Murderous bus driver let off with lightest sentence possible

A bristol bus driver who used his bus as a weapon to run someone over, badly injuring them, has been given the lightest possible sentence by Bristol Crown Court.

The video on the BBC report is shocking: the driver swings his bus into the cyclist, throwing him some distance and causing grevious bodily harm.

The driver, Gavin Hill, 29, was given 17 months in prison and a two-and-half-year driving ban.

This is an obscenely light punishment.

This was premeditated assault in which a weapon was used – a particularly dangerous weapon. In any other circumstance, had he used an equivalent weapon, 18 months would have been the starting sentence. The maximum could be seven years.

Even worse is th paltry driving ban, a good portion of which will pass while he is behind bars anyway. Someone who ever commits a serious assault like this and uses their car (or indeed bus) as a weapon should be banned for life.

An utterly disgraceful decision, but sadly typical of the way in which drivers in this country, even murderous ones, are coddled by the law.

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Disturbing online copyright enforcement tactics from SOCA

The Serious Organised Crime Agency, having (apparently) solved and abolished all human trafficking, major gun crime, and industrial-scale money laundering, had some time on their hands. So, of course, they have started set about policing copyright infringement and taking down websites they suspected of distributing copyrighted music.

The use of one of the most powerful law enforcement agencies in the country to enforce a civil matter is worrying: probably unlawful function creep that suggests, with the most benign interpretation, that their boss (one Theresa May MP) isn’t exercising proper oversight.

The tactics they used were even worse. The SOCA notification page suggests that they are monitoring anyone who visited a particular website and recording their personal details, and that anyone who had used the site to download songs would be liable to ten years imprisonment. Ten years in the slammer for downloading some R&B music.

Note also that SOCA, a Government agency, repeats verbatim a line from the music recording industry’s PR people: that “as a result of music downloads, emerging artists have had their careers damaged. If you have illegally downloaded music you have damaged the future of the music industry.”

And the damage that an illegal music download can do is worth ten years in chokey.

Well really.

Let’s look at sentencing guidelines to see what you can get caught doing and get less than ten years in prison.

You can commit grievous bodily harm. You can commit an unlawful wounding. You can assault someone occasioning actual harm. In fact, if you assault someone you’ll probably get a community order, 6 months in a cell at most. Attempted murder can net you less than 10 years if you fail to actually hurt the victim. You can actually kill someone while driving that involved a deliberate decision to ignore (or a flagrant disregard for) the rules of the road and an apparent disregard for the great danger being caused to others AND GET LESS THAN TEN YEARS.

So according to SOCA, downloading an MP3 is worse than wounding someone with a knife or running them over and killing them.

Downloading a song is apparently worse than committing cruelty to a child of the most serious sort. Beating up a kid will get you two years at most.

You can even rape someone and it be judicially better than downloading a song, if you avoid actual penile penetration of your victim. Bonanza.

Maybe you feel like robbing someone by threatening them with a weapon or by using force so as to actually injure them during the course of the robbery? Less than ten years.

You can successfully carry out an aggravated burglary. You can raid a house wielding a knife, traumatise and steal from its inhabitants, and get significantly less than ten years imprisonment.

Which is to say that you can actually break into the house of an “emerging artist”, threaten them with a knife and rough them up a bit, then steal all their CDs, instruments, and recording equipment, and be treated, in sentencing terms, less harshly than if you downloaded one of their songs from a website.

I’d say that the British criminal justice system had its priorities wrong if SOCA’s claim was true… which, of course, it’s not.

Which makes me wonder… what are the sentencing guidelines for an officer of the law making outlandish threats and lying to the public during the course of his duties?

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm  Comments (2)  

Cyclists are law-breakers

“I’ll stop running cyclists down when they stop jumping red lights.” The response, apparently, of a good portion of British drivers to the current cull of cyclists by the haulage industry.

I’m not going to go into the arguments about whether cyclists breaking the rules of the road is justified. Those arguments being, briefly, that a lot of the rules are designed to solve the problem of motor-traffic that bikes simply aren’t; that obeying the rules can sometimes actually put cyclists in danger from traffic; that cyclists are forced to do so by a negligent lack of safe and continuous infrastructure. All true, but it’s still the case that most cyclists who jump red lights do so because they are assholes. So many do it even when it involves screaming through pedestrians who, after waiting and waiting, have finally been given right of way to cross the street without being mown down by truck drivers.

So I’m not going to defend it. What I am going to say is that it absolutely pales in comparison to the quantity of law that motor drivers break incessantly.

Running through red lights. On my average 20-minute urban commute I probably see three or four cars jumping red lights. Most are amber gambles gone bad, some are because after queuing at traffic lights forever they are going the hell through this junction right now. Others (black cabs, mostly, I find) scream across pedestrian crossings because they are dicks. Jumping red lights is not a distinctively bike problem.

Breaking the speed limit. Want to do an easy test? Drive down the motorway at 70mph. In theory you shouldn’t be overtaken. In practice, you’ll be the slowest thing on the road. My local council have made it easy to test how many drivers obey 30mph restrictions too, by installing vehicle-activated signs that flash a warning when people are speeding. My estimate is that a good 80% of vehicles are doing more than 30, some by very significant amounts.

Driving using a mobile. Technically 3 points on the license and a £60 fine, but scarily common. The head of road safety at the AA, has said that there are probably 100,000 people driving around using their phone on the roads at any one time. Ed Balls and Harriet Harman were both caught doing it, the latter actually crashing because she was busy chatting on the phone.

Driving without insurance. Hard to measure, but the amount of accidents on the 30mph residential street racetrack outside my house that end with participants just yelling at each other then driving off probably suggest it’s pretty common.

Driving with fog lights on. The Highway Code says: You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.” It can technically get you points on your license and a fine. Yet on the average commute I see maybe 20 cars and taxis with fog lights on. I can’t quite work out why this is. Maybe they genuinely don’t know how to use their car: I pointed it out to one driver stopped at a junction, and he just pawed at his dashboard ineffectually then shrugged at me. Maybe they are such bad drivers that they don’t know what fog lights are or what the glowing sign on the dash means. Maybe they think they are bling lights for added disco. Odd one.

Making illegal manoeuvres, driving the wrong way down one-way streets, making illegal turns: all entirely common.

Stopping in advance stop lines for cyclists and in yellow box junctions.

Use of the horn. The Highway Code states: “Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn while stationary on the road or while driving in a built up area between the hours of 11:30pm and 7.00am except when another road user poses a danger.” You can technically be fined for using a horn, yet at any given time London’s roads sound like the Salvation Army band warming up.

Oh, and let’s not forget the thousands of people, mainly pedestrians, killed or seriously injured on London’s roads each year. That probably counts.

The point is that drivers are so coddled that their crimes are largely ignored by the police and the media.

Our roads, barely policed or regulated, are full of criminal drivers, speeding about in tonne-heavy steel boxes in a way that is negligent and dangerous.

Let’s get some perspective here.

Published in: on February 8, 2012 at 7:18 pm  Comments (4)  
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