Civil Law vs Criminal Law

Rebecca was riding her motorcycle in Falkirk back in October 2013. She had entered the Lauriston roundabout and was established with the intention of taking the second exit when a van failed to give way and collided with her. The point of impact was the front offside of the van.

The driver of the van admitted fault at the scene and was very apologetic.

The police attended and charged the driver with “Careless Driving” under Section 3 Road Traffic Act 1988. This Section states, “If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.”

Motorcycle Law Scotland proceeded to represent Rebecca for her civil claim for compensation. As a result of the collision, she sustained soft tissue injuries to her left ankle and foot as well as her neck. She required physiotherapy for over a year before her symptoms subsided.

Despite the charges against the driver and his admission of fault at the scene, he denied liability to his insurance company and they were unwilling to deal with our client’s claim until the outcome of the criminal court hearing.

The burden of proof in civil cases is substantially lower and is dealt with on a balance of probabilities.

We therefore proceeded to raise a Sheriff Court action against the driver and his insurance company.

Within a month of the civil claim being raised in Court, a formal offer of £4,300 was put forward and this was accepted.

While this was all ongoing, Rebecca had been called to attend Falkirk Sheriff Court for the Criminal hearing on seven occasions.

On her final visit, Rebecca was told by the Procurator Fiscal that it would be too difficult to prove the careless driving charge and therefore the case was no longer going ahead.

This matter had been dragged out for 17 months.

With any criminal case in Scotland, a person cannot be convicted of a crime if there is only one piece of evidence pointing towards their guilt. There needs to be corroboration. This means there has to be at least two different and independent sources of evidence in support of each crucial fact before an accused can be convicted of a crime.

In this instance, Rebecca’s evidence would count as one and the vehicle damage to both her motorcycle and the van would support her version of events.

Under the Highway Code rule 185, it states “you should give priority to vehicles approaching from the right.” Furthermore, at rule 187 it advises motorist to “watch out for and give plenty of room to motorcyclists.”

In this case, the van driver had failed to adhere to the rules of the road yet after 17 months the case against him was simply dismissed.

Rebecca was able to seek recompense through the Civil Court system and has now been compensated for her ordeal. However, this is yet another example of how the criminal system can let people down.

The whole criminal procedure had taken so long that she was simply glad to put it all behind her and move on but there was of course an element of frustration with her experience of the criminal justice system.

On the other hand, Motorcycle Law Scotland was able to claim the compensation that she was entitled to through the Civil Court system and she was delighted with the outcome.


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