Opinion piece by Amy Aeron-Thomas
RoadPeace responds to news that Prince Philip has agreed to give up his driving licence for good, after causing a collision in which two women were injured. This is much better than the usual outcome.
How else might this have ended? What charges or sanctions could another driver have faced in these circumstances? These would have been determined by the key factors of how far the driving fell below the standard expected of a careful and competent driver and the seriousness of the injuries caused.*
1. How far was the driving below that of a standard of careful and competent driver
Careless or dangerous?
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), pulling out of a side road into main road can be dangerous in certain circumstances and careless in others. The CPS describes “emerging from a side road into the path of another vehicle” as careless driving whilst dangerous driving is an “offender failed to stop at a junction where there was a give way sign”. See our poster for other examples of how the CPS charging standards define careless and dangerous driving.
Dangerous driving is very rarely prosecuted—some 10 times a day across all of England and Wales. With 43 police services, this means that on average, only two drivers a week are being prosecuted for dangerous driving in each police service area.
Police are much more likely to sanction drivers for careless driving. They have the authority to do this, whereas a prosecution for dangerous driving must be approved by the CPS. Sanction options for careless driving causing a crash range from a court prosecution to a driver awareness course (NDORS). Which sanction is used is (or should be) heavily influenced by the harm done.
2. Second, the harm caused, i.e. the seriousness of the injuries
Serious by Department for Transport (DfT) but not by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the courts
One of the women suffered a broken wrist and may need further surgery. But she did not need to stay in hospital for three days. So even if the driving was classified as dangerous, the charge of Causing serious injury by dangerous driving could not be used, as this requires hospitalisation for more than three days.
However, the injury was sufficient to be classified as serious by DfT. This means that, if the driving were classified as careless and the police were following national guidelines , the use of NDORS would be ruled out and the driver would have to go to court.
The charge of Causing serious injury by careless driving has yet to be introduced. See our briefing on why this charge is needed.
Likely sentence for careless driving?
A court prosecution for careless driving results in a driving ban for less than 1 in 100 drivers convicted of this offence. Prison is not an option and the much more common sanction is a fine.
So this is why RoadPeace believes the voluntary surrender of a driving licence is the best criminal justice outcome that could have been expected. Driving bans are too rarely given so it is good when a driver chooses to do this. The MoJ has stated it is to review the use of driving bans for all offences and this cannot come soon enough. Read our latest briefing on how infrequently driving bans are given.
We would also expect civil justice to be expedited with full liability being accepted. There is no need to wait for the court case to finish.
Note: We believe it is very rare for a prosecution to be justified on the basis of the evidence but found not to be in the public interest to prosecute. The much more common problem is the driving not meeting the evidential case which can be due to a lack of investigation rather than a lack of culpability. This is why RoadPeace is campaigning on collision investigation as if this is not thorough or impartial, criminal and civil justice are denied.
Updated on: 15 February 2019