Thursday, 7 June 2012

More on sentencing: R v Zeeshan - a turning point?

On May 30th Anjum Zeeshan was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court to 9 months imprisonment and a two year driving ban following his conviction by a jury of causing death by careless driving.  Zeeshan's victim was John Austin who was cycling in the same direction on his bicycle.  Zeeshan ran into the cyclist from behind in broad daylight.  He claimed not to have seen Mr Austin before colliding with him, blaming the sunlight and even suggesting (without a shred of evidence) that Mr Austin had come off the pavement.  In fact, as the Judge pointed out, Zeeshan obscured his own vision by travelling much too close to the car in front.

It is fair to say that with an immediate custodial sentence, Zeeshan was not treated with the degree of leniency that had become all too common-place.  (Look under 'Sentence' here and you will note that he was treated more like the cyclist Darren Hall, than like the motorist Matthew Rice).  Should Zeeshan appeal against his sentence, any such appeal would form a useful opportunity for the Court of Appeal to repair the damage done in Rice.  Of course, the ban could usefully be longer but this case is at least a step towards that which British Cycling with the backing of The Times are seeking to achieve, namely justice for the victims of bad driving.

One might think that Zeeshan did not have much of a defence.  Oddly at his first trial in February, a jury had failed to reach a verdict which resulted in the need for a re-trial.  Those responsible for selecting charges and bringing prosecutions should note that if they select the right charge and have the right evidence, juries will almost invariably (in the end) bring in a just verdict.


  1. It's hard to say it's a turning point until we see more like this. A less-bad-than-usual outcome.

    As usual though, the defence try the "it will hurt his business or family to be jailed or disqualified". How often does that plea get used in other manslaughter cases?

  2. Martin, what are you thoughts on this sentence when compared to that given to Laura Johnson (2 years) for driving some looters around in her car during the London riots? I realise that the charges are brought under different sections of the law, but it seems like had she run over and killed a cyclist, then this would be perceived by the law as a lesser offence.

    1. I do not think there can be any sensible doubt that the law takes rioting far more seriously than road danger. I understand not a single offender caught up in the riots was cautioned, notwithstanding the 'gravity factors matrix' which is often used as a justification for not prosecuting in other contexts. Tough sentencing has also been apparent. There is little that worries the Establishment as much as the breakdown in law and order involved in rioting.

  3. 9 months for killing somebody is ridiculously lenient. What would the penalty in the Netherlands be I wonder?