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Jury found Victoria McClure guilty of death by dangerous driving after she admitted lesser charge of careless driving

A driver who hit and killed a cyclist when she took her eyes off the road to adjust her sat nav has been convicted of death by dangerous driving.

Victoria McClure is almost certain to face a custodial sentence when she returns to court at the end of August.

In a rare move, the jury found Ms McClure guilty of the more serious offence of death by dangerous driving, although she had already pleaded guilty to death by careless driving.

Anthony Hilson was out for a Sunday morning ride on September 9th 2012 when he was hit from behind by McClure on the A4 Bath Road in Twyford, Berkshire.

It was a straight stretch of road and visibility was good, but Ms McClure was adjusting the zoom function on her sat nav.

According to Rhia Weston, a road safety campaigner for the CTC: "Although this was a successful prosecution, the presentation of evidence did cause some concern. The police forensic investigator made no attempt to calculate exactly how long Hilson would have been in McClure’s sight if his speed were taken into consideration."

Prosecutor Matthew Walsh was left to tell the jury, "Assuming she's travelling at the speed limit of 60mph, it takes about 18 seconds to cover the distance - that's the length of time she would have had the cyclist in her view." He added that there were no skidmarks or signs of evasive action at the scene.

The jury did not in the end accept the defence claim that Mr Hilson’s black, red and white cycling gear made him difficult to spot.

Although a strong sentence for dangerous driving leading to the death of a cyclist is welcomed by the CTC, it's not a custodial sentence that they were pushing for in this case, although a representative attended the trial. 

In a statement the organisation said: "CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution, as in most cases they only present a danger to the public when behind the wheel of a car. Thus, imposing long-term or life-time driving bans is a more effective solution and deterrent to bad driving.

"When drivers have caused danger intentionally or recklessly, or if they have a history of breaching driving bans, long custodial sentences are more appropriate."

Last year, British Cycling and CTC were among organisations that launched a campaign urging for a review of sentencing in cases in which the victim is a cyclist, leading to a meeting with justice minister Helen Grant that the governing body’s director of policy and legal affairs, Martin Gibbs, afterwards called “a significant step forward.”

In February, CTC launched another campaign calling on residents of England and Wales to urge their Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to prioritise road safety.

The organisation said that police forces need to thoroughly investigate road traffic incidents involving vulnerable users including cyclists and ensure the drivers involved face appropriate action.

According to CTC, shortcomings in investigations of such cases result in less evidence being available to the prosecution, which has a knock-on effect in terms of the charges that are brought and, ultimately, sentencing in the event of a conviction.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

39 comments

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ScotchPoth (not verified) [367 posts] 2 years ago
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'CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution'

Whose side are the CTC on? This statement beggars belief,you take someones life through dangerous driving but not receive a custodial sentence?
A custodial sentence,coupled with compensation and a driving ban is the minimum the CTC should be calling for,it isnt either/or
Lengthy custodial sentences are more of a deterrant than any driving ban,what planet are the fools on?
The CTC are the acceptable media friendly middle class conservative face of the cycling 'community',why their opinion is called on in these cases to represent cyclists viewpoint and not other groups doesnt make sense
They certainly dont represent me
I suspect alot of CTC members are also motorists,accounts for the duplicity and wishy washy compromise

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Sara_H [57 posts] 2 years ago
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ScotchPoth wrote:

'CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution'

Whose side are the CTC on? This statement beggars belief,you take someones life through dangerous driving but not receive a custodial sentence?
A custodial sentence,coupled with compensation and a driving ban is the minimum the CTC should be calling for,it isnt either/or
Lengthy custodial sentences are more of a deterrant than any driving ban,what planet are the fools on?
The CTC are the acceptable media friendly middle class conservative face of the cycling 'community',why their opinion is called on in these cases to represent cyclists viewpoint and not other groups doesnt make sense
I suspect alot of CTC members are also motorists,accounts for the duplicity and wishy washy compromise

I can see where the CTC are coming from, but don't agree with their stance.

Of course, this woman does not represent a threat to the public if she doesn't take to the wheel of a car. But custodial sentences are not just about protecting the public, they're about punishment. She committed a stupid and criminal act that resulted in the death of another person, of course that should result in a custodial sentence - otherwise what message are we sending to others.

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Bez [587 posts] 2 years ago
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I fully agree with the CTC's comment. Bans need to be used more heavily, including where a driver commits a safety-related offence but no collision occurs. In most cases custody is not helpful.

More: http://www.stewartpratt.com/?p=556

The "deterrent" argument is fallacious. People do not believe they will kill someone therefore it is inherently impossible to implement a deterrent for this. What is needed is a deterrent against things like adjusting a satnav while driving, and to achieve that, such a deterrent must be enforceable regardless of death.

There is no point in calling for custodial sentences for killers. The thing to do is to call for deterrents to the actions which cause death when the dice roll badly, because the point is to prevent people becoming killers in the first place.

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TeamCC [146 posts] 2 years ago
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Terrible tragedy, I'm sure Victoria did not mean to hit the cyclist but taking control of a vehicle means you are responsible for driving with care.

I'm surprised she admitted to not focusing on the road, her honesty will get her the maximum sentence. In other similar instances, a person who says nothing and has a lawyer work their defense can see a much lighter sentence. I don't have an answer to what is right here, just, taking a step back from the tradegy and focusing on the defense only, an honest person gets no breaks in a courtroom.

I'm sure in 50 years time we will have smart cars, like the google cars that drive themselves, and our grandkids will be shocked that we were allowed to simply drive these massive machines on our own.

Until a better future comes about, we are stuck with the imperfect roads and imperfect courts.

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IanW1968 [251 posts] 2 years ago
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I like the strategy of long term or life time bans for dangerous driving being the first punishment, saving custodial sentences for repeat offenders or those who drive whilst banned or extreme cases.

Suspect a life ban would be quite a deterrent for a lot of motorists and locking them up just costs more money.

This case would imo be in the extreme case category.

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paulfg42 [382 posts] 2 years ago
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Bez wrote:

I fully agree with the CTC's comment. Bans need to be used more heavily, including where a driver commits a safety-related offence but no collision occurs. In most cases custody is not helpful.

More: http://www.stewartpratt.com/?p=556

The "deterrent" argument is fallacious. People do not believe they will kill someone therefore it is inherently impossible to implement a deterrent for this. What is needed is a deterrent against things like adjusting a satnav while driving, and to achieve that, such a deterrent must be enforceable regardless of death.

There is no point in calling for custodial sentences for killers. The thing to do is to call for deterrents to the actions which cause death when the dice roll badly, because the point is to prevent people becoming killers in the first place.

One of the daftest arguments I've read anywhere. At least the author of the article doesn't try to extend the argument to all killers.

How can you deter people from being distracted? And you do know that lots of drivers ignore bans?

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Bez [587 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not extending the argument to all killers. Those who kill or injure through intent or rage deserve custodial sentences IMO (though, importantly, note that other charges such as GBH are able in these cases, and have been used accordingly), and it should always be a sentencing option, eg for cases of extreme negligence or lack of remorse.

But this is a tiny minority of cases. Most incidents are caused by people who have absolutely no intent to harm, but who have allowed their driving standards to carry significant risk of these kinds of incident. (The effects of malice and negligence may sometimes be the same, but the causative factors are quite different.) And a crucial aspect of this is that those attitudes to driving are reinforced and normalised by the media, by commercial companies, by the law and by the licensing system.

How can you deter people from being distracted? You socially stigmatise distracting behaviours and you punish them heavily. 3 points and £60 does not deter someone from an activity that can kill.

Reversing the question: How do you deter someone from causing a death, when that death occurs as a result of an activity that you do not deter and which the perpetrator does not for one moment believe will cause death? You cannot. It is impossible. All you can deter is the activity that leads to death, which means punishing people for using satnavs while driving, teaching them not to do so (and why) when they learn to drive and perhaps even making it impossible to do so - which would be technically trivial to implement.

Yes, of course some people ignore bans. You missed the bit about saying the use of bans would require draconian punishments - eg lengthy imprisonment - for breaching them?

There is no silver bullet. But can you not see that simply calling for greater *punitive* measures (rather than retrospectively preventative ones such as removing drivers from the road) for *only* those who have already killed or injured is not going to achieve a damned thing?

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bambergbike [88 posts] 2 years ago
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I think driving bans - and often lifetime driving bans are appropriate - send out a message to all drivers that driving is fundamentally dangerous and something which is not a right, but a privilege that can be revoked.

I don't think custodial sentences make that point more successfully. When we read that somebody got a custodial sentence, we can it as a story about criminals being locked up. We don't tend to feel we have much in common with criminals, and therefore we don't feel personally affected by how they are dealt with.

I think it makes sense to save custodial sentences for cases such as breaches of driving bans and to impose punishments like community service. In certain cases where a driver has been extraordinarily negligent, it should also be possible for the driver's insurance company to pay out to victims or their families and then sue the driver to try and recover some of the payout. (I would prefer this to fines, since it would be clearer that drivers are facing the consequences of their own actions rather than being dealt out some random punishment by the state.)

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doc [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Very interesting. What would hurt more, a short spell in jail (remember 50% of time is served in general), a lifetime ban, heavy fine, or confiscation of any vehicles owned by the guilty party. The ban if respected would at least remove someone careless with others lives from the road, removal of vehicle(s) woud be financially painful. Or perhaps those jailed should be made to pay the full costs of their incarceration?
But I do agree that no-one sane goes out with the intent of killing someone with thier vehicle, so the element of "revenge" is questionable. However this needs to be balanced against a message that says this is not acceptable behaviour and so must have a serious consequence, of which removal of liberty for a period and a criminal record is one option.

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 2 years ago
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it will be interesting to see what 'sentence' this irresponsible idiot is handed, probably a fine and smack on the wrist .....

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Cycle_Jim [264 posts] 2 years ago
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The defence was he was difficult to spot, I'm not surprised with a sat nav in your face! Unbelievable sentence.

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ScotchPoth (not verified) [367 posts] 2 years ago
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A driving ban would not be financially more crippling,bear in mind a custodial sentence would automatically end the culprits employment and future employment prospects
The result would probably lead to a loss of their home whereas a driving ban is a shrug of the shoulders and a new bus pass-bullshit
If it were a member of your family mown down by some scum pissing about with a sat nav,mobile phone,intentional or not,you would not be so equanimous in your phoney pragmatism to these morons who hurtle around in 1 ton killing machines
You take a motorized vehicle out on the public highway you have a duty of safety at all times
There is always an excuse for fucking motorists to be let off the hook,if a cyclist is involved in an isolated incident the whole establishment/media are down on us all like a ton of bricks,intentional or not

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Metjas [359 posts] 2 years ago
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surely one of the most effective deterrents is to read in the paper/hear on the news that a driver who killed someone did so because they were fiddling with their satnav and they got a custodial sentence and a lengthy driving ban when they leave prison.

I find it incredulous that the CTC would argue that custodial sentences should not form part of the sentencing outcome in cases like this. Yes, these drivers need to be removed from the road for a long time, but they also need to reflect while serving their prison sentence.

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eurotrash [88 posts] 2 years ago
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Obviously the collision/death was accidental. So what good would come from locking the driver up? At CTC say, they'e not a menace to society, with the exception of when they're behind the wheel - so lengthy bans instead. Maybe large fines too? I don't think simply a ban is enough. But can't see that locking them up in prison would be in anyone's interest.

Of course as they also state, repeat offenders (which may be less likely to occur if the culprit was banned for longer) or where the driving was intentionally dangerous such as when a car does a punishment pass/stop to knock the rider off etc, those should result in custodial sentences.

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thebungle [103 posts] 2 years ago
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Must be hard to ride a bike with that rather large chip on your shoulder.

Accidents happen, sometimes the results are minor, sometimes tragic, what punishment is appropriate for the driver and what good would it serve? The poor cyclist can't be brought back and I'd like to think that the driver (if she drives again) will be a LOT more careful?

The reason I'm careful behind the bars/wheel is not because of fear of a custodial sentence, rather that I simply don't want to cause harm to a fellow human, however that doesn't stop me from having the odd 'where the funk did he come from?!' moment.

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issacforce [210 posts] 2 years ago
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Everybody parping on about why she should or should,nt get a custodial sentence, imo she should. But lets not forget the family she has devastated by her irresponible actions, they might want her put away.
So lets not forget the grieving family here,

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Throbbobank [9 posts] 2 years ago
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thebungle wrote:

Must be hard to ride a bike with that rather large chip on your shoulder.

Accidents happen, sometimes the results are minor, sometimes tragic, what punishment is appropriate for the driver and what good would it serve? The poor cyclist can't be brought back and I'd like to think that the driver (if she drives again) will be a LOT more careful?

The reason I'm careful behind the bars/wheel is not because of fear of a custodial sentence, rather that I simply don't want to cause harm to a fellow human, however that doesn't stop me from having the odd 'where the funk did he come from?!' moment.

Some years ago the Emergency Services stopped calling incidents involving motor vehicles as "RTA's" (road traffic accidents) preferring the "RTC" (road traffic collision)....

Do I think this lady intended to kill someone? Nope. Do I think that in taking her eyes off the road while in charge of a 1 tonne lump of metal that resulted in the death of someones husband, brother, dad she was criminally negligent? Yes. Do I think that the best way for the "good guys" who don't set out driving their metal killing machine with "intent" to kill but might "accidentally" have that "where the funk did he come from!" moment as a Dad or Mum hits their windscreen is by banning them from driving and letting them get on with their lives?...

I own a 12 bore shut gun? I'm a good guy but, sometimes, I find myself wondering down the high street with the safety off texting...it was entirely accidental when it went off killing 2 people as the sun was low....

How's that "large chip"? IT'S NOT YOUR ROAD....

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solkanofastera [24 posts] 2 years ago
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They should be banning bad drivers for life before they kill somebody, if you get the max points that should be it, lifetime ban.

If Throbbobank showed any carelessness in handling his shotgun it would be taken away from him, a car kills you just as dead as a gun.

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Malaconotus [91 posts] 2 years ago
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TeamCC wrote:

her honesty will get her the maximum sentence.

It certainly won't. The maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment... http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/sentencing_manual/death_by_dangerous_...

I willing to bet she gets less than the absolute minimum in the sentencing guidelines, which is two years.

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Mr Agreeable [166 posts] 2 years ago
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Driving bans don't keep people off the road. The driver who killed Ross and Claire Simons just up the road from me in Bristol was disqualified, but driving his partner's car. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but I don't know to what extent this counts as a deterrent - many people have no idea what the maximum sentence is for a crime anyway.

The local MP is now doing a rather half-hearted campaign to get the maximum sentence increased, after initially saying that he was going to press for traffic calming measures in the road where it happened.

Personally I'd much rather have the latter; there's absolutely no point in someone rotting in jail for a couple of extra years if the death could have been avoided in the first place.

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Bez [587 posts] 2 years ago
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"Unbelievable sentence."

What, the sentence that hasn't actually been delivered yet? Jesus, at least read, don't just pull an opinion out of your arse.

"But lets not forget the family she has devastated by her irresponible actions, they might want her put away."

This an entirely understandable viewpoint, but people differ. Look back to the Dowling case and you'll see that the family were deeply against having the driver put away. Then again I read of another case recently where one member of the family vowed to have what in her eyes was justice, which transpired to be getting the driver's prison term increased.

To have sentencing significantly influenced by people's emotions would give you wild variations in punishment, and it's not a way to run a consistent and egalitarian sentencing system. These things really need to be discussed and determined in a sanguine and emotionally uninvolved manner.

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kie7077 [833 posts] 2 years ago
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In a statement the organisation said: "CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution, as in most cases they only present a danger to the public when behind the wheel of a car. Thus, imposing long-term or life-time driving bans is a more effective solution and deterrent to bad driving.

No, the more effective deterrent is the prison sentence, you can't drive if you're in prison AND you're in prison.

Clearly with the current state of driving, good deterrents are needed, £30 fines and short driving bans are not good deterrents, prison is. And if people don't behave then they should be punished, like WFT is going on in CTCs heads.

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GerardR [117 posts] 2 years ago
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There's almost a choice of "D: all of the above" available here. A short custodial sentence, followed by a lengthy ban (except for driving for work purposes to ensure that they can earn an income and not be a further drain on society), along with a hefty financial penalty.

Yes, it's very easy to understand the desire to "lock 'em up": the penalty I propose has a better chance, I think, of being effective.

And yes, I have been know more than once to give that famous salute to a motorist, so I understand the "Holy s*, Batman, that lunatic nearly killed me!".

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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To describe this tragic death as an 'accident' is as crass as it is insulting to the memory of the dead cyclist.

Life ban enforced by tagging should be the minimum sentence for death by dangerous driving.

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Bez [587 posts] 2 years ago
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GerardR wrote:

a lengthy ban (except for driving for work purposes to ensure that they can earn an income and not be a further drain on society)

I disagree 100% with this. We already have this in one form, namely the "extreme hardship" plea for totting-up bans (and it exists less explicitly in judges' sentencing of those they perceive "need" a car).

Why should those who are deemed to "need" a car be held to a lesser standard than the rest of us? I don't really "need" to drive but I've nonetheless managed to get by without killing or injuring anyone. If someone really needs their car (and let's not forget about the existence of bicycles, public transport, comfortable shoes, taxis, chauffeurs and remote working - there's something for most people in there) then the threat of the loss of their licence and car should be incentive enough for them not to kill people. The same for professional drivers: they should, if anything, be held to a *higher* standard, not allowed to get away with things that the rest of us would not.

I'd also be willing to bet that the direct financial cost to public funds of someone on the dole and looking for work is significantly less that that of someone in prison.

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chrisb64 [5 posts] 2 years ago
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No matter how you take a life prison should be involved along with a lifetime driving ban!

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Mostyn [396 posts] 2 years ago
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Sara_H wrote:
ScotchPoth wrote:

'CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution'

Whose side are the CTC on? This statement beggars belief,you take someones life through dangerous driving but not receive a custodial sentence?
A custodial sentence,coupled with compensation and a driving ban is the minimum the CTC should be calling for,it isnt either/or
Lengthy custodial sentences are more of a deterrant than any driving ban,what planet are the fools on?
The CTC are the acceptable media friendly middle class conservative face of the cycling 'community',why their opinion is called on in these cases to represent cyclists viewpoint and not other groups doesnt make sense
I suspect alot of CTC members are also motorists,accounts for the duplicity and wishy washy compromise

I can see where the CTC are coming from, but don't agree with their stance.

Of course, this woman does not represent a threat to the public if she doesn't take to the wheel of a car. But custodial sentences are not just about protecting the public, they're about punishment. She committed a stupid and criminal act that resulted in the death of another person, of course that should result in a custodial sentence - otherwise what message are we sending to others.

I agree, this driver took a human life! There should be some kind of punishment. Far too many accidents involving cyclists being killed or injured.

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Bez [587 posts] 2 years ago
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chrisb64 wrote:

No matter how you take a life prison should be involved along with a lifetime driving ban!

So if an HGV is waiting at the lights, indicating left, and a cyclist comes up the inside in the vehicle's blind spot, the lights change, both move off and the HGV turns left and kills the cyclist... you're saying the driver should go to prison?

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Carl [135 posts] 2 years ago
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"CTC does not think that imposing custodial sentences on drivers who cause death is the ideal solution, as in most cases they only present a danger to the public when behind the wheel of a car."

Rather like saying murderers are only a danger to the public when in possession of a weapon like a gun or knife.....

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stumps [3184 posts] 2 years ago
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There are some really good points raised here and also some which are from the heart rather than the head and will no doubt strike a chord with many on the forum.

Lifetime driving bans, as some suggest, are nigh on impossible to regulate. With the number of cars on the road it's not possible to check every single driver every single day.

Prison is the most extreme punishment and should only be used when there is no doubt about the dangerous driving - as someone mentions the HGV scenario.

Unless you drive for a living then losing your licence wont effect your employment. You can cycle, walk, car share, bus, train, metro / tram. But then again if you do take someone's life should it not be that you also have to suffer with employment loss, house repossession etc as no doubt the family whose life was taken will also suffer similar losses never mind the fact that they have suffered the ultimate loss of a family member.

There is no black and white answer as every case is different.

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