Tuesday, February 21, 2012

off your bike

Phillip Mead is a much nicer person than me. He has found a way of forgiving the moronic and callous bus driver who deliberately and with vindictiveness drove his bus into Phillip as he cycled along a road in Bristol. I could never forgive him. Nor should I. Nor should anybody.

The bus driver pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and GBH and must have chuckled to himself when handed a wholly inadequate 17 months custodial sentence. Out in 9 months, piece of cake. He knows very well what his bus could have done to the cyclist and how miraculous it is that it didn’t. A charge of attempted murder would have been justified. The judge said the driver used the bus as a weapon to bully and intimidate; no he didn’t; he used it to try to kill, or at least severely injure.

Whether or not they had an argument before the attack does not matter. Nor does it matter, with respect to determining the correct charge and sentence, that the driver has a family. We can at least be consoled that his right to family life under Article 8 of the you-know-what didn’t allow him to walk out of court with a conditional discharge and a stern reprimand.

This is not a vote for stiffer sentences or more prisons and I certainly don't subscribe to the throw-away-the-key mentality; quite the opposite. But sentences must fit the crime and the intent.

Cycling should be encouraged and cyclists must be protected from acts of malicious violence on the roads. This sentence comes nowhere near to helping the cause.

The Times Cities fit for cycling


Thursday, February 02, 2012

so sorry

It was totally out of character and I won’t do it again. I am really very sorry. ….
….. Well, no, of course I’m not but I am saying the right things and, who knows, it may pay off. Throw in a pained expression and moistening eyes and even the best of the judiciary can be fooled.

As a mitigating factor, remorse is a difficult one. Easy to express but much harder to feel, it must count very little towards consideration of any reduction in sentence. The more serious the crime the less weight should be given to any expression of remorse. If the remorse is relayed to the court through a legal representative, rather than directly from the offender’s mouth, then very little weight, bordering on none, should be attached; this is a convenient mechanism to bypass the accompanying body language which is often so revealing. Some defence advocates help by voicing in thin disguise their own doubts: “my client instructs me that he is very sorry for what happened etc”, interpreted by the court as “well he would wouldn’t he”.

The tabloids rightly went wild about the case of Chrapkowski, who, having been asked by a passer-by why he was tipping rubbish from wheelie bins all over the street, repeatedly punched and kicked him causing terrible injuries that he is likely to suffer from for a very long time, if not ever. The puncher and kicker, along with his two accomplices, ran off leaving the victim unconscious and bleeding. Yes of course he deserved immediate custody for a lengthy period; this is just the kind of gratuitously violent crime that a civilised society builds prisons for. No of course he didn’t get it.

His lawyer told the court how sorry he was. It is virtually impossible to be sorry for the commission of such a violent offence, in that if you were able to feel regret for it then you wouldn't do it, and, even in the extremely unlikely event that he was sorry, so what ! The crime was the crime, the culpability was the culpability and the harm caused was the harm caused. Saying sorry, especially through a lawyer, is hardly the point. But, surprisingly, the judge accepted the remorse and suspended the 12-month prison sentence.

But the remorse seemed to have evaporated by the time the offender left the courthouse, when he celebrated by dancing on the steps and punching the air in goal-scoring fashion. So much for his feelings of compassion towards the victim. If the sentenced celebrates a comprehensive victory then the sentence was probably wrong. Relief at a lenient sentence is one thing, but overt and cynical exuberance and ecstasy is another.