At the CTC’s debate on sentencing in road cases, Simeon Maskrey Q.C., a Deputy High Court Judge and Recorder of the Crown Court, called for the burden of proof to be changed in road crime cases. Where it has been established in court beyond reasonable doubt the driving at the time of the offence was dangerous or reckless, the defence should have to prove to the satisfaction of the judge or magistrate passing sentence that the driving wasn’t deliberately dangerous, unlike at the moment where the prosecution is forced to prove intent.
In conversation with me after the event, he also called for more innovatory options to be made available to judges & magistrates for sentencing in road crime cases. An example he gave was the option of banning someone until such time that they had undertaken a 2 week road danger course, which the offender would have to pay for themselves, in which they would have undertake study and training in road danger reduction. I like the idea, even if the practicalities are a little fuzzy. Maybe a component could be doing the CTUK trainers’ course, which lasts 4 days, and costs £400.
The debate was well-attended, with representatives of the Crown Prosecution Service & the Ministry of Justice present (at one point the CPS rep got up to try to directly refute Martin ‘Cycling Silk’ Porter’s accusation that the CPS routinely opt for charging drivers with careless driving instead of dangerous driving as the easier option).
The panel was impressive, including 2 senior legal academics, 2 Q.C.s and chaired by Kaya Burgess of The Times. The debate was a little dry, with great focus on strictly legal issues which were slightly beyond the knowledge of this correspondent. Cynthia Barlow M.B.E. of Roadpeace afterwards expressed some frustration that the voice of the victims of road crime was not adequately heard.
I was struck that the person on the panel with the most radical ideas was a senior member of the legal profession, Mr Maskrey. He came across as one very angry man, even if his proposals and propositions appeared to me to be soundly rooted in legal principle and not easily dismissed as merely the intemperate rantings of a pissed-off cyclist. I think most people would agree with his statement, made early in on the debate, that if you have used a motor vehicle as a weapon, either with the intent to deliberately harm or else to intimidate another road user, you should not be allowed to retain the privilege of operating a motor vehicle on the public highway. (I have paraphrased his words, but this is essentially what he said.)
He also spoke of the importance of prosecuting for ‘minor’ driving offences, such as infringing into bike lanes, which, in his view, will inform the driving public that deterring such offences, whilst those offences may appear trivial, are part of society’s efforts to create a safe & welcoming environment for all road users. He also stressed that, in his view, habitual dangerous behaviour by drivers, (overtaking on a blind corners was the example that he gave – but it could equally be applied speeding in residential areas) which may not always result in a collision whose outcome is catastrophic, should be treated by prosecuting and sentencing authorities as dangerous and criminal whether not the outcome is injury or death.
CTC has published their much more extensive synopsis of the debate, entitled “Sentencing Debate sparks call to email Justice Minister”