Anger over delay to new road death law

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Anger over delay to new road death law

Post by Admin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:05 pm

The Scottish Government yesterday joined road safety campaigners in condemning delays to the introduction of tough new laws after two drivers escaped jail sentences for causing road deaths.

Council driver Robert McTaggart, 36, was fined 500 and banned for driving for six months after pleading guilty to careless driving following an accident near Fort William which killed 34-year-old Scottish cycling champion Jason MacIntyre.

Mr MacIntyre's family had wanted McTaggart prosecuted for culpable homicide or causing death by dangerous driving but they claim that, though the local procurator-fiscal recommended dangerous driving charges, the Crown Office downgraded the charge.

The dead man's father, David MacIntyre, said after the verdict: "There is to be no justice for Jason."

Meanwhile, 41-year-old firefighter Garry Trotter, who was "solely to blame" for a crash which killed 51-year-old deaf driver John McIntosh, was allowed to keep his licence by a sheriff.

Trotter, who had been driving a fire tender to an emergency call in Bo'ness, West Lothian, was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving. However, he was convicted of a reduced charge of driving carelessly, over the speed limit, failing to give way and driving through a red light. He was fined 750 and had his licence endorsed with six penalty points.

It emerged last night from Crown Office officials that the introduction of a new offence of causing death by careless driving, which road safety campaigners have been pressing for, would finally be available to prosecutors north and south of the border from August 18.

The new offence was created in the Road Safety Act, which received Royal Assent in November 2006. But its introduction across the UK has been delayed to allow consideration over how it should apply in courts in England and Wales. It had been expected that the new offence, which originally carried a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and minimum driving ban of 12 months, could have been in operation by last year.

Road safety campaign groups are concerned that few drivers who kill on the roads are charged with death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison but is difficult to prove.

Instead, prosecutors have plumped for the lesser offence of careless driving. But in these cases, courts are not legally allowed to consider the fact that anyone has died and the maximum penalty is a driving ban and/or a 2500 fine. It was felt that the charge of causing death by dangerous driving would bridge the gap.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Ministers have been concerned at the delay in the introduction of the new offence and have written to their UK counterparts, calling for it to be commenced as soon as possible."

The Scottish Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers said it was time it was implemented. "Unfortunately, bringing it in now is too late to help families affected where charges do not reflect the fact that someone has been killed," said spokeswoman Isobel Brydie.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: "We welcome the new offence."

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