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OPINION

Cycling and the law: Are UK sentencing guidelines tough enough for motoring offences? Explaining Clifford Rennie’s sentence

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Following a recent high profile case in which two cyclists lost their lives, specialist cycling solicitor Mark Hambleton analyses the sentencing decision and offers his thoughts

Understandably, many readers have commented on the road.cc article following Clifford Rennie's suspended sentence.

Despite killing two other road users with his car as they cycled home at 6.40pm on Monday 1 June 2020, it is unlikely that 61 year old Mr Rennie will spend any time in prison, and he will be able to drive again after completing his five year driving ban.

You may already know the facts of the case, but I’ll summarise them here; Damien Natale and Andrew Coles, who were both in their 50s, died instantly after Mr Rennie collided with them whilst driving his car. All three road users were travelling in the same direction when Mr Rennie crashed into Mr Natale and Mr Coles.

The judge accepted Mr Rennie’s explanation that he had simply ‘not seen’ the two friends as they cycled along the A40. There was no criticism of either rider. Clearly, Mr Rennie should have seen them. Many other drivers had overtaken them safely.

Here I will be explaining my understanding of the law behind the decision and the rationale for the suspended sentence.

Sentencing

Mr Rennie pleaded guilty to the charge of causing death by careless driving. He was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on 12 November 2021.

There are three levels of seriousness for this offence. The starting point for sentencing the most serious level, which is ‘careless or inconsiderate driving falling not far short of dangerous driving’ is 15 months’ custody. Both sides were agreed that this was the appropriate level of seriousness and that this was the appropriate charge.

Although the starting point for sentencing is 15 months, the range available to the judge for this offence was 36 weeks to three years’ custody.

The maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is five years’ custody. That is reserved for the most serious cases where there are likely to be a number of aggravating factors that were not present here.

This was Mr Rennie’s first offence. The judge departed from the starting point of 15 months and increased the sentence to three years’ custody to reflect the unnecessary loss of two lives here. In the absence of other aggravating factors, three years was the maximum sentence available to the judge.

Examples of other aggravating factors include; committing other offences at the same time such as driving whilst disqualified, previous convictions for motoring offences or failing to stop at the scene.

The judge also considered mitigating factors, such as Mr Rennie’s remorse and his clean driving record. The mitigating factors submitted on Mr Rennie’s behalf were that he has been driving since 1978 and has no criminal convictions or driving matters. The judge considered the impact of the collision on Mr Rennie who, the judge found, was expressing as much remorse as he could do. The judge noted the impact the crash had on Mr Rennie’s life and found it would “…remain with him for the rest of his life”.

Given the timing of Mr Rennie’s guilty plea, his sentence was reduced by a third (to two years) in accordance with the Sentencing Council Guidelines.

The judge then considered whether to accede to the wishes of the families of Mr Natale and Mr Coles by imposing an immediate prison sentence or whether he should suspend the sentence (suspended sentences can only be for sentences of up to two years in prison).  

The Sentencing Council Guidelines state “Where the level of carelessness is low and there are no aggravating factors, even the fact that death was caused is not sufficient to justify a prison sentence”.

In light of this and the mitigating factors, especially the way in which this crash would be “…hanging over his head for the rest of his life”, the judge decided to suspend the sentence. Mr Rennie was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years.

These are the factors set out in the Sentencing Guidelines that the judge would have considered when deciding whether or not to suspend the sentence:

sentencing factors table.PNG

Finally, the judge had to consider whether the total sentence is proportionate to the offending behaviour and properly balanced. Mr Rennie received the following sentence:

1. Two year prison sentence, suspended for two years.

2. Driving ban for five years. He will need to pass an extended retest.

3. Payment of £475.00 in prosecution costs.

Why was the offence that of causing death by careless driving?

I thought it might help to look at why Mr Rennie was charged with causing death by careless driving, as opposed to a more serious offence.

The judge explained that there are reasons in law why the prosecution (the CPS) could not prove manslaughter and why, in the judge’s words, Mr Rennie’s “….lack of attention – over a relatively short period of time, to be counted in seconds, doesn’t meet the legal criteria for dangerous driving…”

That’s the crux of the issue. A momentary lack of attention to explain how Mr Rennie failed to see Mr Natale or Mr Coles does not satisfy the criteria for manslaughter or causing death by dangerous driving. The judge said as much

“Just as Mr Coles and Mr Natale went out for a perfectly normal evening ride this defendant left work that night simply to drive home and spend that evening at home on a pleasant summer’s night. He did not go out to kill anybody. His driving was not dangerous, his inattention that led to the deaths of these two men was to be counted in seconds. The consequences to him are nothing – nothing – like the consequences to these poor men, their families and friends. But they are serious consequences.”

It is worth noting that the starting point for the most serious offence of causing death by careless driving (15 months’ custody) is lower than that for the least serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving (3 years’ custody) in recognition of the different standards of driving behaviour.

The more serious offences explained

These are the legal tests for the other charges I have seen people referring to in respect of this case:

Manslaughter

The maximum sentence is imprisonment for life but a guilty plea may reduce the sentence by up to one third. This charge should be considered where: 

a) it is proved the motorist used their vehicle as a weapon (without deliberate intent to kill); or

b) where the motorist’s driving caused death and fell far below the standard of a careful and competent driver, involved an obvious and serious risk of death, was a gross breach of duty of care and was so far below the minimum acceptable standard of driving as to amount to a crime.

Hopefully it is clear why Mr Rennie was not charged with manslaughter.

Causing death by dangerous driving

The key question is, was the vehicle being driven dangerously? Dangerous driving is defined as: the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

“Dangerous” refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property. In this context, motor vehicles in a poor state of repair can also be “dangerous”. In terms of the punishment for causing death by dangerous driving there is a possibility of an unlimited fine, a driving ban and up to 14 years in prison. Dangerous driving carries with it a maximum sentence of two years in prison and an unlimited fine and a minimum disqualification of one year.

Examples of where motorists might fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver include; racing or competitive driving, speeding, deliberately disregarding traffic lights and other road signs, using a hand-held mobile phone and failing to have proper and safe regard for vulnerable road users such as cyclists.

My previous blog on the sentencing of dangerous motorists summarises a number of cases which demonstrate the application of these tests, especially the distinction between dangerous and careless driving.

Causing death by careless driving

The offence of causing death by careless driving is appropriate where the standard of driving falls below what would be expected of a reasonable and competent driver e.g. emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle. A guilty verdict could result in a driving ban, an unlimited fine, or a prison sentence of up to five years.

The difference between causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving is the standard of driving. Dangerous driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be considered dangerous. Whereas careless driving merely falls below what would be expected of a reasonably competent and careful driver.

When I have looked into the issue of sentencing for drivers who cause the death of a cyclist before, I found that only one in seven motorists will go to prison and only 33% will be disqualified. I find that surprising especially given the heavy-handed approach in charging Charlie Alliston (a cyclist who tragically collided with and killed a pedestrian) with manslaughter. I think it was wrong to charge Mr Allison with manslaughter (though I should add he was not convicted of manslaughter). Consequently, I don’t think it would be right to use that decision as the benchmark for other cases.

As a society, should we treat Mr Rennie’s standard of driving as dangerous? Would I want my family to have the satisfaction of that outcome if I was to be killed in similar circumstances as I cycle home from work tonight? Probably.

If a member of my family failed momentarily to see a cyclist and collided with them, killing them, would I want them to be treated in the same way as Mr Rennie though? Probably.

Therein lies the issue and balance for our laws to strike. The way I have posed those questions to myself automatically triggers an emotional response, but the law needs to remove the emotion and achieve justice for all parties. Our laws should punish the offence, not the outcome of the offence. Should sentencing be made more of a deterrent with the aim of improving the safety of the most vulnerable on our roads?

I can see why that is attractive to cyclists (myself included) but when I step back and think about it, I’m not convinced that such a response will change driver behaviour. My preference would be heavy investment in infrastructure such that cycling levels increase to such an extent that we change the culture on our roads. In the absence of that investment nationally and after years of feeling the current system is unjust, I can quite understand why many cyclists would prefer to see an immediate change in the law, but I’m not sure that’s the answer.

What I might try to do in the future is write about the sentencing guidelines in other countries where there exists the cycling culture to which many of us will aspire.

After taking up cycling to commute between Bristol and Bath, Mark has seen all sorts of incidents and has become a keen advocate for cycling and protecting the rights of cyclists.

Mark is now lucky enough to combine his passion for cycling with his day job as a cycling solicitor at RWK Goodman.

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42 comments

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Crispycross | 1 month ago
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I want to explore this 'momentary lack of attention' thing.
I don't know the bit of road where the collision occurred, but by examining the approach to the impact point and comparing the expected speeds of the car and the bikes, it ought to be possible to work out how long the driver had to see his victims and take action.  That would really determine if it was a 'momentary' lapse or several seconds of driving obliviously. The duration of that moment of inattention should be an aggravating factor.

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lonpfrb | 2 years ago
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The Sentencing Council Guidelines state “Where the level of carelessness is low and there are no aggravating factors, even the fact that death was caused is not sufficient to justify a prison sentence”.

How can causing DEATH not be dangerous?

It's not momentary inconvenience, it's permanent.

Whoever writes or approves the Sentencing Council Guidelines should read 140 victim statements, and think again.

Not fit for purpose.

R.I.P David Adlam.

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grOg | 2 years ago
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check out the fail to see a truck with the driver in this utube video; not hard to realise how many drivers fail to concentrate on the road ahead enough to see cyclists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdlfGm10-cw&lc=UgzXHJ0hNG31inxAJ9N4AaABA...

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Jetmans Dad | 2 years ago
8 likes

I don't really have a strong opinion on th efficacies of prison time in these cases, but it is time we had proper driving bans in place. 

Killing a vulnerable road user in an incident demonstrated to be your fault in court should be a minimum 10 year ban (automatic life if not the driver's first ban) followed by a minimum 2 years back on a provisional licence, and a pre-assessment that confirms you are competent to be allowed to take an extended test before being able to regain a full licence. 

To discourage banned drivers from simply driving anyway, there should be automatic 5 year prison sentence for getting behind the wheel while serving a ban. 

it is time we treated driving like the privilege it is, and were prepared to stop people doing it once and for all if they cannot be trusted to do it safely. 

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Captain Badger replied to Jetmans Dad | 2 years ago
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Jetmans Dad wrote:

I don't really have a strong opinion on th efficacies of prison time in these cases, but it is time we had proper driving bans in place. 

Killing a vulnerable road user in an incident demonstrated to be your fault in court should be a minimum 10 year ban (automatic life if not the driver's first ban) followed by a minimum 2 years back on a provisional licence, and a pre-assessment that confirms you are competent to be allowed to take an extended test before being able to regain a full licence. 

To discourage banned drivers from simply driving anyway, there should be automatic 5 year prison sentence for getting behind the wheel while serving a ban. 

it is time we treated driving like the privilege it is, and were prepared to stop people doing it once and for all if they cannot be trusted to do it safely. 

I agree that the key thing is regulating the use of motor vehicles. Yo u really have to f*ck up monumentally to get to the stage of killing someone - the fact you haven't before is cos you've been lucky, rather than unlucky in this instance.

Submitted footage, speed camera evidence etc isn't one-offs. It's eyewitness account/evidence that the individual is not competent to drive. Many are willful negligence, rather than error - mobile use, egregious speed, aggression.

In addition people who are sh1t around cyclists don't just risk people on bikes. They are sh1t around everyone and clearly are unable to assess risk. Thus they are incompetent.

My view, which I have said before, is that points and bans are a matter of public safety, and should be ruthlessly applied - no hardship considerations. They are most definitely not punishments - they protect everyone, including the offender from tehmselves.

Where people are bullied, intimidated, scared, hurt or killed,  and negligence, incompetence or aggression is a key factor, that is where criminal punishments such as prison should also be applied in parallel with teh above.

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spragger | 2 years ago
11 likes

Why is SMIDSY even an excuse in 2021, especially as in this case he ran into and killed two cyclists.

Is it not in fact an indictment and further strengthens the prosecution case.

What was he up to, what distracted him, what prevented his legal duty to be observant & drive within the law.

Driving a vehicle is a privilege, not a right and if you have poor driving behaviour you should lose that privilege. Lets not wait for more innocent deaths

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HoarseMann replied to spragger | 2 years ago
3 likes

I would like to see it treated in a similar way to failing to provide a breath/blood sample for suspected drink driving offences.

The burden of proof should be on the defendant to prove there was a genuine reason they failed to see and that was out of their control.

Just like you have to prove you were sober, otherwise it's assumed you were drunk. Granted, it's an easy process to take a breath test and not as easy to prove SMIDSY. But the circumstances in which SMIDSY could be a valid defence are surely very small. It might encourage more drivers to fit dashcams if they know they would be required to prove attention to the road ahead.

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Beaufort Sea | 2 years ago
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It's a depressing and sobering thought that all drivers on every journey will have at least one moment of inattention and when one of those moments coincides with close proximity to a cyclist, an "accident" may occur. Controversial it is but the rational thing would be to ban cycling on public A roads. After all, no pedestrian would choose to use such a road on which to walk where no pavement exists. Is it reasonable to apply lengthy prison sentences to motorists for momentary lapses of attention, especially whilst trying to control an 800kg+ metal box at speed? If we truly acknowledge the inherent dangers of near-proximity to such vehicles then banning bicycles from A roads would end the incidences of these tragic deaths. It has been wholly irresponsible for previous Governments not to have acted in both protecting cyclists safety and motorists from injuring them through such all-too-human errors with such fatal consequences on an increasingingly busy yet poorly-maintained road network. Were this to happen I believe cycling infrastructure building would proceed at a far more rapid pace. Until this grown-up acknowledgment comes to pass I've concluded it is a risk too far riding on these roads. In the past week I have been run-down head-on in a residential area by a car making a right-turn and accelerating on the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic (yours truly). He claimed, while I lay in shock and pain, not to have "seen" my belighted bike. Thanks a lot. Fortunately my soft-tissue injuries will soon heal but I have reluctantly decided against buying and using a replacement bike for my commute during the darker months, but will continue to ride for pleasure on my road bike. When the police contacted me about the incident they deemed the matter to be entirely one of financial recompense rather than criminal justice. No wonder the abiding feeling of all cyclists is of somehow "being in the way" a nuisance to be tolerated at best, until perhaps, one day, one moment, they are not. 

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chrisonabike replied to Beaufort Sea | 2 years ago
4 likes

Beaufort Sea wrote:

It's a depressing and sobering thought [ ... ] The rational thing would be to ban cycling on public A roads. After all, no pedestrian would choose to use such a road on which to walk where a pavement did not exist.                                                  So, obviously, truly separate cycle lane infrastructure is the answer. Except this is a no-go requiring as it would, vast sums of public expenditure. [ ... ]

I'm sorry that you have been injured and pleased it hasn't stopped you riding. I feel some of your depression. Unfortunately you're right - we have a huge challenge if we want to change anything. We need cultural change. That's hard. We need the complete cycle of less driving (and slower in urban areas), more enforcement as well as infra to tempt more people to cycle and to give them choices other than driving.

Our society accepts that - because human behaviour - crashes are inevitable. However our systems don't treat all the consequences in the same way and indeed we do try to mitigate this sometimes. But mostly for motorists *.

On the cost side - there are examples from elsewhere which show that while building new high quality cycling infrastructure is costly it's a fraction of the cost of motor vehicle infrastructure - which we've recently found billions of pounds for. It's always a question of priorities. As an argument for infra it's been estimated that it provides overall a net positive return on the investment (including "externalities" e.g. health outcomes etc.) where car infra is a net cost.

Finally as long as you start in the right way you can get going cheaply. So not just paint, concentrate on junctions, establish a network, minimise interactions with motor vehicles where possible and think about people's convenience. Many places have wide roads with multiple lanes. Reclaim some of that and you have instant infra. Just need to ensure it's separate (no parking!) and you handle junctions well.

* Examples:

  • Cars for example have become markedly safer in design - for the occupants - over the years.
  • You mention "banning cycling". Effectively this has occurred - simply by ignoring cyclists and prioritising the motor vehicle. We've done a similar thing with pedestrians - they're expected to fit around our roads. We don't move the cars out of the way of people but the opposite.
  • We have lots of infrastructure / design criteria specifically to minimise the consequences of accidents to motorists. Everything from motorway design (curves to try to keep drivers awake), roundabouts (take up lots of space but apparently are a safer way of quickly moving lots of motor vehicles through a junction), speed limits, crash barriers, overrun space at the sides of roads down to reflectives (e.g. cat's eyes, road edge markers) etc.
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Captain Badger replied to Beaufort Sea | 2 years ago
10 likes
Beaufort Sea wrote:

The rational thing would be to ban cycling on public A roads. After all, no pedestrian would choose to use such a road on which to walk where no pavement exists. .......

First of all I'm so sorry that happened to you. Absolutely dispiccable, and shame on the police for dismissing you and invalidating your experience in that manner

The narrative is definitely seen that way by the some of motoring public. "Cyclists are being killed. Ban cycling"
Except, that's just not what is happening.
Drivers are killing people. Cyclists, horse riders, pedestrians, car occupants, other drivers.
Banning one particular mode of transport won't actually reduce the butcher's bill that much. 100 or so cyclist. Better to ban walking on they public highways. 450 lives saved.
Better still, ban driving, as about 1200 car occupant lives a year will be saved from road violence, a further 500 odd of other road users, about 50k annually from the resulting reduction in pollution.
Of course there is another option, one that acknowledges the fact that drivers don't have to be dangerous psychos to whom the public must cede exclusive rights of access to the public space (which is what the highways are after all).
Actually and meaningfully regulate the use of motors vehicles....

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chrisonabike replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
1 like

Captain Badger wrote:
Beaufort Sea wrote:

The rational thing would be to ban cycling on public A roads. After all, no pedestrian would choose to use such a road on which to walk where no pavement exists. .......

Banning one particular mode of transport won't actually reduce the butcher's bill that much. 100 or so cyclist. Better to ban walking on they public highways. 450 lives saved. Better still, ban driving, as about 1200 car occupant lives a year will be saved from road violence, a further 500 odd of other road users, about 50k annually from the resulting reduction in pollution. Of course there is another option, one that acknowledges the fact that drivers don't have to be dangerous psychos to whom the public must cede exclusive rights of access to the public space (which is what the highways are after all). Actually and meaningfully regulate the use of motors vehicles....

Spot on . If you look at who kills who to a first approximation it's motorists doing the killing and they're also killing themselves and each other (and the ponies, cats, dogs, squirrels...) in large numbers.

I'd still go further on the last bit. I haven't seen many societies (that I'd like to live in long-term *) which have reduced crime to zero and even less have somehow made people super careful and vigilant about certain common activities **. So certainly more controls on drivers yes. But also policies and engineering which don't rely on humans being better than human. That genuinely put the safety of more vulnerable road users back in their own hands - rather than relying on the motorist to get it right.

* I lived in a south-east asian country for a short time where the crime rate for many things e.g. theft was minimal.  That seemed to work because people were very watchful of each other and things that involved "losing face" were not only a "sticky label" that you couldn't easily shake off but applied to the whole extended family. At least in the movies it was a trope that people would sometimes deal with their erring relatives before the police got the chance to...

** There could be an interesting discussion on that - what if people genuinely believed it was taboo to drive over the speed limit / park on the pavement and their ancestors / the spirits would curse them if they did? Where such entities are acknowledged they're often credited with a kind of general knowledge of things, even those done in secret. Like a police state but you just pay your bribes in sacrificed livestock I guess...

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wycombewheeler replied to Beaufort Sea | 2 years ago
5 likes

Beaufort Sea wrote:

... but the rational thing would be to ban cycling on public A roads. 

what makes a roads different to b roads?

AS far as i can see the A40 is an a road for legacy reasons, as it used to be the main route before the M40 was built, not it sees relatively low traffic levels.

By banning cycling on all a roads, regardless of their condition, you start to block access between lots of towns wherre the paralell routes don't exist, or where routes that cross the a roads need to ride along the a road for half a mile or so between the minor roads.

You then push cyclists onto the smaller roads, where close passes are more frequent, due to the reduced width. roads with the same speed limit as the a roads, but less room for safe passing.

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Solocle replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
6 likes

Indeed. In 2019 I cycled down to London from Oxford. My route used the A40 all the way from Stokenchurch to Denham, including the stretch of road in question.

It was quiet, it was direct, it was a good cycle route by my estimation.

If some muppet banned cycling on that road, rather than driving (there's literally a motorway alongside!). Well, I'd protest. Probably by cycling down said motorway, despite any injunctions to the contrary.

There is no easier route from Oxford to London for cyclists. Motorists have a dedicated alternative.

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GMBasix | 2 years ago
4 likes

Part of the problem is that enfocement, and then prosecution, and then sentencing all appear to be based on the outcome, with the facts leading up to it extrapolated from that outcome.

In reality, it is the conduct that is the offence.  Having committed to a conduct of careless, dangerous, or so-negligent-it's-homicidal driving, the outcome of death or not is down to factors often placed outside the control of the driver by the standard of their conduct.

In other words, an overtake that is too close tp be safe either results in a collision or it doesn't.  Having decided to overtake when it is not safe, other factors then come into play, such as the cyclist wobbling, or the driver misjudging the separation of the two, or oncoming traffic reducing the space the driver thought he had.

These external factors should be taken into account, but the act of (in this example) an unsafe overtake should be assessed as the offence.  And it should be treated seriosuly from the outset.  It should be routinely enforced by the police using the evidence they have.  For the purposes of budgeting resources, the seriousness of the offence should be taken from the potential for the outcome, not just the actual outcome - just as the seriousness for attempted murder is taken from the intent, not the lack of death.

On that last point, clearly most drivers who [are somewhat astonished to] find themselves in that situation did not intend to hit a cyclist or kill anybody.  But they did intend to drive, and they took on that responsibility, aware that a car driving at more than 35mph is more likely than not to kill them... or they should be aware of that proabability. 

So, while I accept that the circumstances in this case mean that the penalty is consistent with the current view of road deaths caused by sub-standard driving, I believe that the approach to driving standards starts with the regular maintenance of driving standards.

More intervention at the scene of poor driving would make 'education' more effective. More prosecution of offences where the evidence is clear that it could have led to very bad outcomes. More communication of what standard we expect of driving in this country, without the false equivalence of TfL's widely criticised effort.  There is also the case for vastly improved cycling infrastructure.

Overall, we have to removed the mornalisation that momentary lapses are somehow 'one of those things', and that each time, it could cause death, not just on those 'unlucky' times it actually does.

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wycombewheeler replied to GMBasix | 2 years ago
3 likes

GMBasix wrote:

Part of the problem is that enfocement, and then prosecution, and then sentencing all appear to be based on the outcome, with the facts leading up to it extrapolated from that outcome.

In reality, it is the conduct that is the offence.  Having committed to a conduct of careless, dangerous, or so-negligent-it's-homicidal driving, the outcome of death or not is down to factors often placed outside the control of the driver by the standard of their conduct.

In other words, an overtake that is too close tp be safe either results in a collision or it doesn't.  Having decided to overtake when it is not safe, other factors then come into play, such as the cyclist wobbling, or the driver misjudging the separation of the two, or oncoming traffic reducing the space the driver thought he had.

These external factors should be taken into account, but the act of (in this example) an unsafe overtake should be assessed as the offence.  And it should be treated seriosuly from the outset.  It should be routinely enforced by the police using the evidence they have.  For the purposes of budgeting resources, the seriousness of the offence should be taken from the potential for the outcome, not just the actual outcome - just as the seriousness for attempted murder is taken from the intent, not the lack of death.

On that last point, clearly most drivers who [are somewhat astonished to] find themselves in that situation did not intend to hit a cyclist or kill anybody.  But they did intend to drive, and they took on that responsibility, aware that a car driving at more than 35mph is more likely than not to kill them... or they should be aware of that proabability. 

So, while I accept that the circumstances in this case mean that the penalty is consistent with the current view of road deaths caused by sub-standard driving, I believe that the approach to driving standards starts with the regular maintenance of driving standards.

More intervention at the scene of poor driving would make 'education' more effective. More prosecution of offences where the evidence is clear that it could have led to very bad outcomes. More communication of what standard we expect of driving in this country, without the false equivalence of TfL's widely criticised effort.  There is also the case for vastly improved cycling infrastructure.

Overall, we have to removed the mornalisation that momentary lapses are somehow 'one of those things', and that each time, it could cause death, not just on those 'unlucky' times it actually does.

quite

1000 drivers do dangerous shit

100 have collisions

10 seriously injure someone

1 kilss someone.

Only that one really sees any consequences, so the other 999 don't have any learning experience and don't improve. They don't see the consequences of a court case, because they know they are not likely to kill anyone.

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IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
12 likes

And a big shout out for that saviour of the motorist, the momentary lapse of attention.

One of our local killers used that when he spun his Porsche through a cyclist.

Personally, I would change a lapse of attention to being an aggregating factor rather than a mitigating factor because it denies that the driver is in charge of a lethal device that demonstrably kills when someone isn't giving their full attention to the task of driving, regardless of intent.

It would be interesting to compare sentencing outcomes with other events with potential for fatalities.

The interesting one that catches my eye is arson. The sentencing for that seems Draconian and typically will get prison time - and there appear to be two reasons: property treated as sacrosanct, and the potential for fatalities as a side effect.

The get out for drivers is often that there is no planning involved, yet the failure to drive carefully and considerately 100% is intent. The problem is proving it. We know this is a general problem because of the thing that motorists whine about - ever reducing speed limits across the country: the only blunt tool available to authorities when faced with unacceptable levels of poor driving. Motorists will pretend that speed is not a factor in accidents, but the reality is that it is always a driver exceeding their talent, vanishingly few accidents are blameless.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to IanMSpencer | 2 years ago
0 likes

One of our local killers used that when he spun his Porsche through a cyclist.

Yes, that was the one where strangely, he wasn't also done for endangering his child by driving whilst inattentive, yet used his childs trauma as a mitigating factor for not going to jail IIRC.

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iandusud | 2 years ago
2 likes
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Bungle_52 | 2 years ago
9 likes

A few observations :

from this article :
"This was Mr Rennie’s first offence. "

"The judge also considered mitigating factors, such as Mr Rennie’s remorse and his clean driving record. The mitigating factors submitted on Mr Rennie’s behalf were that he has been driving since 1978 and has no criminal convictions or driving matters. The judge considered the impact of the collision on Mr Rennie who, the judge found, was expressing as much remorse as he could do. The judge noted the impact the crash had on Mr Rennie’s life and found it would “…remain with him for the rest of his life”."

and from the original article :

"Rennie answered no comment to questions in police interviews and provided a prepared statement in his second interview, in which he offered "heartfelt sympathy" to the families of the cyclists, and said as a cyclist himself, he could not explain why he had not seen the two men."

You will have to draw your own conclusions from these but "no comment" does not indicate remorse to me. It does however conjure up images of interviews with serial offenders shown on the telly.

from the article :
"The judge explained that there are reasons in law why the prosecution (the CPS) could not prove manslaughter and why, in the judge’s words, Mr Rennie’s “….lack of attention – over a relatively short period of time, to be counted in seconds, doesn’t meet the legal criteria for dangerous driving…”"

60 mph is roughly 25m per second. That's at least 50m travelled without paying attention. How can that not be dangerous.

from the article :
"Examples of where motorists might fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver include; racing or competitive driving, speeding, deliberately disregarding traffic lights and other road signs, using a hand-held mobile phone and failing to have proper and safe regard for vulnerable road users such as cyclists."

Using a hand held mobile phone is dangerous but being inattentive for several seconds is not.

Failing to have proper and safe regard for cyclists is dangerous but killing them is not.

from the article :
"If a member of my family failed momentarily to see a cyclist and collided with them, killing them, would I want them to be treated in the same way as Mr Rennie though? Probably."

NO. I would want them to lose their license just as I would if I had done it.

I have tried to be calm and rational writing this but inside my blood is boiling so apologies if it's over the top.

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IanMK replied to Bungle_52 | 2 years ago
11 likes

Surely nothing says remorseful like a prepared statement written by your solicitor?

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duncanap | 2 years ago
14 likes

First - great to see people making points and debating in such a clear, constructive and human way. I wish more below-the-line stuff was of this quality.

I wanted to ask what others thought of the comment "the sentence should fit the offense, not the outcome" - I don't see this reflected often in UK sentencing. For example, if you drive at 60 mph in a 30 mph zone, and you get away without crashing or killing anyone, you might get some points or a fine. But that level of speeding in many European countries would get you jail time - because it is so dangerous. In Switzerland, jail time is certainly possible for 100% excess of the speed limit, and the fines are calculated as a percentage of your gross income. So if you earn 100k per year, you could get say a 30k fine for speeding if it is seriously excessive.

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alchemilla replied to duncanap | 2 years ago
6 likes

I feel the sentence should reflect the outcome as well, if the outcome is the death of another road user. A death really needs acknowledging in the sentencing otherwise it's just another road traffic accident. An automatic lifetime driving ban is the most suitable sentence for this in my opinion, even more so than a prison sentence.
As things stand, the bereaved relatives must find it hard to accept that after a short prison sentence and driving ban, the killer driver is legally allowed back behind the wheel.

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IanGlasgow replied to duncanap | 2 years ago
5 likes

Duncanap wrote:

 "the sentence should fit the offense, not the outcome"

Police Scotland disagree; I reported a dangerous close pass and was told no action would be taken because "on this occassion no harm was done".
I now use this to justify cycling through red lights, on pavements, etc. Apparently, so long as no harm is done there is no issue as far as Police Scotland are concerned.

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ktache replied to IanGlasgow | 2 years ago
8 likes

Yes Ian, it is a bit strange that being caught on a speed camera is never forgiven by "momentary innatention"

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chrisonabike replied to ktache | 2 years ago
1 like

ktache wrote:

Yes Ian, it is a bit strange that being caught on a speed camera is never forgiven by "momentary innatention"

Actually this is a good spot. I believe there are other places where "distraction" (or indeed "provocation") might be a defense but yes, this stands out. Maybe we're happier being more "administrative" with smaller punishments? Or because simple measurable things are not really arguable (with apologies to Top Lawyer Nick F of course). In more "complex" cases or where this could result in someone being labelled a "criminal" (and potentially going to jail) we want the full rights for the accused and high standards of proof maybe?

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chrisonabike | 2 years ago
6 likes

This is well explained and I agree that it's worth being honest about how you'd feel if your friend / relative was the victim OR if they were the defendant. Law is often going to reflect the main cultural viewpoints (so motorists) - albeit with more concern with logic.

However - I still think you can see the problem just with reference to this paragraph:

Quote:

The difference between causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving is the standard of driving. Dangerous driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be considered dangerous. Whereas careless driving merely falls below what would be expected of a reasonably competent and careful driver.

To me that is both infinitely subjective and clear as mud. And it's not necessary that it be - we have standards we can use e.g. the driving test, road laws etc. The selection of the charge sounds like "You are charged with murder, not manslaughter, because this crime seems sort of more murder-y to me."

Just substitute "Death by dangerous horse riding" into the above. Obviously most people have little idea about what a "competent and careful horse rider" would be, nor where that would be relative to a "reasonably competent and careful horse rider". Of course many more people have driving experience. But the thing is because of mass driving they're still not necessarily more likely to be well equipped to judge it. (Just look at the variety of opinions on driving in Near Miss of the Day).

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richliv replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
0 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

The difference between causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving is the standard of driving. Dangerous driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be considered dangerous. Whereas careless driving merely falls below what would be expected of a reasonably competent and careful driver.

To me that is both infinitely subjective and clear as mud.

I couldn't agree more, the argument here is tautological. So the definition of careless driving is to be assumed to be "not careful" driving. And "dangerous" is just "careless++"? Obviously there is a huge subjective element otherwise why have judges, but is it really not possible to codify it a bit better.

The point about seeing from both sides is an appeal to emotion rather than a dispassionate assessment of the actions as against the law, and seems to me misguided

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hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
17 likes

Firstly, I strongly believe that any driver that is found to be at fault for causing another person to die should be permanently banned from driving (and no hardship exclusions to be admitted). To me, that is more important than putting someone in prison. In five years time, the victims will still be dead and yet a proven dangerous driver may be allowed back on the roads.

Secondly, how do we know how long a driver was inattentive for before the fatal collision? Any driver could be daydreaming for minutes, then hit a perfectly visible road user and declare that it was a momentary lapse. It's like stating that a fatal stabbing was only due to a momentary lapse of not stabbing someone.

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HoarseMann replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
5 likes

I agree with you there on an automatic lifetime driving ban if you're found at fault for causing a death. Many people are effectively banned from driving due to health issues that are out of their control. They have to manage. It is possible to live without a car and I think this will send a clear message that driving is a privilege not a right.

The only problem with it, is the chance of getting caught driving without a licence is very slim. That goes for all driving offences mind you!

Until the probability of getting caught for a driving offence is improved, anything other than prison for a crime this serious does not seem like justice.

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hawkinspeter replied to HoarseMann | 2 years ago
6 likes

At least if a driver is banned and continues to drive, they would be likely to take more care and be less aggressive as if they're involved in any incident then they'd be going to prison.

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