Friday, April 21, 2006

Death On The Roads Again (2)

Lennie Briscoe asks:-
And your thoughts on the female driver who crashed killing
3 children in the car and another motorist and only got 2 years?
I do feel as though something is wrong with the system sometimes.

Well, in this tragic case the woman lost control of her car that was over-full of her and others' children, and crashed. There was no crash barrier at the scene, but one has since been installed. She stands convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. The maximum penalty is 14 years in prison, and the judge gave her 2 years. She pleaded guilty so the judge's starting point will have been 3 years.

I have mixed feelings about this. Of course society takes a serious view of death caused by bad driving, while remaining remarkably unconcerned by the ten people killed on an average day. This woman's driving was bad enough for her to have accepted that it was dangerous, and that she should have been aware that it was dangerous, presumably in that overloading and speed led her to lose control (although she was within the speed limit).

Prison therefore seemed inevitable to the judge. And yet, I ask myself whether the fact of her incarceration will make a single driver more careful - after all, nobody sets out to have an accident. Then there is her 13 year-old son, who suffered the trauma of a bloody accident, and was himself badly injured. He spent time in hospital, and now he is to be deprived of the comfort of his mother for twelve months. How does society gain from that? That leaves us with 'sending a message' I suppose, as well as an element of revenge, although for some people no sentence would ever slake their thirst for vengeance.

The offence falls clearly into the custody band. The judge was quite right to see things as he did, but I would have suspended it, and imposed the most onerous community punishment that I could. But then I am not a judge, and I have the luxury of making the decision in theory, whereas he had to do it for real.

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