘Justice’ is formed by the names of the 112 cyclists who lost their lives on Great Britain’s roads in 2013.

Picture What Picture?

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fatbeggaronabike [759 posts] 1 year ago
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Thanks

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oozaveared [933 posts] 1 year ago
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stumps wrote:

hmmm, to little to late in my opinion. Any suggestions / ideas this group come up with will fall on deaf ears as we are into the last year of a sitting govt who will only try and put through legislation that will win them votes and be easy to do.

New road traffic legislation is a minefield they wont want to waste time on.

Well that's not really how it works. In any case any changes to the law take way longer to organise than a year. Part of the process won't in any case be a change to the law. The law is not the problem. The problem is one with Police attitudes and therefore resouce allocations and investigations and with the subsequent attitudes of the CPS. That CPS problem is partly because in many cases the police have not collected evidence correctly. Partly it is due to the fact that the CPS lawyers are career building individuals and they want a good prosecution record, They therefore ensure that they get convictions by undercharging on the offence. There's a feedback loop to the police that tells them not to bother too much getting the evidence together for dangerous driving when the CPS will only charge for careless and they already have enough for that.

These intertwined structural and attitudinal problems are the real issue. Nothing really that Parliament can legislate for. They can however get the select committees to start focusing on it. They could get in a few Chief Constables and ask them why their officers aren't taking this seriously or the prosecuting officers from the CPS to ask why they serially undercharge on traffic offences.

What MPs and Parliamentary Groups and committees can do is shine a bright light on to relevant issues.

The year I was born in 1961 6,908 people were killed on the UKs roads.
85,000 people were seriously injured, 258,000 slightly injured. That year there were already 10 million vehicles on the road. Covering 133bn Km

The year I started cycling in a club 1973 the figres were even worse. 7,406 people killed, 89,000 seriously injured and 257,000 people slightly injured.

In 2012 the number of vehicles on UK roads was in excess of 34.5 million covering 492bn Km. The number of people killed was 1,754. That's just 25% of the deaths in 1961 and 23% of the 1973 total. 23,000 people were seriously injured 27% of the number in 1961. Minor injuries totalled 171,000 just 2/3rds of the 1961 number.

It's never too late to change things. It may take a while. There is no magic wand or silver bullet. But it can change.
.

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LarryDavidJr [260 posts] 1 year ago
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I would have thought the solution can be fairly simple. Any traffic incident which involves someones death becomes manslaughter, and the persons thought responsible must be charged and tried as such.

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oozaveared [933 posts] 1 year ago
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LarryDavidJr wrote:

I would have thought the solution can be fairly simple. Any traffic incident which involves someones death becomes manslaughter, and the persons thought responsible must be charged and tried as such.

Well that stretches the definition of "mansalughter" a bit. The point is that these terms have very specific legal meanings and defintions. A lot of lay people use them very loosely.

You have to just ask the question "what is the crime" not "what were the results".

For example a perfectly good totally sober driver, obeying the speed limit and the HC is driving along quite properly. For arguments sake let's say a reckless cyclist comes flying out of a side road intent on turning left and joining the traffic misjudges it and colllides with the car and is killed. According to you this is manslaughter by the driver. It's nothing of the sort.. In this case the driver is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The cyclist is both the victim and the culprit in this case. The driver may well be a victim as well if it has a lasting psychological impact.

BTW I am in favour of what is known as strict liability for motorists. I would make it the legal case that a driver of a motor vehicle is presumed liable in a road incident until it can be established that they are not. By definition it would work its way up. A cyclist would be presumed liable in a collision with a pedestrian, a motorcylist presumed liable in an incident with a pedestrian or a cyclist, a car driver presumed liable if the collision were with a motorcyclist a cyclist or a pedestrian. The bigger and more dangerous your vehicle the more care is incumbent upon you. You remain liable unless it is established otherwise.

In English law there are 2 types of manslaughter, and each of those has 3 subdivisions. So briefly and roughly:

btw Mens rea = legaleese for state of mind = intent.

So

Voluntary manslaughter
The mens rea is same as for murder, but defendant has a special partial defence which reduces the charge to one of manslaughter. These defences are:
1 - Diminished responsibility (an abnormality which impairs the defendant's mental responsibility for his own acts).

2 -Provocation - Loss of self control as a result of provocation - sudden and temporary - does not have to be complete - The longer the period between provocation and act of killing, the less likely provocation defence is to succeed.

3- Suicide pact - S.4(1) Homicide Act 1957 - where one party to a suicide pact kills another party to that pact or is party to that killing, it shall be manslaughter not murder.

As you can see, where the manslaughter is voluntary (done knowingly) the mens rea is as for murder, but a partial defence reduces the charge.

The other type is involuntary manslaughter, which again has 3 subdivisions.

Constructive manslaughter
An unlawful act is committed (there must be an act committed. Constructive manslaughter cannot be committed by omission failing to do something). The unlawful act cannot be merely a civil wrong. The act must be dangerous when tested objectively. The dangerous act need not be aimed at a person, it would suffice it was aimed at property (eg criminal damage). Risk of harm must be real - mere fear of it, even if they cause the victim to have a heart attack (R v Dawson 1985), are not sufficient. The defendant must have the mens rea for the unlawful act he committed, though he need not have realised that it was a dangerous act.

Gross negligence manslaughter
This is where a lawful act or omission is performed in a negligent way.
For example is the defendant must owe the victim a duty of care. This could be a doctor owing a duty of care to a patient, who dies because of his negligent act or omission, or a landlord who has a duty to maintain property, then his tenant dies because, for example, the gas system flue is poorly maintained.

There are 5 main types of duty owed which can give rise to manslaughter in this way:
1 Contractual duty - R v Pittwood(1902) - negligence in performance of a contractual duty leading to death of someone = manslaughter.
2 Duty by relationship - R v Gibbins & Proctor (1918) - parent of child who died of malnutrition - manslaughter. (cannot be murder, because murder cannot be by omission, eg by NOT feeding someone, it needs a positive act.)
3 A duty undertaken voluntarily - eg, volunteering to care for elderly relative - R v Stone & Dobinson (1977) - failure to get help for helpless elderly relative = manslaughter.
4 Duty from official position - R v Dytham (1979) - off duty policeman witnessed violent assault and ignored it.
5 Duty which defendant has created by his own actions - R v Miller (1983) - Squatter accidentally started a fire. Left the room and made no attempt to extinguish it or summon help.

The negligence in itself constitutes the mens rea for the offence.

Reckless manslaughter
Committed by act or by omission. This is where the defendant is indifferent to an obvious danger or risk, or was aware of it but took the risk anyway. This type of manslaughter MAY possibly only exist in "motor" cases - R v Adomako (1994).

There is also Corporate manslaughter. In reality, deaths caused by corporations are still often treated merely as health and safety breaches.

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stumps [3186 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared - sorry but your wrong on the legislation - the whole system needs to be overhauled as the does the sentencing guidelines.

By all means take the easy option in blaming the Police, like most on here do. The CPS are another matter and i agree wholeheartedly with you on the fact that they habitually drop to the easier charge. It would not happen half as much if the Police still decided on the charge but we will never return to those days.

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racyrich [235 posts] 1 year ago
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Making the police accountable to the populace is what Crime Commissioners were introduced for. They're who should be lobbied. (Extreme naivety on my part appreciated.)

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oozaveared [933 posts] 1 year ago
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stumps wrote:

oozaveared - sorry but your wrong on the legislation - the whole system needs to be overhauled as the does the sentencing guidelines.

By all means take the easy option in blaming the Police, like most on here do. The CPS are another matter and i agree wholeheartedly with you on the fact that they habitually drop to the easier charge. It would not happen half as much if the Police still decided on the charge but we will never return to those days.

Oh don't get me wrong I am not an habitual critic of the police. Got a few mates who are or have been. And it's not easy. It's not so much that they "The Police" don't care and do a bad job. I am talking about resourcing and priorities. There's an awful lot of incentive and inertia that leads them to a "six of one, half a dozen, no independent witnesses not a lot we can do here - no crime" conclusion. And if the CPS are just going to undercharge anyway there's even less incentive for them to spend time and effort on a more thorough investigation.

It was definitely supposed to be a pop at the whole structure and in particular the CPS role than a pop at the police. I mention them as a feedback loop. ie disincentivised by the system.

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racyrich [235 posts] 1 year ago
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So if the wording of the document you sign on getting a driving licence was changed so that it obliged a contractual duty of care to all other road users, the breach of contract manslaughter provision would apply?

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northstar [1108 posts] 1 year ago
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More talking while people continue to be murdered.