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Dangerous drivers should not be allowed to choose trial by jury

(11 posts)

  1. wingpig
    Member

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/08/drivers-who-kill-remove-right-to-trial-by-jury-death-cyclists-pedestrians-justice

    "If you happen to be charged with dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving, should you choose a magistrates’ court trial the maximum penalty for either is six months in prison. But opt for a judge and jury and this rises, respectively, to two and five years.

    So why is your defence lawyer likely to advise you to take the latter option? It’s because they know from experience that juries have a poorer record of convicting drivers, especially if the victim is a cyclist or a pedestrian."

    "When convictions are so hard to achieve, police often fail to take action on a case."

    Posted 6 years ago #
  2. PS
    Member

    Couldn't agree more.

    Defence lawyers encourage juries to empathise with the defendant and once they get into the mindset of "I could imagine myself in the same position of being distracted momentarily/speeding/not paying attention" (which they are rarely going to associate with being a dangerous or careless driver) they are far less likely to see the defendant as guilty.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  3. neddie
    Member

    Why would a magistrates' court feel any different about drivers and cyclists?

    I'd be willing to bet that most magistrates are drivers and almost none of them are cyclists.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  4. PS
    Member

    Magistrates might understand the law better than your average juror?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  5. The Boy
    Member

    Or have a greater contempt for the public than members of the public do? Thus leading to them being happy to find someone guilty for something they themselves might also be guilty of.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  6. Magistrates are also more accountable, and if there were a rash of 'odd' decisions they can be challenged. Any appeal above the magistrate that overturns their decision reflects badly on that magistrate, so there is more onus on them to 'get it right'.

    Granted they won't always do so, but a juror can make a poor decision then walk away with it having no impact on their professional standing or job.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  7. wingpig
    Member

    Hopefully there'd be a lot less otherwise-law-abiding issue-fudging by the defence when there's no jury to court; it's a specific instance of suspicion of not having abode by a law which is under consideration. When previous convictions are withheld from juries why are previous instances of not hurting any flies and being kind to old ladies not?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  8. Rob
    Member

    The number of comments on that article puts the EEN to shame! I liked this one:

    "But that's the interesting point – killing or maiming by not concentrating or being a bit reckless in a car is seen as almost understandable, whereas, say, cutting off someone's arm as you checked your phone while operating a chainsaw or crushing them with a digger on a building site would not be.

    Being over-forgiving of bad and reckless driving has repercussions for more than just those hit. It also robs many pedestrians and cyclists of the right to travel about without feeling threatened and unsafe."

    Posted 6 years ago #
  9. PS
    Member

    @Erob That comment is spot on. Maybe judges should make that analogy in court?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  10. Tulyar
    Member

    I thought that in say a jury trial both degence and prosecution had the right to object to the selection of a juror which might have a bias to the way they might view the accused. Eg a city trader might be considered inappropriate in a fraud trial of a city trader.

    I do note that in October 1999 in London a left turning skip truck driver killed cycle courier Danny Farr, the driver was acquitted, and chillingly also with the name Vincent Doyle.

    My neighbour is a pilot - his pilot's licence carries a lifetime record of his flying history. Why can't vocational Class C D E licences be operated in this way?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  11. Rob
    Member

    I read an interesting blog on this: http://beyondthekerb.org.uk/2016/03/23/an-obvious-problem/

    "Yet jurors, regardless of how well they drive themselves or even whether they drive at all, are assumed to be capable of adopting the viewpoint of a competent and careful driver in order to decide what is or is not obvious to them.

    And this gives us our de facto definition of “a competent and careful driver”: it is a person chosen entirely at random."

    Another interesting read, not directly related but more generally about jury decisions: http://beyondthekerb.org.uk/2015/06/19/karrs-choice/

    Putting the two together, the reason dangerous driving charges fail is because the jury is made up of average people and the average person believes driving to the ideal scenario is competent and careful*. The collision wouldn't have happened if the cyclist hadn't made an error, or the wind hadn't blown, or the road surface wasn't poor so it wasn't the driver's fault, regardless of how close or how fast he was, or how little he could see.

    The poor conviction rate isn't the problem, its simply one symptom of the underlying problem of what the average person considers safe driving around cyclists. You could try and solve the problem by fighting to reform the justice system and increasing conviction rates. You could also do it by building infrastructure and making the average person a cyclist. Build it well and it has the added benefit of removing the conflict altogether.

    * This is why assertive cycling, taking the lane, etc makes such a big difference. It prevents the average person gambling with your life by making it more obviously dangerous.

    Posted 6 years ago #

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