Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Culpable Homicide

I am getting a bee in my bonnet over culpable homicide or manslaughter as the crime is known in other legal jurisdictions.

Now as far as I know the culpable homicide carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the same tariff as murder although in cases of murder a life sentence is automatic.
But I've never heard of anyone being given a life sentence or even a very long prison sentence, say 15 years, for committing manslaughter or culpable homicide - and I'd like to know why?

Take the following case reported recently in the Times of a speeding driver who killed a passenger in his car through his reckless behaviour.

I don't think it really matters that much that James Neill didn't set out to intentionally kill Natasha Clark because he knew, or ought to have known, that driving at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour - was a tragedy waiting too happen.

And a young 17-year old girl lost her life as a result of his completely idiotic behaviour - so I would throw the book at him. 

If a life sentence isn't intended for this kind of case, then you have to ask why we have it on the statute book in the first place.  

Speeding driver James Neill admits killing Natasha Clark

Neill had been driving at speeds of up to 110mph before the crash

A speeding driver who lost control of his car on a country road has admitted causing the death of a teenage girl.

James Neill, 35, from Tarbert, Argyll, crashed his Honda Civic on the A83, near Erines, on 20 August 2012.

His three passengers were injured, including 17-year-old Natasha Clark, who later died in hospital.

The High Court in Paisley heard how Neill had driven at speeds of up to 110mph. Sentence was deferred and he was remanded in custody.

The court head how Neill was repeatedly told to slow down and "stop pushing it" by his three passengers.

Boulder hit

One local motorist, Davie Russell, who was driving in the opposite direction before the crash, told police that it was the fastest he had ever seen a car travelling on that road.

Neill lost control of the car as it entered a bend heading towards Tarbert. It was later estimated he had been driving in excess of 70mph at the time.

The vehicle spun over to the side of the road and hit a huge boulder, then bounced back into the centre of the road.

The force of the impact trapped 17-year-old Natasha and her friend Sandra Harvey, who were in the back seat.

Neill and his friend Sean McGregor, who were in the front, sustained minor injuries.

Ms Clark, who worked as a shop assistant at the Co-op in Lochgilphead, was airlifted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but died the following day from multiple injuries.

Ms Harvey suffered a broken leg and a suspected spinal injury.

Speeding denial

The court heard that in the immediate aftermath of the crash, Mr McGregor rushed back to try to help the two women and shouted to Neill to get help.

At this point Neill said: "I wasn't speeding."

Neill then used his mobile phone to call a friend. He told her he had crashed the car and asked if she could come and get him.

Minutes later other cars stopped at the scene. One of the drivers called the emergency services and then helped a medical student to assist Ms Clark until the paramedics arrived.

Neill pleaded guilty to causing the death of Ms Clark by driving dangerously and at excessive speed.

Judge Lord Stewart deferred sentence on Neill until next month for background reports and remanded him in custody.