Campaigning / Legal

Driver Conviction Rates

The fallout from yesterday’s acquittal of a driver for killing David Irving is ongoing. Compounded when I noticed in the news that another driver didn’t even see a courtroom after she drove into fog too fast to stop in the distance she could see.

Twitter was abuzzing and a little depressed, Carrie tweeted…

Though it has to be said that driver Carrie refers to hasn’t been sentenced yet, a custodial sentence is expected. Carrie’s comment reminded me of something I wrote a while ago

it is just another injustice borne by the vulnerable road user that the worse they are injured the better it may be for the defendant, for there may be nobody to speak against them and no witness to their offence.

Which got me wondering about conviction rates. I may be oversimplifying but one way to investigate it seemed to be to compare conviction rates for dangerous driving with causing death by dangerous driving, and similarly for careless driving.

Fortunately Ian Austin asked a question on a similar topic in parliament in 2012 so some data is immediately available from Hansard.

Due to the fact charges may be brought in one year but convictions occur in a following year, looking at the year by year stats is a little confusing. However when we add everything up for four years we get a clearer picture.

Driver Conviction Ratio

Driver Conviction Ratio (click to enlarge)

Most obviously, if you are up for a ‘Causing death…’ charge you are 9% less likely to be convicted of the offence, there may be other reasons for this, such as juries not wanting to see the motorist receive a potentially harsh penalty, but who can doubt that part of the reason is because the main witness for the prosecution cannot testify in court because they are dead?

As Schrödinger’s Cat points out

As with the case currently awaiting sentencing in Northampton, it’s a lot more difficult to argue you are a model of driving propriety and it was the cyclist’s fault, or the sun’s, or the fog’s if there’s a victim missing an arm sitting in the courtroom telling the jury you were driving like a twat. In such cases you might even choose to plead guilty and hope for a reduced sentence.

It is sad to see that in the most serious of driving offences justice appears not to be being done. The court should be the last line of defence against the moral hazard of driving, yet it appears the convenience of drivers to drive how they choose to is often more important than the lives of vulnerable road users.

One final point, I believe the charge of causing death by careless driving (CDCD) was introduced in 2008 because it was felt juries were reluctant to convict on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving (CDDD), yet in 2007 CDDD had a conviction rate of 84.4% by 2011 CDDD and CDCD had a combined average conviction rate of 79.5% and it seems quite rare that either rate exceeds the 2007 rate.


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