Sentencing

The Risks of "doing lifts"

The risks of “doing lifts”

The Times as recently highlighted the dangers of “doing lifts” , a social media trend where people with cars are connected to those looking for a lift somewhere - for an agreed fee. Sound familiar? Yes - it’s effectively a cab service.

The report can be found here.

The Times’ reported, that “18 Facebook groups with a total of more than 50,000 members where people advertised or sought “lifts” for cash from drivers without taxi or private hire licenses. Many lifts drivers are students and others are in their teens or twenties. They ferry people to and from clubs and house parties, taking their highest earnings on New Year’s Eve…Drivers and passengers often claim that licensed taxis are too expensive or are unavailable on busy nights but the police warn that clients risk travelling in unsafe or uninsured cars with drivers who could be sexual predators”.

There is some discourse around whether payment is for petrol and running costs, or whether it represents profits. Where a profit is made, there is a question of whether the driver is taxi touting / plying for hire. Where a driver is generating a profit from the trip this may also invalidate the car insurance policy.

But is it legal?

It is likely that the practice of “doing lifts” in the way described is unlawful. The question here is whether there is an illegal taxi service in operation.

There is no law against taking payment for fuel used - but you must be properly licensed to drive passengers in return for a fare.

The big issue here is public safety given the traveling public are getting lifts from strangers who are completely unscreened.

Drivers caught providing “lifts” in return for a fare are likely to be prosecuted and face a hefty fine and criminal record.

If you have any queries arising from this article, you can get in touch via contact@crimelawyer.co.uk.

Arson

Arson is a confusing area of the law as there are a number of different offences to consider.

What are the different offences?

 1.    Simple arson;

2.    Arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered;

3.    Arson with intent to endanger life.

Simple arson

This offence is one of causing criminal damage by fire; examples would be setting fire to a car in a field or to commercial premises. The offence is always treated very seriously and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Sentencing

Minor damage could be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court with a possible Community Order. More significant damage would be dealt with at the Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In most cases custody cannot be ruled out.

Reckless arson

This recklessness is not to be confused with setting the fire recklessly. The offence is that you are reckless as to whether life is endangered. Examples would be setting fire to a flat in a communal block or on an aircraft.

Sentencing

This aggravated offence will only be dealt with in the Crown Court and also carries a potential life imprisonment.

Sentences have included 42 months for setting fire to a flat and 9 1/2 years for setting fires on an aircraft.

Minor cases can be dealt with by a non-custodial sentence, but the Court of Appeal has said that immediate custody is the most appropriate sentence absent exceptional circumstances. The court went on to refer to mental health issues possibly being such a circumstance.

Arson with intent

Again, this is not an intent to set the fire but an intent to endanger life in doing so. It may be that it is clear whether there was intent or recklessness, but where it is not, it is likely that you will be charged with both offences as alternatives.

Sentencing

Arson with intent also carries a potential life imprisonment and can only be dealt with at the Crown Court.

In Attorney General’s Reference (No 68 of 2008) (Myrie) [2008] EWCA Crim 3188 the Court observed that sentencing arson cases is not by any means an easy exercise, with “the obvious observation that arson cases are very much fact specific”.  However, “…it seems to us that the starting point for arson with intent to endanger life is in the range of eight to 10 years (that would of course be following a trial); and in cases involving reckless arson, we would regard the range as rather below that, but it is apparent to us that the dividing line between the worst cases of reckless arson and the least serious cases of arson with intent to endanger life is a fine one.”

Examples of sentences are six years for a defendant who set fire to the bedroom where her husband was sleeping, and seven years for setting fire to a house containing six people.

 

Contact me on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk) to discuss any criminal law related matter. 

Health & Safety

The Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") is the national regulator for workplace health and safety.

Interestingly, on its website, there is a page for debunking health and safety myths (click here), such as the one where flags were banned from civic cars for “health and safety”, or the removal of alcohol from a workplace Christmas party.

So, what do they do?

 The HSE “mission” is to prevent work-related death, injury and ill-health. They concentrate on the most serious risks, targeting industries with the greatest hazards and sectors with the worst risk management records. They provide free guidance and advice, inspect premises and investigate when things go wrong.

What powers do they have?

They can inspect premises, speak to relevant people, observe workplace activities, check whether risk controls are effective and identify any breaches. In doing so, they can consider taking enforcement action and investigate any potential offences.

What is enforcement action?

They can provide advice, serve notices, withdraw approval or vary licences, conditions or exemptions. More seriously they can issue cautions or prosecute. If you do breach any regulations you can be made to pay for the time it takes the HSE to help you to put the breach right.

Investigations

The HSE will investigate serious work-related incidents, injuries or cases of ill-health, in line with its incident selection criteria, as they do not investigate everything that is reported to them. Cases can be brought against corporate bodies and in some cases individuals as well.

What sentence could you get?

There aren’t any specific sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences other than corporate manslaughter although they are likely to come under general offence guidelines that are currently being consulted upon.

Recent cases

Air Liquide (UK) Ltd was fined £160,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Members of their emergency response team were appropriately dressed to dispose of redundant gas bottles; however, one was dropped spilling highly hazardous fluid to the floor. Vapour drifted to 2 unprotected workers affecting one so severely he collapsed to the floor.

Bartram Manufacturing Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £82,000. A forklift truck reversed into a stack of roof trusses which fell onto an employee causing multiple fractures.

WE Rawson Ltd was fined £600,000 for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. An employee died following crush injuries received when he attempted to free a stuck package from a packaging machine. The HSE found the company failed to take measures to prevent access to the danger zone between the moving conveyers.

Simon Thomerson of Clearview Design and Construction Ltd was jailed for eight months following the death of two labourers employed by him when they were involved in an explosive fire within a work unit. He pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

How can I help?

Even though a case may be investigated by the HSE rather than the police, you can still be under investigation for criminal offences that can lead to imprisonment or very substantial fines for companies.

You need expert advice from the outset which we can provide. To discuss any aspect of your case, please contact me on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk). 

 

Sentencing guidelines for Intimidatory Offences published

The Sentencing Council has published new definitive guidelines for intimidatory offences today, covering harassment, stalking, disclosing private sexual images, controlling or coercive behaviour, and threats to kill.

The Sentencing Council has issued the following press release:

"Until now, there has only been very limited guidance in this area of offending. There has been some for magistrates’ courts on harassment and threats to kill, but publication of the new guidelines marks the first time that there has been guidance produced for stalking, for disclosing private sexual images and controlling & coercive behaviour.

The new guidelines, introduced following a public consultation, will therefore provide judges and magistrates in England and Wales with consistent and comprehensive guidance when sentencing these related offences.

The offence of disclosing private sexual images, commonly known as revenge porn, was introduced in 2015. The guidelines reflect the particularly unpleasant and intrusive nature of this offence, acknowledging that any offence of this type can cause very serious distress to the victim.

By their nature, these offences involve an offender aiming to cause distress, but the guidelines identify some of the factors that make these offences particularly serious. This includes aiming to maximise distress and humiliation, significant planning, such as setting up fake social media profiles to post the images, and inviting comment and contact, which could result in abuse and sexualised contact from strangers.  As a result of the consultation, the Council included an additional factor that would show high culpability on the part of the offender of “repeated efforts to keep images available for viewing”. This was added to reflect the nature of online offending as some offenders repost images online many times after websites take them down.

The offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship also came into force in 2015, aiming to give more protection to victims experiencing repeated or continuous abuse. Coercive and controlling behaviour can be characterised by an abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or taking part in activities, denying them access to money and controlling aspects of everyday life such as what they can wear, what they can eat and where they can go.

The guideline reflects the nature of this kind of offending and the impact it can have on the victim to ensure an effective and consistent approach to sentencing.

The guideline identifies factors that should be taken into account when assessing the seriousness of an offence. A high level of seriousness would be indicated by factors such as conduct intended to humiliate and degrade the victim, persistent action over a prolonged period and significant psychological harm.

As a result of the consultation, the Council also added a new aggravating factor of “victim left in debt, destitute or homeless due to exploitation of finances” since this was highlighted as an effect of these offences when an offender controls the victim’s access to their money.

The guideline for stalking and harassment comprises entirely new guidance on stalking and significantly expanded guidance for harassment offences. It highlights the main factors that should be taken into account in assessing the seriousness of an offence, such as the level of planning and sophistication, how persistent it was and the level of distress and psychological harm caused to the victim. Aggravating factors include using a position of trust to facilitate the offence, sending grossly violent or offensive material to the victim and the impact of offending on others, such as children.

The guidelines are not intended to alter sentencing practice in the types or levels of sentence given, but they do reflect recent legislative changes that doubled the maximum sentences for stalking and harassment from five years to 10 and from seven to 14 years for the aggravated form of these offences – that is, when they are racially or religiously aggravated. Offenders falling into the very highest category of seriousness are likely to receive higher sentences as a result of the new legislation which the guidelines reflect.

Sentencing Council member Judge Rosa Dean said: “Our guidelines recognise and reflect the very intimate, personal and intrusive nature of these offences, which can have devastating, often long-term impacts on victims and their families. They will provide courts with comprehensive guidance that will help ensure sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences.”

The guideline, which can be accessed on the Sentencing Council website will be used in courts from 1 October 2018"

New Drugs Sentencing Guidance Issued

Sentencing of drug offences involving newer and less common drugs

The Sentencing Council has now issued new guidance on 25 June 2018, with the following statement:

"Since publication of the Drug Offences guideline in 2012, there has been an increase in the number of cases before the courts involving newer drugs, such as synthetic opioids, which may have much higher potency and potential to cause harm than more common drugs. In addition, some new offences have been created, for example, those in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

We have therefore published guidance on the sentencing of offences involving newer and less common drugs, in particular covering how to assess the harm caused. This guidance does not carry the same authority as a sentencing guideline, and sentencers are not obliged to follow it. However, we hope that sentencers will find it useful in assisting them to deal with these cases.

The Council published an assessment of the current Drug Offences guideline on 1 June, and has now started work to revise the guideline. We will consult on a revised draft guideline in due course, and consultation documents will be available on our consultation pages".