The headlines last week reporting that a Glasgow taxi driver was fined ‘just’ £400 for causing the death of a cyclist have understandably enraged many road users. Most people’s first reaction is to feel angry or saddened that we put such little value on a life.
Such a meager fine and the Sheriff’s ‘surprise’ as to the charge brought against the taxi driver are hardly a deterrent for the next careless driver.
But let’s take a step back. There is another perspective.
This was carelessness but do we want to lock people away for such things?
Criminal Law exists to protect the public and if we look at the act of carelessness rather than the consequences of that carelessness, the cabbie is not a danger to wider society. The Sheriff handed out a sentence that matched the ‘crime’ and according to what was in her power to give.
The process of Civil Law, on the other hand, enables those injured and bereaved to recover damages for their loss. In this case, the cyclist’s family should be compensated as the taxi driver admitted his error and the terrible consequences of his negligent act. While the question ‘what price a life?’ can never be adequately answered, Civil Law will provide recompense for the loved ones left behind.
The very fact that this case was brought to the criminal courts is a good thing. Many such incidents, which may not be as catastrophic in their outcome, but can lead to injury or damage nonetheless, are not. The media interest has highlighted the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads and hopefully will make others more aware.
For an in-depth review of the guidelines for sentencing in road traffic cases in Scotland, it's worth reading Criminal Lawyer, Graham Walker of RoadTrafficLaw.com's recent blog on the subject.
Jodi Gordon - Senior Solicitor