Reform the unfair defence of automatism for dangerous driving

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Decision Maker: ​Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
​​​The Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP

On 10th January 2018 Katelyn Dawson, a 15 year old girl, was killed and two other people were very badly injured when a BMW mounted the pavement at speed and crashed into a group of pedestrians waiting at a bus stop. Katelyn was an amazingly talented dancer and had a larger than life personality. She was funny, generous, loving and stood up for what she believed was right. She was a gorgeous girl who was much loved by her family and friends. Her sudden and tragic death has had a devastating impact on everyone who knew her, and also the wider community.

Following a lengthy police investigation, the CPS decided not to prosecute the driver. The driver claimed he had a fainting episode and would use the defence of automatism if prosecuted. Automatism as a defence is based on the notion that the crime was committed as the result of an involuntary act. Even though there is sufficient evidence to show that the driver was driving dangerously prior to the crash, the CPS have accepted the defence of automatism. Katelyn’s devastated family asked for a review of the decision under the Victim Right to Review Scheme. However, the CPS upheld the decision and the driver will not be prosecuted.

The driver who killed Katelyn should not simply be able to dust himself off without the facts being properly thrashed out in court. There should be proper scrutiny of whether the driver could have foreseen the fainting episode, whether there were any signs of the fainting episode, and whether anything could have been done to avoid the catastrophic crash. Katelyn’s family have been badly let down by the justice system. Other families are also being badly let down. There are other cases where dangerous drivers have got away with killing people because they are using this defence.
The defence of automatism should not be a get out of jail free card for those that drive dangerously and cause the death of innocent people. To stop this happening the justice system needs to change. We are calling on the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice to reform the defence of automatism in relation to dangerous driving. Please support our petition – not just for Katelyn but for all past and future victims who need justice to be served and not evaded.

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