another killer driver let off

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richardyorkshire
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another killer driver let off

Post by richardyorkshire »

Another killer driver has been let off, after hitting Marie Vesco when she was cycling along the A23 near Brighton. The police decided not to prosecute and the coroner has just recorded a narrative verdict:

""Marie was in collision with a Ford Galaxy whilst on the A23. This caused her to fall to the ground and she was then struck by a Ford Mondeo and sustained fatal injuries. Either single or jointly Marie and Mrs Sweetman misjudged the others' intending paths."

Or, to be more accurate, Mrs Sweetman hit Marie when she cut in front of her to take a slip road have completely misjudged the overtake. Marie was knocked off and killed by a following car. I can't believe the coroner implies that Marie was at fault. She wasn't. :(

http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/ano ... ml?aff=rss
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kwackers
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by kwackers »

You can't clip someone with your wing mirror if you're 'pulling across their path' - since you'd then take them out with the rear of the car.
Obviously she simply overtook too close to avoid having to violently manouver to get back across two lanes of traffic.

Look on the good side though at least there's no danger of a miscarriage of justice... Unless of course you're one of the foolish who believe victims have rights.
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by downfader »

I do think its disgusting the way the inquest seemed to be handled from that report. I also hear people say stupid things such as "what do you expect me to do? Brake? Then I'd have a car crash up my a***! Is that what you want!" and wondered if that was the attitude of the driver.

Frankly, yes, a car crashing into you is preferable to a car crashing into a cyclist. You stand a better chance.

Very sad. I now feel obliged to spam this about. :(
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Phil_Lee
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by Phil_Lee »

It's become clear that the police forces, the coroners, and the CPS are jointly running a conspiracy to deny cyclists their basic human rights.

And then they have the cheek to object when they are held in contempt.
Can CTC not fund a prosecution of the police force in this case?
It would set a valuable precedent.

Does the 6 month time limit for prosecutions apply to manslaughter?
If not, the driver who clearly regards a second or two as more important than lives should be prosecuted for that.
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by downfader »

I'm going to construct a letter to send to number 10 over cases like this. Its getting to the point, what with the piston-heads who think its their god-given right to drive like lunatics to the people who think its acceptable to play with mobiles whilst driving their little darlings home from school, where regardless of the financial situation giving us a possibility of an increase in cyclists that people will simply just go back to the car for local journeys.

Too many people get away with hitting cyclists and pedestrians - we should be teaming up with pedestrians on these issues. I know of pedestrian crossings where you take your life in you hands when you use them. Drivers simply will not stop for you and you're left perched in the middle of traffic. Police in places seem more concerned with hassling people with cameras or smokers in bus shelters, and those that do give a damn (and I suspect are more than we ever hear about) struggle with the rediculous paperwork.

Too many myths about us cyclists are batted about whilst speeders drive with impunity and park on pavements. :?
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Phil_Lee
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by Phil_Lee »

When I had a taxi driver drive head on at me in a mandatory cycle lane, I decided that it was a clear case of dangerous driving, and arrested her (dangerous driving is indictable, so this is legal).
When the police turned up, they refused to act, and instead threatened me with arrest for "unlawful detention".

As far as I am concerned, if we want justice, the only way is to impose it ourselves.
The police have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of applying laws that don't increase their own powers, and every intention of undermining laws that allow people to act on their own behalf.

The message is clear - instead of attempting to arrest someone in these circumstances, it's better to beat them around the head with a D lock, as calling the police will only reinforce the drivers contempt for the law.
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richardyorkshire
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by richardyorkshire »

Phil_Lee wrote:The message is clear - instead of attempting to arrest someone in these circumstances, it's better to beat them around the head with a D lock, as calling the police will only reinforce the drivers contempt for the law.


No, no, violence is not the answer. It would be much better to file a formal complaint with the police, thus drowning them in paperwork. Revenge through bureaucracy.

The attitude of the justice system is baffling. We seem to feel free to fine motorists for speeding, on the grounds that speeding increases the likelihood and the severity of accidents. But where a motorist causes an accident through carelessness and negligence - there is nothing.
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kwackers
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by kwackers »

richardyorkshire wrote:No, no, violence is not the answer. It would be much better to file a formal complaint with the police, thus drowning them in paperwork. Revenge through bureaucracy.

The attitude of the justice system is baffling. We seem to feel free to fine motorists for speeding, on the grounds that speeding increases the likelihood and the severity of accidents. But where a motorist causes an accident through carelessness and negligence - there is nothing.



If she'd been holding a mobile phone she'd have gotten locked up. In my view someone on the phone at least has an excuse (even if poor) for their bad driving, in this case there is no excuse.

So we have bizzarre results - some months ago a women hit and killed a cyclist who had rode across her path after running a red light and got 4 years because she was speeding and on a mobile phone at the time. (Bear in mind the cyclist contributed by running a red light and obviously didn't give way.)

Then we have the example above were someone gets off scot free because they couldn't be bothered waiting and/or giving the cyclist space. A cyclist who contributed nothing to their own demise.

In the first example wrong as the woman was - there's no guarantee the cyclist would have lived had she not been on the phone and speeding (although they obviously didn't help).
In the second you have someone who is obviously incapable of driving safely with regard for other road users. In my view at the very least in these circumstances she should be banned for 5 years and forced to use a bicycle for a minimum of 1000 miles, before doing a retest.

I'd like to think she can't sleep at night, but I suspect in the best tradition of modern humans she's managed to convince herself it's not her fault and there was nothing she could do...
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anothereye
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by anothereye »

As a close friend to Marie I accompanied her parents to the inquest and also to a meeting with the CPS in January. I also have read the police report and have copies of all the witness statements. Also at the inquest were Marie's brother and sister, lots of her friends, representatives from CTC, Sustrans, RoadPeace and the Mid Sussex Times (amongst others).

Firstly; regarding the report in Cycling Weekly:
The wing mirror did contact Marie but there were marks on the vehicle forward of the wing mirror consistent with contact to Marie's handlebar.
The second car was traveling less than 2 seconds behind the first.
Both the above were established by the police before the CPS decided not to prosecute.
"... In the case of Vesco, it was the police who decided not to prosecute ....": This is not accurate; whilst we believe that the police report could have been more thorough: it was the CPS that decided not to prosecute.
The verdict in the report is inaccurate (what they have printed is the conclusion of the police report). The verdict should read: "On 4 June 2008 Marie Vesco was in collision with a Ford Galaxy motor vehicle while cycling south on A23 to Brighton. This caused her to fall to the ground. She was then struck by a Ford Mondeo motor vehicle. As a result she sustained fatal injuries. It would appear that either singularly or jointly, Marie Vesco and the drivers of the vehicles have misjudged the others‘ intended path"(so vague that we didn't need an inquest to establish that). The coroner then demanded that the Highways Agency implement signage for cyclists so that they can avoid the trunk road.
Whilst I agree with Penny Knight of Leigh Day Solicitors "the coroner dwelling on the inadequate signage directing riders to the nearby cycle lane, which had no bearing on case.” I do think that the coroner was correct in demanding improvements. My point here is that both the drivers and the Highways Agency were at fault.
Before Marie died a motorist concerned for the cyclists’ safety phoned the police. Consequently the police filmed the cyclists on the dangerous stretch of the A23 but did not advise them of the safer cycle route nearby. We are considering whether this is grounds for a complaint.

The Elephant in the room:
We met with Mark Bishop (CPS) about 3 months after he had decided not to prosecute. The only purpose of the meeting seemed to be for him to defend his decision. I left with the suspicion that whilst he thought the drivers may have been careless he also thought that most drivers would have done the same thing! So what!
At the inquest; PC Harrison (author of the police report) said something similar. in reply to a question from our Barrister, Martin Porter, regarding Mrs Sweetman (the first driver) indicating left whilst overtaking Marie; PC Harrison said "most people would have done the same thing .... whether it's correct or not".

The Big issue:
According to Jay Calascione, a spokesperson for Roadpeace: "since 2006 there has been an alarming increase in the number of potential careless driving cases where an innocent third party has been killed but where no charge has been brought against the causing driver". I am exploring how I can get statistics to verify this. If it is true then I will be looking to generate maximum press coverage and direct action. This is now my main focus. Jay thinks that it is a consequence of the new offence of death by careless driving (the CPS do not want to fill the prisons up with bad drivers). With this in mind I want to network as widely as possible; I am trying to make contact with relatives of other road victims where offenders have not been prosecuted.

Phil Lee asked: Does the 6 month time limit for prosecutions apply to manslaughter?
I don't know the answer, I suspect not. Nor does it apply to dangerous driving (but this would be costly and there is a distinction in law between dangerous and careless (even though careless is, by it's very nature, dangerous). As far as I understand the 6 month limit no longer applies after 1st August 2008.

I think that's all I can report for now without being too verbose (I could have typed for a few days!).

Gerry
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thirdcrank
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by thirdcrank »

anothereye wrote:AsThe Big issue:
According to Jay Calascione, a spokesperson for Roadpeace: "since 2006 there has been an alarming increase in the number of potential careless driving cases where an innocent third party has been killed but where no charge has been brought against the causing driver". I am exploring how I can get statistics to verify this. If it is true then I will be looking to generate maximum press coverage and direct action. This is now my main focus. Jay thinks that it is a consequence of the new offence of death by careless driving (the CPS do not want to fill the prisons up with bad drivers). With this in mind I want to network as widely as possible; I am trying to make contact with relatives of other road victims where offenders have not been prosecuted.


I don't think such data will be readily available. The statistics for fatal road collisions are obviously there, and they will be the most accurate of any UK road collision stats in that all the accidents will be reported and investigated and a death cannot be under-recorded. The bit about 'innocent fatality, no proceedings' could only be ascertained by reading each accident report to see what happened. It is, after all, rather subjective.

The CPS has two factors to consider when deciding whether to institute proceedings. The first is whether the evidence is strong enough to secure a conviction. As I've said before on here, this means admissible evidence according to the legal rules not 'common sense.' You mention an inadequate police investigation and that must adversely affect the amount of evidence which is collected. Speaking generally, unless there is a reversal of the trend to have fewer specialist traffic officers, that problem can only get greater. Nowadays, the government decides national police priorities and achieving those priorities is what it's all about for chief officers. Increasing road safety through enforcement is not a big priority. IMO politicians do not see votes in upsetting drivers. Political pressure might change that, but it would need a lot. (There is also the point that an increase in specialist traffic patrols - both conspicuously marked and perhaps more controversially in unmarked cars - might improve driver behaviour so that there would be fewer collisions to investigate.)

The second factor is rather vague: a prosecution is only appropriate if it is in the public interest. It covers all sorts. For example, if an apparently blameworthy driver were to end up tetraplegic himself, a prosecution might not be in the public interest. I think it's also fair to say that as the CPS has tended to prosecute fewer drivers involved in collisions than used to be the case when the police made the decision, some police officers have anticipated the CPS decision. The idea that the new offence of causing death by careless driving should lead to even fewer prosecutions does seem illogical (although I've no info at all either way.) Previously, if the prosecutor felt that the standard of driving only came up to 'without due care and attention' rather than 'dangerous' then a prosecution for 'due care' was all that was allowed, with fines of a few hundred quid. Incidentally, I'm sure a lot of people are understandably confused as to how driving carelessly is not inevitably dangerous.

IMO the whole prosecution system is illogical in that nobody has really come to terms with whether the it should punish the conduct or its result. By this I mean that people are driving carelessly all the time and if there is no serious collision they can do so with more or less impunity. There is an implication of almost victimisation if the police take action. On the other hand, if an otherwise fairly minor lapse does lead to a serious collision, then the argument is that they should not be punished for conduct which in itself is generally not regarded as criminal. In short, we have an atmosphere where people expect to sit in the driving seat of a motor vehicle and behave pretty much as they do in their favourite armchair at home, and the system tends to accept that.

Once again, your thoughtful post hows how press reports are not always to be trusted.
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anothereye
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by anothereye »

Thirdcrank,
thanks for your comments.
I do think that the necessary statistics are possible. Check out this link:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/p ... 8w0027.htm
Mr. Grieve: To ask the Solicitor-General how many and what proportion of cases in each Crown Prosecution Service area were discontinued (a) in the interests of justice and (b) by reason of evidential insufficiency in the most recent period for which figures are available. [186175]
The Solicitor-General: Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) records show that, during the year ending December 2007, proceedings in respect of 25,743 defendants were discontinued or withdrawn at court because pursuing the cases was deemed not to be in the public interest. That figure represents 2.4 per cent. of defendant cases referred for prosecution during that period.
During the same period, proceedings against 53,541 defendants were discontinued or withdrawn at court because the evidential test contained in the Code for Crown Prosecutors was not satisfied. That figure represents 5 per cent. of defendant cases referred for prosecution.


A similar question; but specific to deaths on the road and to figures for several years (in order to compare) would establish a trend.

Gerry
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thirdcrank
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by thirdcrank »

Gerry

I was commenting on your quote about 'potential careless driving cases where an innocent third party has been killed but where no charge has been brought against the causing driver'.

There will be all sorts of data about cases being dropped, but that will not tell you much, without knowing the background to each case. For example, if somebody were to be charged with murder (and I'm not talking about killing somebody in a collision,) any other cases pending against them would be put on hold. If they were then convicted of murder, virtually everything else except any other murders would be dropped - not in the public interest. And so on.

I think the cases mentioned in your link will only include those where a prosecution has been started (summons issued or somebody charged) and then 'discontinued' the official expression for dropping a case. It will not include cases which ran into the buffers before that stage. The CPS has decided on prosecutions by way of summons since 1985. There has only fairly recently been a change whereby the police no longer take the decision to charge people - the decision is now taken by the CPS. (I'm not sure the exact date when that came in.) You might expect that there would be a big drop in cases being discontinued because the whole idea of the CPS taking that over was to improve the standard of charging decisions, and you might expect they would agree with their own decisions. (There has been a murder case recently where the CPS has apologised to the family of the victim for not charging the eventual murderer with some sort of matrimonial violence offence at an earlier stage. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/0 ... murder-cps )

Perhaps the person you were quoting has already obtained some stats to support their assertion.

If you feel that every collision with a fatality should have a prosecution of the driver as an inevitable outcome and anything less than that amounts to a failure of the system, then I fear you may face frustration and disappointment. If I've misunderstood the point you were making, I'm sorry.
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anothereye
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by anothereye »

Thirdcrank,
I accept your comments: ideally we would want to know the details in every case. Nevertheless; if there is a trend I think it would show. Eg. if 95% of cases (where a death was involved) were taken to court in 2006 but the proportion dropped significantly in 2008. I would also want to know how many of these prosecutions were successful (as well as other data).

Gerry
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thirdcrank
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by thirdcrank »

Gerry,

I see what you mean but I still don't think it's as straightforward as that.

I suppose we all want the 'right' result although we might not agree what that was. Justice involves a series of interdependent stages: an incident occurs which may be a crime; it may or may not come to the notice of the police; their investigation may be more or less thorough; the CPS will make a decision; there may be a court hearing; that may result in a conviction and sentence, which may vary in severity.

If we assume that virtually all road collisions which result in death are dealt with by the police, the first couple of stages do not affect us here. We might assume that the more resources the police devote to investigations, the better they will be in the sense that they will be more thorough. That might exonerate a few suspects, but less likely than in other cases. As I mentioned before, we can now disregard the CPS dropping cases they think the police should not have charged. Perhaps the biggest negative factor here is that the thoroughness of police investigations is likely to be influenced by the type of cases the CPS have not prosecuted previously. On to the CPS and they are first governed by the quality of what they get from the police - although they can request more evidence if they think that points need to be better covered. The second stage for the CPS is to consider the public interest and a big part of that has to be the likely attitude of the court. (Something the Inland Revenue signally overlooked when they gave Ken Dodd a run in Liverpool where juries are notorious for their unwillingness to convict.) The judge is required to ensure a fair trial and the more weak cases brought by the CPS, the more will be stopped by judges. If we accept the 'innocent till convicted' argument, then putting somebody up for trial unnecessarily is unfair, even cruel -it is at the very least expensive, both in money, but also the time of witnesses. Finally, even if more cases do lead to conviction, there will then be some where the defendant can advance strong mitigation and get a 'soft' sentence - a source of bewilderment and outrage to many bereaved people. In one recent case the bereaved described the court as a circus. On the other hand, it has often been argued that a common reason for jury acquittals is a feeling that the likely punishment may be too harsh in a particular case.

I'm suggesting there is quite a lot of anticipation at certain stages about what will happen higher up the chain. It might be argued that if everybody got on with there own jobs things would be better. There is a limit to public money, and there is no point wasting it on futile cases.

We do see quite a lot of academic research published which shows, for example, that a particular Crown Court is somehow soft, when it may just be that the police or nowadays the CPS in that area are more ready to prosecute, and so on. I'm not saying that research is bound to fail, just that it requires a lot more analysis of individual cases if it is to mean anything.

I should still say that if what we really want is better behaviour on the roads which would in turn lead to fewer deaths, then much greater emphasis on road traffic policing, and a government policy statement that bad driving was a matter of serious public interest would have the greatest effect.

Incidentally, I've no brief on behalf of the CPS and I'd not suggest they are perfect, but they do get blamed for weaknesses elsewhere.
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anothereye
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Re: another killer driver let off

Post by anothereye »

thanks thirdcrank,
I think that you are right about "there is quite a lot of anticipation at certain stages about what will happen higher up the chain". Nevertheless I want to see if there is a trend; if there is then questions can be asked. I attach a draft of the table to be filled in. The question is; how best to get the figures?
Gerry
pS. I'm not concerned with sentencing; just prosecution.
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