IN THE WAKE of what can only be described as an atrocity – namely Tuesday’s ploughing down of a pedestrian on a pavement by a car – president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Michael Seales made a stunning disclosure.
“We have gone past eight years where nobody would have charged anyone for motor manslaughter,” Seales said in an interview carried live by radio station i95.5FM.
The death of Shervon Medina, 46, is made all the more appalling given uncomfortable echoes of the past. More than five years ago, a police officer was at the heart of an accident in which Haydee Paul, 28, and her daughters, Shakira, seven, and Akasha, eight, were killed on the Beetham Highway. That case is yet to be subject to any definitive finding by way of criminal conviction, though the officer appeared in court.
In relation to Tuesday’s case, it is also a law enforcement officer who is at the heart of the matter. A special reserve officer has been assisting police with their investigations but what consequences might follow are unclear.
None of this is to besmirch the integrity of the thousands of officers who risk life and limb to protect and serve. However. it is not in the interest of public order if authorities appear to hesitate in relation to officers. There is no suggestion that this is the case here. But it is essential for the police and the Police Complaints Authority to thoroughly satisfy the public that justice is possible in this case.
The question of a lack of successful prosecutions, however, remains. There may be any number of legal barriers to such proceedings. Authorities may have practical reasons for bringing charges under different offences. Whatever the case, it should be ascertained whether there is, indeed, a lack of prosecutions for motor manslaughter, what the issue is and how best it can be remedied, whether through more robust road traffic legislation or better policy.
Meanwhile, we concur with Arrive Alive president Sharon Inglefield in her call for drivers to avail themselves of defensive driving training. It is entirely possible that the most recent accident was as a result of a situation in which the driver was not reckless and was simply caught in a difficult situation which forced the deadly diversion.
At the same time, Inglefield was also spot on in pointing to the need to change our driving culture. We have said it before but say it again. There is too much hoggish behaviour on our roads. It is hoped that the demerit system will help in this regard.
Investigators must determine the facts of this case. But the State should also consider a new policy of charging any police officer who drives recklessly with bringing the service into disrepute, in addition to any relevant traffic offence.