Thursday, December 20, 2007
The press is full of reports such as this, declaring that mobile phone use will in future attract a prison sentence. This is largely nonsense, and the CPS (who have issued the press releases that started this story) know that it is.
The law has not changed. All that has changed is the CPS' guidance to its own staff as to the correct offence to charge when someone causes mayhem on the roads while distracted by using a telephone. In the worst cases (and they will be few) the CPS will charge Dangerous Driving (as they are free to do already) or its most serious version, Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, which for some years has carried up to (I think) 14 years inside. But it isn't up to the CPS to decide what's dangerous, as opposed to careless, it's up to a jury. And juries are notoriously ready to convict of the lower charge, perhaps because any jury will include people who have used a phone while driving. This applies even more so to Manslaughter - in fact it was the acquittal rate that led to the introduction of the offfence of causing Death by Dangerous Driving.
This is a spin exercise, part of the CPS strategy to raise its profile.
Mobile phone use is a problem but so is enforcement - if someone is driving in the dark on a motorway, who or what is going to detect his use of the phone? Technology may provide an answer one day, but it won't be soon and it won't be cheap.