And yet, The Telegraph argues that it should.
What is it with offenders who commit crimes by way of a motor vehicle that makes them think they’re so special? (I’m excluding TWOCers here – they know their place.)
Motoring offences vary greatly from more minor offending to more serious offending – depending on the circumstances as well as the offence. The same is also true of the majority of non-motoring offences such as theft, burglary and assault (which can range from a slight shove causing no injury, to a sustained attack with weapons).
Now, take two supposedly minor offences: one road traffic – say, travelling at 35mph in a 30mph area; and one non-motoring offence – say, theft of a can of Tetley’s from Tesco (where said can is later recovered). In both cases, no actual harm is caused to anyone, financially or otherwise. However, there is a gaping chasm between the two offences concerning the potential harm which could have been caused.
Let’s look at the speeding offence. 30mph limits are mostly in residential areas and are in place largely to protect pedestrians. Most of us have a decent enough grasp of the laws of physics to work out that a car travelling faster is going to take longer to stop in an emergency, even if that is just 1, 2 or 5mph faster. There is a possibility that a car travelling at 35mph may have knocked someone over, in circumstances where a car travelling at 30mph might have stopped in time.
All hypothetical, I appreciate. Yet, I cannot conceive of a similar hypothetical situation in which the theft of a can of Tetley’s results in someone’s death or injury, thus the potential for such harm is not present for that offence. The only possible harm would be financial harm caused to Tesco in the event that the can of Tetley’s is not recovered. So, that would be financial harm to the tune of around £1, which I think Tesco’s could take on the chin.
Now let’s compare current sentencing guidelines set by the government: theft of a can of Tetley’s has the sentencing range of a conditional discharge to a low level community order; whereas speeding at 35mph in a 30mph zone would result in a maximum sentence of a Band A fine and 3 points. There is not even a possibility of a community order for the speeding motorist.
So, the theft of a solitary can of cheap beer is treated as the more serious offence, despite the lack of potential serious harm as compared with speeding. Despite this disparity in sentencing, which operates in favour of the motorist offender, it is the motorist offender kicking up a fuss – and indeed motoring offending enthusiasts on their behalf. Most recently is the above article from today’s Telegraph.
According to David Millward, the author of the article, motorists are set to “become victims of legal aid reforms”. Well, so are thieves, burglars and fraudsters. I don’t support the legal aid reforms any more than the next legal aid practitioner, but it seems that there is an odd implication in this article that the real problem with the reforms are that the government has failed to provide an exception to the rule for people who commit their offences by way of a motorised vehicle. This is ridiculous for many reasons. Here are just two:
(1)Road traffic offences have the capacity to cause a great deal of harm, including serious injury or death of innocent third parties;
(2)Road traffic offences tend to be committed by a wider range of people, often those with substantially more money than the majority of people committing non-motoring offences.
There are also various fallacies in the article, such as: “The cost of defending a speeding case can reach at least £2,000, but an acquitted driver would be reimbursed £600.” which makes it sound as though £2000 is the minimum cost of defending a speeding case. In reality, you can defend a speeding case for free, if you don’t use a solicitor or barrister. And even with a solicitor or barrister on board, you can still defend a speeding case for much less than £2000. The cost depends on whether you get an expert report, how complicated the case is, which solicitor you use, etc.
The Telegraph seems fine with a “war on crime“, but takes issue with a war on car crime. I don’t get it.