Have you been given a dangerous driving penalty? or a dangerous driving charge? If you are in need of more information about dangerous driving sentencing guidelines or the implications of a death by dangerous driving sentence, you may benefit from speaking to one of our criminal solicitors.
We have recently been involved in a case before the Crown Court relating to allegations of causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving. Almost anyone could find themselves being accused of causing serious injury by dangerous driving or a similar charge. This is because the legal definition of dangerous driving is a standard of driving that falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and for careless driving it is simply necessary to prove that the driving was below the standard of a careful road user. It is easy to make a mistake but when such a mistake involves an accident leading to the death of a pedestrian or a cyclist it can often result in a prison sentence whatever your back ground.
Our client, H, was involved in what seemed a slight collision one night. At first, he thought that someone had thrown something at his vehicle or that he had struck an animal. He did not stop at the scene but on learning that a cyclist had been seriously injured he attended the police station. Sadly, the cyclist later died. H had to wait a long time while the matter was investigated and he was told that he was to be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving and two counts of dangerous driving. The dangerous driving charges were not proceeded with but a charge of causing death by careless driving was added.
Our support to him involved giving him calm objective advice when inevitably emotions were high. At his first court appearance a large number of people attended the court effectively to see who was responsible for the death of a child. He felt under emotional pressure to plead guilty to death by careless driving but knew that he was not guilty. He was supported to enter the plea and we then began to unravel the evidence in the case.
There was a witness to the accident. He gave an account in an interview that suggested that H would have had ample time to see the cyclist and avoid the incident. The evidence appeared strong but there were some discrepancies with other statements. Approaching the matter on the basis that there may be better evidence available we instructed a suitable expert to examine the police accident report and look at all the factors. He concluded that it would have been impossible for H to have seen the cyclist given the speed he was travelling. It had been possible to work out that he had been travelling within the speed limit by examining the road and the position of debris. It still remained the case however that the police expert disagreed with this conclusion.
Careful examination of the evidence showed that the post mortem report contained an account of the incident that was different from that described in evidence and that led us to conclude that there may have been an earlier, possibly more accurate account given. In fact, police officers had taken an account from the witness and recorded it. This account had not been used and was not disclosed as it should be as ‘unused material’ given that it undermined the prosecution case and supported the defense account.
It was necessary to press for this disclosure right up to the start of the trial. When it was obtained it contained evidence that the cyclist had entered the road only seconds before the collision. The trial proceeded and the prosecution case was challenged successfully so that the trial Judge ruled that there was no case to answer. H was discharged and was refunded all his legal aid contributions.
Cases such as these need calm analysis and careful preparation. The important evidence could easily have been overlooked.
Inevitably a driver involved in a fatal traffic accident will feel responsible and those feelings may often cause him or her to say things in interview that are ambiguous and can be used against them.
If you find yourself or a relative facing potential prosecution please ensure that you take the following actions.
Contact a solicitor who is familiar with such cases. Arrange for that Solicitor to attend your police interview. If you are in custody you do not have to have the Duty Solicitor. Provided your Solicitor has a legal aid crime contract the advice at the police station will still be free. Ensure that your Solicitor examines all the evidence carefully and consults suitable experts. Remember that your good character will not necessarily save you from a prison sentence.