Thursday, 16 February 2012

Moments of Madness

Last month we covered how the bus driver accused of deliberately running over a cyclist outside the magistrates court was in court over the incident.

The news is now out that he's been sentenced to 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to dangerous driving and GBH, which, given the video, was hard to defeat with the "I didn't see him" defence.

The video is pretty awful for anyone to watch: if you want to know what it looks like when a bus sideswipes someone on a bicycle -when the bus isn't even going that fast.

The evening post says that the bus driver, Gavin Hill, has been disqualified from driving for 30 months, and will have to take an extended driving test afterwards. Apparently the action was "a moment of madness".

Well, we hope that Phil isn't suffering long-term consequences, and that the outcome does provide some reassurance that society frowns on such explicit attempts to cause death and injury.

Now, let us turn to today's other "moment of madness", this time by one David Lowrey, of Kingsway, St George, where the Evening Post says:   A VIOLENT motorist beat up a cyclist by the side of the road before getting someone to lie for him as he tried to escape conviction..

When we heard the "someone to lie for him" phrase we checked to see if David Lowrey was on the coalition cabinet, but no, he was someone who started a fight with someone on a bicycle who had the audacity to make some kind of gesture to the car as the car encroached into the cycle lane.

Again, "a moment of madness", this time with four months jail; no mention of driving penalty or what penalty he or the "independent witness" get for trying to pervert the course of justice (*)

If these court cases weren't in the papers on the same day, the "moment of madness" defence might sound somewhat realistic. As it is, it comes out looking a contrived.

For that reason, we had a look around to see where else the "moment of madness" defence had cropped up.

  • Ron Davies, welsh secretary, robbed at knifepoint by a some people he went down to Clapham Common  with"a moment of madness"
  • Sir John Guielgud, set up by the police who actually had undercover police trying to entrap men seeking a bit of discreet consensual sex, again "a moment of madness".
  • Hugh Grant getting caught paying a prostitute for a bit of entertainment in a public lavatory while on a business trip without his wife.
There we have it then, two separate scenarios where defence lawyers recommend the "moment of madness" defence
  1. You've rammed or assaulted someone on a bicycle and want to make it clear that normally you are a safe and docile driver and suddenly "a moment of madness" came over you. You didn't mean to cause physical injury and hope to be let off lightly.
  2. You got caught by the police engaged in some outdoor sex act which the legal system at that time and place considered illegal. You want to imply that the fact the police caught you with your trousers down was not because you do it very often but because you "had a moment of madness" and you were very unlucky. You also don't want your political/acting/religious career ruined, so you have to pretend it was somehow an accident.
There you have it then, two situations where the "moment of madness" defence crops up. Can we note, then, that for the second of these sets of legal cases, nobody gets hurt. In fact, most of the participants in the situations seemed, at least to an extent, engaged in consensual acts. Whereas nobody volunteers to be run over by a bus at the bearpit, or head-butted by a complete stranger.

Either way, it's become a bit of a cliche. Please, defence lawyers, come up with some new phrase.

(*) On the topic of independent witnesses, can we remind everyone that not only do ex-spouses turn on you, but if you are having someone pretend to be a complete stranger so as to devalue the line up evidence, remember that as covered in Ugander et al., The Anatomy of the Facebook Social Graph, it's fairly easy to determine if the pairwise distance between you and the independent witness is only one or two hops, or the you are both parts of the same clique of acquaintances. Less formally: you can't say "I have never met this person" if you keep identifying each other as friends in facebook photos.

Update: for anyone in the mainstream media who is not actually appearing in the Leveson inquiry or in a 1:1 meeting with Don Murdoch, trying to contact us -please read more than one article on this site, especially the media corner, before emailing us. You will discover that you wouldn't consider us a serious and unbiased news outlet. Which, coincidentally, is exactly how we view the television and printed news outlets. 

1 comment:

between-the-lines said...

These lawyers do seem to conflate cycling and sex for some reason ...

Clearly cycling on a public highway is a form of contributory negligence which can only incite some otherwise peacable motorists to take appropriate physical measures towards the offending tax-dodger.

Just as the normal male is led to rape by females who refuse to cover up decently.

Just as well these cyclists weren't naked as well, and thus doubly negligent, or they would have really been asking for it.