Criminal and civil law and the relevance

Occasionally actus reus will take the form of a failure to do something such as failing to stop after accident. In R v. Pittwood 1902. Pittwood was a railway worker whose duty was to keep the level crossing gate shut, whenever trains were due to pass along the line so that vehicles or pedestrians would not be injured or killed. Pittwood one day forgot to shut the level crossing gate whilst he went for his dinner. The inevitable happened a pedestrian crossed the railway line and was subsequently struck by a train, which killed him. This omission led to the conviction of Pittwood for manslaughter.

In the case of R v. Parfitt 2003. Parfitt was charged with murder of a Police constable in Nottingham. The Police constable was trying to stop Parfitt from stealing a taxi. Parfitt stole the taxi and ignored the pleas of the police constable, who was dragged 100 yards down the highway as he clung to the car door. As the police constable and his German shepherd were pulled along the highway the police officer screamed at Parfitt 'Stop it or you will kill me'. Parfitt carried on driving and subsequently the police constable was thrown into the carriageway and hit a concrete bollard.

The police constable later died of his injures. In sentencing Parfitt Mr Justice Treacy at Birmingham Crown Court said that Parfitt ignored the obvious dangers to the police constable, his interests, his life and his limbs a very distant second to your own self interests. Parfitt was found guilty at court for manslaughter. The actus reus and mens rea was proved for this offence but mens rea was not for the murder of the police constable. Mens rea As we have stated above an act is not unlawful unless the mind be guilty. Mens rea refers is the state of mind of the defendant at the time when the crime was committed.

All common-law offences require proof of mens rea before a person can be convicted. As a general rule, by requiring intent as part of an offence the law avoids making criminals out of people who are in no way morally at fault. Before any person can be convicted of section 1 of the Theft act. The prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that not only did the accused take something, which is actus reus, but that they were acting dishonestly and they also intended to keep the goods, which is mens rea. The guilty mind. In the case R v. Gray 1965. Gray had a very ill son who was suffering from an incurable cancer and in a lot of pain.

The pains were that bad that his son could nor bear the weight of the bed sheets on him. Gray killed his son by giving him an overdose of drugs and then gassing him whilst he was a sleep. Gray had caused the act of (actus reus) by committing the crime of unlawful suicide. He intended to kill his son the guilty mind (mens rea). On sentencing Gray the judge said " I am perfectly certain that there is not a single person inside this court who will feel that you are in any sense a criminal. " Gray was found guilty of manslaughter even though he was charged with murder. 5. Civil Law

Private law is solely concerned with civil law, involving the enforcement of personal rights and obligations. Civil Law can be divided into three categories. These are as follows: – Civil law is concerned with compensation. The actions are proved on a balance of probabilities. The difference being that criminal law the prosecution has to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. From the Old French language tort means a civil wrong and the remedy for tort is primarily a sum of money paid by way of damages as compensation. For example: – I was driving my car home from work in wet weather.

I was driving above the speed limit knowing that my front tyres required changing and I saw somebody crossing the road at a zebra crossing but I failed to stop in time and subsequently hit this person who I now know to be Gary Walker. The police charged me with various charges. I attended court and was banned from driving for 18 month and fined. This is the criminal side of this explanation. Walker was seriously injured in this incident and therefore unable to work so through his solicitor Walker was claiming for damages, which would take place in civil court.

Walker would however have to prove his case on the balance of probability showing that I had been at fault for is injuries. There is a defence in reducing the liability in this incident. If Walker had walked out into the carriageway without looking. Walker would have been partly to blame and therefore the damages paid would have been significantly reduced. Lord Diplock was quoted in 1972 in saying. 'Civil liability is concerned with the relationship of one citizen to another'. Access to Justice The access to justice means that everyone has a right of access to the legal system and the right of representation.

The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 reflected a massive change in the civil procedures throughout England and Wales following the recommendations of Lord Woolf. This is known as the Woolf Reforms and was the first significant stage of the reform to the personnel injury legal system. The change included the replacement of term known as plaintiff and was replaced by claimant. The new rules that were promoted meant that all cases should be dealt with on an equal footing. For example: – i) both sides would agree medical experts before being used, ii) evidence would be disclosed prior to any court proceedings.

The disclosure prior to any court proceedings would promote negotiation rather than litigation. The second stage was on 31st March 2000 the abolition of legal aid. Essentially this meant that legal aid was no longer available for personal injury claims unless the investigations cost three thousand pounds or more. This opened the market to companies like Direct Claims and the most widely known one the Accident Group or the Amulet Group, which included companies like First Choice. Because at the same time, the Lord Chancellors Department brought out new rules to form part of the civil justice reforms.

This dictated that After Event legal Expense Insurance Policies were recoverable as this is the only way the man in the street could effectively purse a personnel injury claim. This lead to the slogans No Win No Fee. Most of these companies dealt with claims against the council for example: – i) A civil action would be if a person were to be walking along a footway and tripped over an uneven paving stone. The council would have shown negligence on their part (duty of care) by not maintaining the footway to an acceptable and safe standard,

ii) A civil action that I can recall and was highly publicised was when a woman was drinking coffee in a McDonalds restaurant, she spilt the coffee and ended up scalding herself as the coffee was too hot. She went to civil court for compensation of which she received a large amount of money, as McDonalds were negligent. Distinctions between Criminal and Civil Law A very highly prominent case that changed the legal profession with in chambers and the police forces that can be used to illustrate distinctions between criminal and civil law is the Stephen Lawrence case. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack.

The crown prosecution service proceeded with criminal action against a gang of white males who were accused of Stephen Lawrence's murder. After crown court proceedings had been completed, the men were found not guilty and therefore the case was not proven beyond all reasonable doubt. At a later date the family then proceeded with civil action against the same men and this time won on the balance of probability. This highlights the fact that both criminal and civil law are both ways to obtain justice. It is little comfort for the family, but they would at least feel that some amount of justice has been received. 6.

The role of the Crash Investigation Team The Council has a statutory duty to promote road safety. The requirements are set out in the Road Traffic Safety Act, 1988. It states that, i) each local authority must carry out studies into incidents arising out of the use of vehicles on roads other than trunk roads, within their area and must, in the light of those studies, take such measures as appear to the authority to be appropriate to prevent such incidents, ii) constructing new roads, must take such measures as appear to the authority to be appropriate to reduce the possibilities of such incidents when roads come into use.

The relevance of criminal & civil law with regards to Crash Investigation and Prevention The relevance of crash investigation and prevention to criminal and civil law will Road Safety Audit that are carried out by each council. Safety audits have become very important with local councils, as it looks at accident prevention. The regulations have been superseded in November 2003. The benefits of this are that if all the work that is progressed by councils would have to have a safety audit at all stages.