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Truck driver jailed for two years was above cannabis limit when he killed cyclist

Nurse James Harrison was cycling to a shift on an intensive care unit during the Covid pandemic when he was hit and killed

A flatbed truck driver, who caused the "absolutely tragic" death of a nurse cycling to a volunteer shift on an intensive care unit during the pandemic, was more than two times over the legal limit for driving with cannabis when the collision occurred.

Douglas Toshack said he had been smoking the drug the night before the collision, and had been using cannabis for 30 years. He denied causing death by dangerous driving and was instead convicted of the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving and driving while over the legal limit for cannabis.

The BBC reports that at a sentencing hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh, Toshack was jailed for two years and banned from driving for eight years.

"The cause of Mr Harrison's death was, first and foremost, your carelessness."

James Harrison was cycling to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in June 2022, where he was volunteering to support the Covid response during the pandemic, when he was hit by Toshack at a junction on the A772 Gilmerton Road.

The court heard that the research nurse was heard shouting "whoa" repeatedly before the flatbed Mercedes Sprinter vehicle driven by Toshack hit him before driving over the victim, Mr Harrison dying later that day at the same hospital where he was due to work.

Toshack was deemed to have caused the death through his inattention and failure to see Mr Harrison, the judge Lord Sandison left in no doubt the "cause of Mr Harrison's death was, first and foremost, your carelessness". The judge also referenced a victim impact statement from Mr Harrison's widow and said it reflected "the devastation caused to two young children who will never see their father again".

> Drink driver jailed for 32 months for killing cyclist in New Year's Day crash was "travelling well in excess of 20mph speed limit"

The maximum prison sentence for causing death by careless driving is five years, while the offence of driving while over the limit for cannabis can result in a maximum six-month prison sentence, an unlimited fine and a minimum one-year driving ban

Toshack was sentenced to two years in prison, defence solicitor advocate Euan Gosney saying the driver was "completely devastated" and is genuinely remorseful. 

 "The impact of the offence on Mr Harrison's family has been considerable and it is accepted that the level of harm caused is of utmost seriousness," he did also admit, arguing that a community payback order and a restriction of liberty order could be a more suitable punishment than jail time, a suggestion rejected by the judge.

At the end of Toshack's eight-year driving ban he will be required to pass an extended test before being allowed to drive again.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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26 comments

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peted76 | 4 months ago
3 likes

End someones life and destroy their loved ones lives, from behind the wheel.. ah well you probably didn't mean to do it..were you distracted maybe = 2 years, slap on the wrist. 

Steal some money/belongings from breaking into someones house ruin their lifes = community service (if anything).. 

Steal a £5k bike violently from someone = ah we'll never catch you, carry on.

Steal some money from a big firm = is literally the worst crime in this country, 15 years and count yourself lucky it's not life!

This is why we're fucked.

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NOtotheEU | 4 months ago
8 likes

Wish I'd just read the headline, cursed the driver and decided not to read the rest.

" . . . two young children who will never see their father again" 

I don't think there will ever come a day when I don't feel moved to tears by reading details like this, if only there was a way of getting this feeling across to drivers every time they get behind the wheel.

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Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
4 likes

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That's all?!

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What. A. Joke.

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Gimpl | 4 months ago
3 likes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_and_impaired_driving

Interesting read - Based on that and I know that THC metabolises much more slowly than alcohol not sure that the 'drug driving' bit is relevant here. Just a shit driver!

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hawkinspeter replied to Gimpl | 4 months ago
3 likes
Gimpl wrote:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_and_impaired_driving

Interesting read - Based on that and I know that THC metabolises much more slowly than alcohol not sure that the 'drug driving' bit is relevant here. Just a shit driver!

I recall a cannabis/driving study that showed significant impairment for an occasional user (e.g. a couple of spliffs a month) after taking a heavy dose, but no impairment for a chronic/habitual user after having a similar or even higher dose.

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tootsie323 replied to hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
0 likes

Firstly, condolences to the affected family - regardless of the circumstances, losing a partner / father is just devastating.

In terms of cannabis use - reading about the studies is a new learning to me. Also - is there a legal limit to the amount detected?

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OldRidgeback replied to Gimpl | 4 months ago
2 likes

The THCs from cannabis can be detected in the bloodstream for up to a month. One of the problems with determining the safe levels of THCs in the system for driving is that these can vary so much for regular users. I did read a study from the US that says people are unsafe to drive up to four hours after smoking cannabis, but that also varies depending on the strength of strain used as well as the quantity. One thing is known, that THC related road crashes and fatalities have increased in the US states where cannabis is now legalised, like California and Colorado. 

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andystow replied to OldRidgeback | 4 months ago
2 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

The THCs from cannabis can be detected in the bloodstream for up to a month. One of the problems with determining the safe levels of THCs in the system for driving is that these can vary so much for regular users. I did read a study from the US that says people are unsafe to drive up to four hours after smoking cannabis, but that also varies depending on the strength of strain used as well as the quantity. One thing is known, that THC related road crashes and fatalities have increased in the US states where cannabis is now legalised, like California and Colorado. 

As someone who lives in a US state where it's been legalized, who has dabbled but is not a regular user, I can definitively state I've been in an unfit state to drive twelve hours and a sleep after using too much of it.

I of course did not drive. I sat in a chair for a couple of hours because I couldn't walk without leaning on a wall, though.

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Das | 4 months ago
8 likes

And on the same day a motorist who killed another motorist while high on cocaine gets 12 years behind bars at Glasgow High Court. Courts feeling motorists lives are worth more than cyclists lives again, it might appear?

https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/coked-up-driver-who-...

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stonojnr replied to Das | 4 months ago
5 likes

If you think that's bad wait till you read about this one.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-66984466.amp

Just 10.5 years for 3 counts of death by dangerous driving, whilst 15 times over the drug drive limit on crystal meth, and already under bail & curfew conditions for drug & driving offences, which he broke.

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Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
3 likes

Using drugs regardless should be enough to sentence someone. 

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
6 likes

... and for those not using drugs we should be even quicker to convict and impose stronger sentences - because they don't even have the excuse of impairement!

Of course, we rightly criticise those who choose to drive while intoxicated.  That is after all a choice which makes crashes more likely.  It's also a handy shorthand for the "other" (only - statistically - a substantial proportion of people in the UK use drugs including alcohol).  However, so does speeding, not driving to the conditions, phone use, driving while tired, driving while distracted (perhaps the kids are playing up?)... And - for understandable legal reasons - we grant each driver before the court the benefit of the doubt that this is a single isolated incident and they have never driven this badly before.

"Throwing the book at drink-drivers (and now drug-drivers)" (if we did!) is I think a symptom of our feeling that "driving is normal, bad driving is understandable, dangerously bad driving is excusable (and actually 'careless' legally)".  There has to be *something* beyond the pale, surely?  Ah - drink driving!  They are the "other" which puts the rest of us on the right side of the fence.

Driving in the first place (as opposed to cycling, walking, getting the bus / tram / train / taking a taxi, just not making that journey at all) makes us more likely to be the cause of someone else's injury.  Naturally in our driveogenic environment we don't often see driving as making a choice.  We also don't think about the additional risk to others we create when we do so.  That's because that risk is normally small - for over decades people have learned (the hard way) that the roads are only "for" motor vehicles.  And - slowly - authorities have patched some safety back in.

So we should amend the phrase "if you want to murder without penalty use a vehicle" with the caveat "just make sure you're sober when you do it".

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to chrisonabike | 4 months ago
0 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

... and for those not using drugs we should be even quicker to convict and impose stronger sentences - because they don't even have the excuse of impairement!

Not sure whether you are being sarcastic here, but - no the opposite should apply. We should be quicker to apply sentences to drugged up people. 

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
1 like

I'd like to help drivers by reducing the burden on them! I think (because it has worked in several other places) we could help us all by:

- reducing the number of drivers (rather - the number of trips driven)
- making it harder for drivers to make mistakes which kill or injure themselves or others
- ... and simultaneously reinforcing the fact that choosing to drive should not be a thoughtless default - since driving is a complex activity which requires a high standard of concentration and skill.

That's the ideal point to apply "rights and responsibilities"! Unfortunately our current point is heavy on the rights and minimal on the responsibilities. We're setting ourselves up for continual crashes and casualties.

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Cugel replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
6 likes
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

Using drugs regardless should be enough to sentence someone. 

Which drugs? I take a low-dosage spirin - does that count?

The only time I've ever been car-pranged on a bike was the summer of 1980, when going to work (spit). A lady came out of a junction across the main highway, clipping my back wheel (although I had seen her suddenly put her foot down and tried, unsuccessfully, to dance out of the way). Broken wrist for me. She was t-boned by the car that was in the traffic stream behind me.

Rozzer investigations discovered that she was woozed from some downers prescribed by her quack for anxiety. She had become too unanxious, especially about the rest of the traffic.

Was she an evil drugged up criminal or just a victim of poor quackery? Or was it the cultural assumption that you can drive in any condition you like as its some sort of natural right?

In all events, she was prosecuted and her insurance paid out wodges to me and another. That was when there was still a justice system, though, before Toryspiv neglected it to death.

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Flintshire Boy replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
1 like

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Ah yes, the summer of 1980.

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I can understand your point about there being no justice system since then - cos there have only been Conservative govts. since then, yeah?

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TheBillder replied to Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
2 likes

43 years, of which 30 have seen a Tory or Tory-led government. Including the last 13, tho obv Ready-for-Rishi was nothing to do with any of that, and is the Candidate For Change.

This change includes no change to the right to pollute the air with a car. Though interestingly, a removal of the right to pollute your own lungs with tobacco smoke.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
0 likes
Cugel wrote:

Was she an evil drugged up criminal or just a victim of poor quackery? Or was it the cultural assumption that you can drive in any condition you like as its some sort of natural right?

Depends wether it was a legal or illegal drug for obvious reasons

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
3 likes
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:
Cugel wrote:

Was she an evil drugged up criminal or just a victim of poor quackery? Or was it the cultural assumption that you can drive in any condition you like as its some sort of natural right?

Depends wether it was a legal or illegal drug for obvious reasons

Not according to UK law...

UK Government wrote:

It’s illegal in England, Scotland and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.

It’s an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.

From here https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

Now I'm not a lawyer but I'd say your driving being impaired is a good indication that your driving has been impaired...

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mctrials23 | 4 months ago
11 likes

Its just ridiculous. Being genuinely remorseful when you kill someone shouldn't come into sentencing. Unless you are the absolute dregs of society then of course you are remorseful when you hurt someone. 

The fundamental problem is still that everything around driving is considered a right not a priviledge and we still accept the idea that inattention when driving a few tonnes of metal is just a whoopsie. 

A guy is dead, a family devastated and the punishment is 1 year behind bars combined with an 8 year ban from driving. The mind, as always, boggles. 

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ktache replied to mctrials23 | 4 months ago
3 likes

Well his brief said he was remorseful...

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Safety | 4 months ago
6 likes

"arguing that a community payback order and a restriction of liberty order could be a more suitable punishment than jail time,"
Aye right, you kill a man while driving after using illegal substances ( for 30 years) and stacking shelf's in a charity shop would be a suitable punishment. Bet he said it with a straight face as well.

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Cugel replied to Safety | 4 months ago
1 like
Safety wrote:

"arguing that a community payback order and a restriction of liberty order could be a more suitable punishment than jail time," Aye right, you kill a man while driving after using illegal substances ( for 30 years) and stacking shelf's in a charity shop would be a suitable punishment. Bet he said it with a straight face as well.

You're for the revenge then? Personally I feel this is nae good to anyone, even the revenge-avid pitchfork wielders, who degrade their character and charm (if they have any left by then) by indulging in blood lust or similar.

On the other hand, any community service I'd impose were I a judge (no chance - you can stop worrying) would be rather more demanding. When the daily grind of it was over, the nightly grind would commence, with the earnings paid over to the victm's family until ..... possibly for the rest of the perpetrator's lifetime.

No return to a normal life or a license to drive (or do any other nice thing). Just work forever, although you get a cell to sleep in and three bowls of nutricious gruel a day. (I am the generous one).

Read up an British gaols, man!  They cost us all a fortune whilst producing and emitting streams of criminals even more vicious and adept at crime than when they went in!  The re-offending rate is huge.

And think on, lad - when looking at a Toryspiv member of the ubermench with the wrong expression is a high crime, in a few years after the ascension of Empress Truss, even you and me might end up in the gaol with a grinning monster called Bubba. Revenge (especially that doled out by a Toryspiv for nothin' much) will not seem sweet then, no.

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Flintshire Boy replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
0 likes

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Gosh, you are a persuasive fellow, aren't you? You certainly know how to convince an audience of your point of view.

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perce replied to Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
3 likes

Oh is it Friday already?

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chrisonabike replied to Flintshire Boy | 4 months ago
5 likes

You missed a spot!

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