Monday, 13 April 2015

A Life Sentence

This was my mother two years ago:

This was the newspaper where she had been features editor for 40 years:

This was the zebra she crossed on her way home from work on the night of November 26th 2013:

This was the consultant from the adjacent hospital who failed to stop in time:

This is the hospital where my mother spent five months recovering from her injuries:

This is how many times the court hearing was delayed to accommodate the driver's defence team:

This is the magistrates court where the trial took place 18 months later:

This was the sentence, along with costs and a £15 victim surcharge, when the driver was found guilty of driving without due care and attention:

This is the sentence my mother, brain-damaged, disabled and dependent, is serving:

A stiffer sentence would not change anything. The driver was not speeding or phoning or drunken. He made a fleeting mistake. A mistake anyone of us could make when we drive a familiar route home. A mistake that cost my mother her job, her dignity and her independence and which he relives every time he gets in a car.

But the fact that someone flashed by a speed camera will automatically receive a harsher punishment - penalty points and a £100 fine - shows that there's something wrong with the law. Speeding counts as dangerous driving whether or not there's a victim. Running someone over on a zebra because you were not looking properly is driving without due care and attention and only if they die does the law, as it stands, recognise the consequences.

My mother nearly died from her injuries. The magistrates were unable to take this into account because the offence of causing serious injury by careless driving does not exist. It should do. Not so that weary doctors who don't look where they're going are obliged to face jail, but so that the charges acknowledge the difference between damaging a bollard through inattention and damaging a woman on her way home from the office. So that families don't have to wait 18 months for what counts as a minor matter to reach the front of the queue in court. So that the lawmakers and anyone who gets behind a wheel appreciates that it doesn't require death for a life to be destroyed.