Unlawful killing.

po1I am but a humble foot soldier.  An operational police officer.  Schooled in all aspects of law, now specialising in road traffic law.  That does not make me an expert.  I have a working knowledge of the law, knowing enough to allow me to conduct myself on the roads of the UK.  If I need to know further then I must consult the various publications such as Blackstones and Archibold.  So I hope that the lawyers amongst you that may have taken the time to read this blog cut me some slack as I over simplify some basic law. (My caveat is that for the various offences I will now mention, there are complex nuisances and to be honest beyond my own operational understanding.)

An unlawful killing basically means a persons death is the result of a breach of law.  So far so good.  Murder: An act intended to take the life of a person.  A simple charge contrary to common law but difficult to prove.  Malice a forethought is a popular misconception.  Manslaughter: An act enabled, where no intention was made to take anothers life despite the obvious outcome.  This offence is complex and has four strands to it.  Courts and juries have deliberated for week’s over an eventual verdict.  Finally, the death of a person can be covered under the Road Traffic Act 1988 whether that be death by dangerous driving or death by careless driving.  There are several fairly new offences relating to death of a driver with respect to insurance and indeed the road traffic act will see further changes next year.

As a road policing officer, as I see at first hand, the frustration of the deceased families in the sentencing of offenders under the road traffic act. Maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous is 14 years in gaol, for causing death by careless driving, 5 years in gaol.  Rarely, maximum sentences are passed, and I find myself having to explain to the family why the offender has basically got a suspended sentence for an early plea or a light sentence for causing a death where had it been tried under different criteria the sentence would have been perhaps much greater.

The only difference being a car and a stretch of carriageway.  But as I have alluded to previously a car in no less lethal than a sword, a hand gun or battering ram in the wrong hands.

Add alcohol to the mix and you could conclude recklessness.  Does that not border on the fringes of manslaughter?

The taking of a life, unlawfully means exactly that and at times it is  irrelevant to the family of the deceased by what means that life was took.  The circumstances yes, are relevant. But the type of blunt instrument which is used to take that life should not dictate the lower end of sentence in a families opinion and indeed influence which Act to enable.  This sometimes is the most difficult aspect for a family to comprehend.


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  1. If 2,000 poor folks were killed per annum in train accidents, there would be a major investigation into safety of the network. If 2,000 plane passengers were killed in air crashes per annum, I would hazard a guess that the skies might be shut, or at least some planes or airlines grounded until the investigations were completed.
    Yet our road toll does this, and it seems to be just accepted as inevitable. Were we to cast a magnifying glass over every sad case, I would wager that a high (very high?) percentage would, on any Health and Safety criteria, be labelled as “avoidable”, and a swathe of recommended changes in practice instituted to avoid future occurrences.
    What would it take to achieve an “unlawful killing” rate of zero?

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