What The Law Told Us This Week (no. 2)

The law told us one thing this week: You’re really going to have to work hard if you want to get banned for life.

The “worst motoring record ever seen” will get you back on the road in two years

In sentencing Wayne Rogan, a man whom he described as having the worst motoring record he’d ever seen (“30 previous convictions, 70 offences, many related to vehicles”, and this time pleading guilty to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, driving with no insurance and failing to stop after an accident), a judge on Teesside awarded – in addition to a 12 month prison sentence – a two year ban.

Yes, the judge thinks that the worst motorist he’s ever seen should, albeit after an extended test, be back on the road in two years’ time. (Assuming, given that we know he’s already ignored at least one ban, he bothers to wait that long.)

Hitting someone, dragging them along the tarmac, fleeing at speed and covering it up will get you back on the road in three years

The most exciting news story for prospective shit drivers is this one. This should certainly bolster your confidence in really letting loose on the road without fear of much punishment.

Stephen Passey got in his car with his alcohol levels at around twice the legal limit, and knocked down Jamie Slesser, smashing his windscreen. He carried Slesser over 50 metres before braking, from which point he dragged him under his car for nearly 200 metres. Then he stopped, left Slesser for dead (he wasn’t; but he was, and remains, horrifically injured) and sped off at up to 90mph and through red lights, with his head out of the window as he was unable to see through the windscreen. On returning home, he put a brick on the windscreen in some sort of attempt to lie about the cause of the damage.

For all of this, Passey received a 10 month prison sentence, and a three year ban. This judge, too, saw fit for this offender to be behind the wheel again after a very few years and an extended retest.

A curious comparison: ride a bicycle irresponsibly and you may face a manslaughter charge

In the case of Passey, there is a baffling comparison to be made, specifically with an incident in Chelmsford in which a bus passenger tragically died. News reports have mostly been inaccurate, but the report on road.cc includes information from the passenger’s grandson.

A teenager on a bicycle rode into the path of a bus, whose driver made an emergency stop, during which the elderly gentleman in the priority seating at the front of the lower deck was sent flying forwards, where he sustained the injuries that killed him. An unusual and complex scenario, certainly, but the interesting aspect in the context of road law is that the police are considering a charge of involuntary manslaughter (which was involuntary GBH prior to the passenger’s death).

So, on the one hand we have someone who has made the decision to drink and then drive; who has, after running someone over, continued drive with them being dragged under their vehicle; who has then chosen to flee the scene and leave them helpless and critically injured in the road; and who has then sought to cover up their actions. And on the other, we have an idiot who rode a bike in front of a bus.

Of these, the former is not charged with GBH. Yet for the latter it is under consideration.

Why is this? How can this possibly be?

If knowingly dragging someone under your car for nearly 200m and harming them so much that they have to undergo skin grafts to remove the tarmac from their body doesn’t constitute GBH I don’t know what is; certainly I’m not sure that recklessly straying into the path of a bus whose passengers are unrestrained should constitute it.

Of course, a manslaughter charge hasn’t yet been filed against the bike rider in Chelmsford. But the fact that it’s under consideration, when I can only recall one case of GBH applied to a driver – where the driver very clearly used his vehicle as a weapon in a conscious attack on a child and her father – is truly startling.

One thing’s for sure: as long as you’re in a car, pretty much everything you do is covered by “careless driving”; and pretty much everything that isn’t covered by that is covered by “dangerous driving”. Each of which are much less toothy charges than, respectively, those of GBH and manslaughter.

Essentially, if you’ve ever seen Leon (and, by the way, if you haven’t then you really should), it makes no sense in the UK. The professional hitman’s smartest weapon isn’t a knife.

It’s a car.

5 thoughts on “What The Law Told Us This Week (no. 2)”

  1. I was considering these very cases the other day and did wonder why we even bother having some of the charges available to prosecutors for driving offences. For example I can understand having careless or dangerous driving offences up to the point where someone is actually injured. You can be guilty of these offences without actually harming someone. But once someone is harmed GBH/manslaughter/murder charges are available, so why do we need causing death by dangerous driving?

    The only reason can be that the legal system itself sees injuries caused by drivers as less important and they do not want to tar driver’s records with what people consider more serious offences. It would be an improvement to the system if at least in cases with severe aggravating factors, the PCS would bring non-driving related charges.

    1. The reason that Tarmac Marples introduced the law against “causing death by dangerous driving” was that juries were reluctant to convict motorists for murder, because the motorists could (and should) have been hanged.

  2. This comparison is terrifying (and ridiculous). Makes you wonder, what the levels of crime committed by the drivers of motor vehicles would actually be if the bike-and-bus-with-no-seatbelts case was taken as strict precedent in the courts.

    I agree with the comments on the road.cc site about that case, too, that nobody seems to have addressed the serious design flaw of buses being exempted from seatbelt legislation (by coincidence, I took my two small children on a bus for the first time recently, and they were both *terrified* – “Daddy, there aren’t any seatbelts!”).

  3. But at least the bicyclist was following the nicewaycode and didn’t give Wayne the finger. So the bicyclist was not guilty, a very comforting thought, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s