The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Off The Rails

Network Rail has claimed that there has been a considerable increase in the number of incidents where drivers and pedestrians dodge barriers or ignore red lights at level crossings. They have released some scary CCTV footage of near-suicidal behaviour. The people who do this are either terminally lacking in imagination, or grossly over-optimistic about their judgment; apart, that is, from the drunk, drugged, or plain bewildered. To most of us, whether or not to push your luck with an oncoming train is a no-brainer. A minority just don't get it.
But here is the man from Network Rail:-
Network Rail wants longer driving bans for those jailed for motoring offences.
Chief executive Iain Coucher said: "Every week we see people who ignore warning signs and lights or drive round barriers at level crossings just to save a few minutes.
"This behaviour has the potential for massive damage, disruption and death. We think that the judiciary penalties received need to reflect the seriousness of these crimes and are calling on the judiciary to consider all these factors when handing down sentences."

Now that's what I call a kneejerk reaction. The idea that heavier penalties deter offending is embedded in our culture, and very often wrong. If the idea of being hit by a hundred tons of train doing 60 mph doesn't deter you, I don't think that an extra year's driving ban is likely to do the trick any more than the reclassification of cannabis is likely to make stoners give up the weed. Breaking the rules at a rail crossing already carries a non-judicial penalty of death. We JPs can't top that.