The law

Road Fatalities And Manslaughter

You may have noticed a distinct change in England and Wales. Once upon a time there were ‘road accidents’ and people died. The authorities saw their responsibilities as opening the road as quickly as possible. Negligence or fault had to be gross to attract a prosecution for dangerous driving.

Any victim in a fatal road accident is now investigated as an ‘unlawful killing’. That is why the road can now be closed for several hours whilst the police investigators do their work. The sad thing here is there was never any debate or discussion about how we treat these incidents, the Europeans seem much more balanced as we go down the harsh vindictive route favoured by the USA. All that counts is the victim and more important as that person has died, their relatives.

‘My life has been ruined forever, ‘I cannot forgive this’, ‘somebody must be responsible’ is heartfelt emotion. I also think it is private and should be treated as such by the media and left alone. The problem is the media, the Crown Prosecution service and the police now must find the perpetrator. They will find one and then they will make it fit. It was ever so.

The jury nowadays listens to an emotional barrage from relatives of the victim, making it difficult not to be swayed towards a guilty verdict. If ever you want to see where it will end up watch such a trial in the USA. It is a long way away from what used to be our idea of justice. Emotion rules over fact and evidence. Previously, our justice system knew emotion can cloud and distort.

I watched one US trial recently on television where there was no physical evidence to tie the defendant to the crime or being there at the time. A young woman had been stabbed one hundred and twenty times in a bedroom, the defendant was her ex boyfriend.

The prosecutor had the bed brought into the court right in front of the jury. She then placed her assistant as the victim on the bed, jumped on her and proceeded to playact the stabbing all one hundred and twenty times. She shouted the numbers out at the top of her voice until eventually she reached one hundred and twenty. You could have cut the emotion with a knife, the defendant never had a chance.

The problem is, it really is a difficult debate as, we can all empathise for those who have lost loved ones and need someone to blame. There are also cut and dried cases where someone has been driving dangerously or has a track record of careless driving. I am talking about that momentary loss of attention which is part of our human makeup. Is that momentary lapse merely an accident or is it a criminal act.

It can happen to every driver at some time, that lapse of concentration. It is sad if somebody dies as a result but it is not criminal. After all, we make a choice if we decide to travel at seventy miles per hour on the motorway for our convenience. As in all life choices there are consequences. We should not throw people into prison for a momentary loss of attention, it is merely accidental.

So what has this got to do with corporate manslaughter. Simple, the defendant could be one of you company drivers. The Police, The CPS and the Health and Safety Executive will come down on your company very heavily if you are unable to provide a robust audit trail for any driver found responsible for the accident. Do not taking risk with your corporate responsibilities, there are massive fines and a huge loss of industry reputation. In extreme cases of negligence, directors can lose their freedom.

So start today, compile a risk assessment on your company car fleet.