A top prosecutor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions today put forward a strong case for further amendment to the Road Traffic Act to deal with the offence of death by dangerous driving.
Principal Crown Counsel Alliston Seale made the appeal today in the presence of House Speaker and Member of Parliament for St Michael Central Arthur Holder as they made submissions in a dangerous driving case in the No. 2 Supreme Court.
The matter involved Kemar Rico Jordan, of No. 1 Chapel Gap, Paynes Bay, St James, who had been charged with causing the death of 17-year-old Adrianna Sobers by dangerous driving on April 3, 2015.
Sobers was travelling on the back of a motorcycle ridden by Jordan, who was 23 years old at the time when they were involved in a collision with two Transport Board buses on Black Rock Main Road.
However, the accused had pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving charge, but guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving.
Seale told the court presided by Madam Justice Michelle Weekes, “we still must be cognizant that although a plea was accepted to what we call a lesser count, although there is no true lesser count for this offence, I would hope that my learned friend [Arthur Holder] being in that place [Parliament], that legislation is created now that he
would move swiftly to deal with these issues, so that something like causing death by dangerous driving can
have a lesser count where any punishment can be meaningful”.
Under the current legislation, an offender is punishable upon summary conviction to ten years imprisonment while in the case of a first conviction reckless driving carries a fine of $1, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. Upon subsequent conviction, an offender faces a fine of $2,500 or a maximum of two years imprisonment or both.
Seale argued that the gulf between the two offences was “too great”.
“There must be circumstances between the two that the offence may not reach the threshold requiring imprisonment, but yet cannot be trivialized to the extent that a person’s life is gone but you can only go to a $1, 000 [fine] because the alternative is imprisonment,” the Crown’s prosecutor maintained, arguing that such a status quo could not remain the norm.
“There is always this lacuna in the evidence and always a lacuna in sentencing because we move from a very serious penalty to accepting simple dangerous driving and then the penalties are so much less.
“This needs treating to so that persons can plead to an offence, maybe lesser than the causing death by dangerous driving, but still the death be a fundamental part of the piece of legislation, so at least we know that it is a lesser count, but nonetheless it involves a greater punishment than the $1,000 that is available for the simple dangerous driving,” he stressed.
During the mitigation, Holder, who is Jordan’s legal counsel, told the court that the now 26-year-old water sports operator had been “traumatized” by the events of that day and now had to seek counseling to cope.
However, Seale was adamant that justice must be pursued.
He argued that “when we get in our circles and speak about fatal accidents which cause the life of children and our loved ones and believe that we should not pursue these matters in the courts because the person is already grieving . . . I reject it out of hand . . . because the law must be maintained,” he said, arguing that drivers had to adhere to a “very high standard” when using the country’s roads.
“This is a classic example . . . . He has caused the death of his young girlfriend, so he has been sufficiently punished? We can’t say that because that is the moral aspect of it and this is the legal aspect of it that we must deal with.
“And understanding that we understand and sympathize in the moral realm, the legal realm still has to do its part,” the principle crown counsel stressed.