Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Justice. Or was it?

Former Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick, 25, fell asleep while driving his Range Rover and while being at double the legal limit for alcohol. His car then ploughed into that of Phil Peak, killing his two sons, Arron 10, and his brother Ben, 8. They had been on a family outing, and the crash left the father in a wheelchair.

He told witnesses at the scene: "I am so sorry, I'm sorry. I just fell asleep. I fell asleep, I'm sorry."

Too late, Luke my boy, too late.

He was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail, and deserved every minute of it, I hear you say. Justice served.

But was it?

What if he had ploughed into a field instead, and was found drunk and asleep by the police? The sentence? Probably a 10-year driving ban and a heavy fine.

Yet the offence was the same. Why should someone be penalised for the outcome of what he did, rather than for the offence itself? Yet this, like the ludicrous concept of concurrent sentences, is standard practice in our daft legal system.

Taking this to its (il)logical conclusion, a driver exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph and who killed a child that ran out in front of him would almost certainly receive a heavier sentence than one who exceeded it by 40 mph but who was not involved in an accident.

Maybe this approach satisfies some primitive sense of justice, but it don't seem fair to me.


doodler said...

My dear Savant - LOL!
There is a massive difference dear boy... you are describing two totally separate and disparate criminal offences - he was doubtlessly found guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter) for negligently causing the death of another human being, for which he got gaol time, AND he would have been guilty of a second offence, namely driving under the influence of alcohol, or whatever those chaps call it there.
That is why... :-)

SAVANT said...

My god, that was a fast comment doodler! I still dont get the logic. Let's just say he'd been exceeding the limit by 5 mph,while sober, and hit a petrol truck which then careered into a school bus killing dozens of kids. Would the same principle apply. For once i fault your logic.

deiseach said...

By your logic, savant, someone who breaks into a house and gets into a scuffle with the occupant which ends in the death of the occupant should get the same sentence as someone who break into a house and walks out unmolested. If someone is injured in the process of you committing a crime then you are responsible for that injury. That is the legal principle involved in the McCormick case.

SAVANT said...

Deiseach (sorry about the All-Ireland!), your argument doesn't hold up. The guy who broke in committed a separate and deliberate offence in that he got into physical violence with his 'host'. I'd say that if the host fell down the stairs while chasing him it'd be the thing I'm talking about.

doodler said...

Sorry bud, not my logic - the distillation of the mores of many generations.
But one would have to get into a more jurisprudential discussion to answer that. I think I understand where you are coming from. Had to get out the Crim law book and this subject (negligence) runs into numerous pages. As briefly as possible though:
The commission of a crime usually requires an intention to commit - there are exceptions though.
The SA definition of culp is the a) unlawful b)negligent c)causation of the death of d) another person.
The requirements for murder are similar, except for b).
Negligence is required for culpability/blameworthiness.
In essence this boils down to generally speaking, where X did not display the necessary degree of care which were required of him given the prevailing circumstances at that time, or that he failed to foresee, when he reasonably should have done, a prohibited or injurious result, but failed to do so. I.e; his conduct is blameworthy in the strict legal sense ONLY if he failed to do so, and this failure is thereafter judged in an objective manner by a court.

So, to take your example - had there been a fair amount of traffic and Mr X should have slowed down, given the circumstances and as a reasonable person should have foreseen the likelihood of a collision - not even necessarily your example, then most assuredly he would be guilty of culp.
Had he intended the outcome, it is murder.

Similarly, lets assume he was driving at 20 mph UNDER the limit, when the prevailing circumstances were such that he should reasonably have foreseen the likelihood of a collision which would produce the outcome you describe, then again, he would be guilty of culp.

On the other hand, lets assume he was doing 20 mph over the limit. the truck suddenly appears from nowhere resulting in the collision, and there was no way he could have reasonably foreseen the outcome, given the circumstances, then again, he would NOT be guilty of culp. I would imagine he would have a hard time to explain away his conduct if he was doing a hundred mph over the limit...

For my services aforesaid, you owe me a Guiness or rather my favourite drink, Bushmills Black Bush for the advice given, should I ever deign to grace your shores to lend a teensy bit of cultural diversity to your otherwise barren land.... :-)

SAVANT said...

Let's agree to disagree Doodler even though I still argue you dnt address my fundamental point.

By the way, I'd have thought that you had no shortage of black bush in SA???

deiseach said...

Cheers about the All-Ireland. It was a great day out and I wouldn't swap it for the world.

We'll have to agree to differ with your counter example. You may disagree with the legal principle, i.e. that of someone being responsible for the injuries caused to some other person who was hurt during the course of a crime being committed. This principle is long established and is neither arbitrary nor unfair.

Anonymous said...

There's also a need to show that justice is being done. If they got the same penalty there would be a sense of outrage and that justice had not been done.

doodler said...

Okay, what is the fundamental point?
Plenty black bush here, hehe! Not my type... :-)

SAVANT said...

Ok, one last time. I think my point is very clear.

You should be responsible for the offence, not the outcome. Doodler's examples, or none of the others, address this point.

For EXACTLY the same offence in EXACTLY the same circumstances, you'll get punished to a vastly different degree depending on the damage done.

Same thing with attempted murder. You shoot someone in the head and he survives through providence. You're convicted of attempted murder and get a shorter sentence than if he had died.

The intention was the same - as is borne out by the verdict, but the penalty is much less due to the, in this case, unintended outcome.

I think it's very clear!

Anonymous said...

blame the government!

deiseach said...

"For EXACTLY the same offence in EXACTLY the same circumstances, you'll get punished to a vastly different degree depending on the damage done"

So you're saying that someone who gets convicted of a drink driving offence should exactly the same sentence as someone who commits a drink driving offence and kills someone in the process? Who is responsible for the deaths? Force majeure?

SAVANT said...

Deise - I really cant fathom how you and the rest of you cant get my point. I think, like doodler, that you're part of the legal profession. My lawyer friends seem unable to question 'the majesty of the law' and think outside the box.

So once again, to take the corollary of your position, if a guy drives along and through no fault of his own (ice on road say) he hits and kills a pedestrian, he should be guilty and punished.

I cant see how you can square that particular circle.