This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

(All proceeds from Google Ads will be donated to the Police Roll of Honour Trust)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seen to be doing the right thing...

Picking up on some of the comments on the last thread, here's a truly tragic story of a father whose seven-year-old child was killed riding a quad bike, as he drove behind her supervising. He saw her get thrown onto the bonnet of an oncoming car and die. He's just been convicted of manslaughter, which is of little consequence because he's been given a nine month suspended sentence.

I have to ask, just what purpose did it serve to prosecute this man for causing his own child's death? Will it "teach him a lesson", to have gone through a court case at a time when he can probably barely live with himself. Will it stop other well-meaning parents from killing their children - as if they will all be at it without deterrent? Will it prevent the man getting a job, if the employer knows the circumstances? Will it make society, or his other child, or the roads, any safer?

The sentence given clearly reflects the judge's opinion of the situation.

Ms Henry, defending, said: "
He clearly will never forgive himself for what has happened. He is already living a life sentence."

This isn't the same as a PC who has driven dangerously and caused a death. A prosecution there may well act as a deterrent, and is probably required in this day and age for the family to be sure the case has been properly investigated.

But the prosecution of the father in the above case is a good example of what drives the Criminal Justice System in this country. It isn't about morality, commonsense, or fair play, and it certainly isn't about justice.

In the twenty-first century, appearances are everything.

Update: some good comments here.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous Lorenzo said...

The Criminal Justice System has been hi-jacked by New Labour tick box culture and we are slowly but surely being lead down the road to a Stasi State and the death of all common sense. It will continue if everyone turns a blind eye and refuses to stand up for themselves. Those who obey Labour's diktats will only accelerate the process.

20 October, 2008 22:25

Anonymous Dr Melvin T Gray said...

Maybe there was something we did not know but if two lives are already lost, no good was served by whipping the Father's corpse.

20 October, 2008 22:58

Anonymous notellin said...


I am troubled, it seems, and correct me if i am wrong, that you are discovering old truths and painting them as new realities.

It has always been the case that Justice must be seen to be done as well as Justice be actually done.

Thats why they go through the whole rigmarole of seemingly pointless trials such as this one. Simply put, the circumstances of this event dictated that a trial was required even though the verdict and sentence was never really in doubt. The trial was for the benefit of the public sense of justice to be satisfied or as the Americans call it, closure. Odd but surprisingly understandable.

I am not saying its right, I am also not saying that seeing Justice done is more important than Justice being actually done either, the opposite in fact. I am just making an observation.

What I am saying is that if you look back through history of the you will find countless examples of this sort of thing. There are no new ideas just old ones told in new ways with new players.

In my opinion the issue is not that cases such as this get to trial but countless others that should see a court room don't, for reasons we are all aware of such as CPS, full prisons etc.

21 October, 2008 00:14

Blogger Noddy said...

Sorry Bloggshe, but I can't agree with you on this one. The case has to be brought for Child Protection. His daughter deserved protection from the clown that is her father, but it was too late. He should be banned from having care of kids, not quad bikes.

To hypothesize, just because a drug crazed father kills his child by 'misadventure' and then has a fit of remorse, would he too get the same sympathy? Both did patently irresponsible things.

21 October, 2008 00:27

Anonymous Andrea said...

The flip side being that _not_ prosecuting such a case equates to saying: There will be no consequence to negligently killing your own child beyond your own grief. If he got his niece killed, should his familial grief excuse him from prosecution? How about a cousin? What if it was his child from an acrimonious divorce, a child he only has custody of during Christmas?

It's a terrible situation in every way, but I would far rather see a 'token' punishment than have anyone not prosecuted for killing a child with stupidity.

21 October, 2008 08:34

Blogger Bystander said...

Exactly the same arguments apply to the new offence of Causing Death By Careless Driving. No intent is required, just a human error that any of us could make. It's a simple lottery - if the victim is near a good trauma surgeon and survives, it'a a maximum of a fine and points for you. If the victim dies, you face 5 years. That isn't justice, it's revenge. It's no surprise that the introduction of this law was driven by The Sun.

21 October, 2008 09:22

Anonymous John said...

I think we miss the point on this one. The man was grossly negligent and responsible for her death. There have been so many cases lately where parents have caused the deaths of children by their negligence that a message has to go out. No one seems to consider the injury and harm caused to the other driver. She may well be subject to a lifetime's guilt and mental problems. To suggest parents shouldn't be prosecuted in these circumstances is wrong.

21 October, 2008 10:44

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry,have to disagree this time. To work at all the law must be balanced. It is wrong to "make an example" of someone and just as wrong to back peddle "because he has suffered enough".

The idiot broke the law and in doing so caused another human being to be killed. Also, what effect has killing a child had on the poor sod who hit her?

The "punishment" reflects the sad reality of the case. That's where the discretion should be applied.

21 October, 2008 10:47

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

I'm afraid I'm with john and anon 10:47 here. The man allowed his seven year old daughter onto the public road in the dark riding a quad bike. He's a fool. I'm just annoyed that the Sgt on TV last night stood outside the court and spoke about how it was 'a tragedy for everyone' and how he 'felt for the man' when really he should have said 'The man was an idiot, and should rightly blame himself for the death of his daughter. I hope this serves as a lesson to everyone.'

Would opinions been different if he'd let her drive the range rover instead?

21 October, 2008 10:56

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The accident was caused by the child's inability to control her vehicle. It's made clear if one reads a bit more that the speed of the oncoming vehicle wasn't a factor - she drove into it, which is what caused her death. She could have driven into a tree on their farm, or done an "Ozzy", and died quite legally. Would some of the more gung-ho readers and commenters have had him strung up for that? And if so, then does that apply to any accidental harm suffered by a child? I suspect the sentence relfects the judge's assessment that his foolishness in allowing her onto the road was a contributory cause, but not the sole cause, of her death, together with the likelihood that the impact of her death on her father is likely to be a fairly effective deterrent to him allowing his other children to do anything similar.

21 October, 2008 11:07

Anonymous Dave H. said...

Causing a death under these circumstances ought to land you in court -and the judge properly exercised his discretion given the circumstances.

A bit O/T, a motorcyclist has been jailed for riding at up to 130 mph and performing wild stunts on a public highway. In mitigation, his lawyer said:

"He is truly remorseful for what he has done and is truly sorry,"

The hallmark of true remorse is, of course, posting a video of your crime on Youtube. I reckon they should jail the lawyer for taking the piss that much.

21 October, 2008 11:39

Blogger Bystander said...

Nothing engenders remorse quite like getting caught.

21 October, 2008 11:56

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought but it seems a common thread on every blog and most media that being prosecuted is synonymous with being punished. I think everyone accepts this except the criminal justice system.

21 October, 2008 14:23

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 11.07 said

"It's made clear if one reads a bit more that the speed of the oncoming vehicle wasn't a factor - she drove into it, which is what caused her death. She could have driven into a tree on their farm"

Except that trees aren't travelling at 30mph towards you.

And yes she could have killed herself riding off road. It's debatable whether a 7 year old should be riding a 30mph quad bike anywhere.

21 October, 2008 15:28

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

I think the difference here is that the parent caused the death of his own child. It is not the same as causing the death of someone else's, because the grief cannot be comparable. So in essence I agree with all the comments saying that you shouldn't just get away with something because you are remorseful or guilt-stricken. But causing the death of one's own child goes beyond that, because losing a child to start with is life-changing, let alone when it is your own fault.

21 October, 2008 16:42

Blogger Hogday said...

Turning this argument slightly on its side; what if the outcome was that the kid on the quadbike had run over and killed a cyclist? There'd be no prosecution/punishment of the killer, because the child was under the age of criminal responsibility and therefore in the eyes of the law not capable of committing a crime. Once again it comes back to the parent who, by his unbelievably negligent actions, permitted the illegal act that resulted in the death. The law in respect of crime and punishment should be as much about deterrence and rehabilitation as it is about punishment. So, is the father in this case punished? Well if you include his own conscience then certainly any reasonable rational person would say he probably is. Is he rehabilitated? I doubt he'll have anything to do with quadbikes again, but we cannot be sure. Has the law been satisfied? Yes, the case was laid before a court. Finally, has the public been sent a salutory message and if so, what? The law is as much about subtle social control as it is about `in your face` punishment and to shy away from that necessary requirement in this case would be wrong.

21 October, 2008 18:04

Blogger uniform said...

This cretin allowed his children onto the road on 100 cc motorbikes

He was either indifferent to the inherent risk of motorized vehicles on a public road , or ,he considered the risk , and did it anyway.

Either way he played poker with the lives if his children , the dead girls brother ,10 years, was also on the road.

He put everything he had in the world ,onto a highway, when he should have been protecting them with every fiber of his body.

He failed ,his shame must be public

21 October, 2008 19:26

Anonymous Joe.P said...

Presumably, if she had been riding a bicycle a similar accident might have occured.

Would a similar prosecution have resulted?

Would a similar prosecution have resulted if her christmas bicycle was slightly too big for her?

Was it the quantity of risk involved that made this manslaughter or the licensing issue?

I would truly appreciate answers to any of these questions as I haven't a clue.

22 October, 2008 03:43

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A seven year old girl riding a bicycle would not have reached the speed, have the acceleration or power that a 100cc quad bike would have (it is also doubtful that she would have been on a road);
Unable to say;
The manslaughter charge came about because was responsible for the death of a human being, whether through negligence, stupidity or naivety. It is doubtful whether the licensing issue would have affected the major offence.
As mentioned above, justice must be seen to be done and as the law is 'blind' he had to be prosecuted for the level of offence the evidence demanded. The fact that he was given a suspended sentence shows that there was an element of mercy in this case - I doubt very much that the CPS will appeal for a heavier sentence. Overall, it is a tragic matter which could have been so easily avoided by a more caring and thoughtful parent. Apart from the official verdict, I do believe the father will really be serving a life sentence, however, in my opinion, the summing up and sentence was correct.

22 October, 2008 21:39

Anonymous Joe.P said...

Thank you Plodnomore,

I am not aware of evidence suggesting the power of the quad bike was a causal factor in the accident. I am also not aware of what speed the father was driving.
Nor do I know what level of competence the girl had previously demonstrated whilst riding quad bikes on the farm. Consequenstly I am not in a position to say that Mr Cooke knew he was taking a grave risk.

My initial thought was that the speed was probably relatively low and the accident could have been caused by the girl taking an ill timed peek around her father's car, possibly whilst riding 2 abreast with her brother. The prosecutor alleged loss of control, but then he would wouldn't he.

I tend to think this incident should have been handled by a coroner and then referred to the courts for the licensing infringement. I loath this kind of PR/public information trial.

Justice becomes secondary to 'the message'.

23 October, 2008 03:45

Anonymous Kaela Cheshire said...

ellie, Hon, you need a break. Your normally very good writing of the strange way we seem to do things in the Force, the crazy way we normally exist, the disparity between simple rules and 19th century mechanics we seem to need to abide by, seems to be lost here. Three items where you have written poorly thought out articles, inconclusive and not putting yourself, the force or others in any kind a good light. Hon, take five and recoup, refocus, find your way and come back writing the bright, interesting, sadly funny articles your good at. Leave this kind of stuff for those morons who have a culpable axe to grind.

23 October, 2008 07:18

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing yet another post that has got people really discussing the issues at hand. I might not agree with you, but I'm glad you wrote it.

My tuppenceworth - I'm sure the father does feel terrible. I'm not sure that's a reason not to prosecute though. As well as the death of a child, all the people who loved her, (including her mother who I don't think has been mentioned here) will be damaged by this for the rest of their lives. As will the driver of the other vehicle as stated earlier.
So I think a prosecution is appropriate, and I also think that the very lenient sentence is appropriate.

23 October, 2008 07:47

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first joined the job a wise old hand gave me the words of wisdom "there is no justice there is only the law". I'm not sure there is even that any more.

A previous post mentioned the idiot biker who rode at stupid speeds doing stunts, taped it and put it on u-tube. The story as I heard it, was that a parent who had lost their child to another idiot riding the same way posted a letter on u-tube describing what happened and how it destryed their lives. The biker overcome with remorse and disgusted with himself deleted his clips, sold his bike and equipment and vowed never to ride again. He was visited some time later by police doing door to door for somthing un related. The biker thought he had been traced confessed everything, and handed the bemused officers the vhs tape evidence. The judge threw the book at him.

We all know career criminals, prolific burglars, robbers who beat up o.a.p's for pennies and who are given suspended sentences/ conditional discharges etc. etc.

A father caused the death of his child or at least failed to prevent her death and I dont even wont to try and think how that must feel. He was given that sentence. Was it justice? Is it even possible to have justice fairly and equally dispensed in all cases. I no longer think so.

23 October, 2008 18:04

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

kaela, "hon", which was the third?

23 October, 2008 18:17

Blogger Hogday said...

Anon @ 18.04:

One of my best friends (a fellow Plod) was killed many years ago. He was on duty and stopped a car containing 4 young men who had stolen it. The driver wouldn't turn off the engine and so my pal reached in to try and grab the key they'd jigged into the ignition. The driver booted the gas and my pal was trapped half in the window. They deliberately drove onto the wrong side of the road, up against railings etc and my friend was killed. Acquitted of murder, they were convicted of manslaughter, sentenced to 8 years but were out in 4, which by today's standards seems a pretty good sentence. My idea of justice went out the window after that verdict and I hadn't turned 21. So had I read your last sentence then, I would have agreed with it, as I do today. Nothing has changed. As a Plod, the quicker you can accept the fact that justice and the law are separate entities, the easier it is to get on with the job.

23 October, 2008 19:08

Anonymous John said...

I think that this is one of the few cases where the Criminal Justice System got it right. In some sense it's purpose may not be justice itself but a mechanism by which everyone involved - victims, offenders and society at large - can move on.

In this case however, the only people who needed help was the father and the family (along with the other vehicle driver). By sitting for the case and pronouncing judgement, the court did I think, all it could to provide them with some kind of absolution.

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