By Jodi Gordon, Partner, Road Traffic Accident Law Scotland

FOLLOWING the death of a loved one in a road traffic collision, perception of justice being served varies dramatically. There are often many variables at play including the nature of the collision, any remorse shown by the offending driver and access to information for the bereaved family.

Under Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988, causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is set out as follows; “A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.”

Our criminal justice system receives around 90,000 criminal reports annually. This exceedingly high volume of work results in driving offence cases often taking around two years to go to Trial.

On April 29, 2017 motorcyclist Michael Cloy was killed on the A711 near Dumfries. James Kiltie turned right across his path and in trying to avoid a collision, Michael collided with a van.

Almost one year later, Mr Kiltie appeared in Dumfries Sheriff Court and was formally charged. In December 2018, he entered a “not guilty”plea and in February 2019 the trial began. This meant that Michael’s distraught relatives had to listen to four days of evidence, including attempts by Mr Kiltie’s defence team to lay blame on Michael. It was only on day four that Mr Kiltie changed his plea to “guilty”. He was eventually sentenced by Sheriff Brian Mohan to 12 months’ imprisonment and banned from driving for two years.

Of the 155 death by careless driving convictions in Scotland from 2007 to 2017, only 15 per cent resulted in a custodial sentence. The maximum that can be imposed by a sheriff or judge is five years but the vast majority, some 67 per cent, are given community payback orders (CPOs).

Lynnette, Michael’s wife was content with the sentence saying: “I had expected he would be given a CPO and therefore was surprised but pleased he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. His complete lack of remorse and his attitude in court made me feel that a custodial sentence was the only way justice could be served. Had he pled guilty earlier and shown any remorse for what he had done, then I would most likely have felt differently. I do think a two-year driving ban is light. In cases of death by careless driving, I would prefer to see longer driving bans imposed by Sheriffs.”

This view was echoed by Chris Boardman, Olympic cyclist and Cycling Ambassador for Manchester, whose mother Carole was killed when out cycling in 2016. The driver admitted causing death by careless driving and was sentenced to 30 weeks’ custodial sentence and an 18-month driving ban.

Following sentencing, Mr Boardman called for lengthier driving bans, stating: “What I want to see is sentencing to reflect the crime. I’m going to take away your right to drive for good. You lost that privilege. You chose to be careless. I think taking people’s ability to do harm away, without burdening society, seems to be a logical step for me.”

Although taking away someone’s liberty may seem like the highest price to pay following a fatality on the roads, would a lengthy or life-time driving ban not potentially act as a greater deterrent and have a bigger impact on their day-to-day life, without a drain on the tax payer? Driving is a privilege and that privilege should be removed if it is exercised carelessly or dangerously to the loss of life of another.