100% Biker 208

100% Biker 208
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I didn’t know Andy Cochrane. But I’ve not found anyone who has a bad word to say about him; rather, there are stories of what a thoroughly good guy he was, of his kindness and his humour, his love for his wife and partner of 30 years, Julie, and their two teenage daughters, of his bikes from chops to sports bikes. The word that people use most in describing him is ‘legend’. No, I never knew Andy Cochrane, although I would have liked to. Now I never will.

On 23rd June 2015, Andy was killed when the driver of a white Vauxhall Vivaro van pulled out of a side road into his path. Andy wasn’t speeding, there was a clear line of sight for 250 yards leading up to the junction. The police would later report that the only contributing factor to the collision was the van driver’s actions. 

For those actions, the driver was given a 3-month suspended prison sentence, 150 hours of community service and banned from driving. For a year. The punishment for causing the death of another human being appears to have been akin to that of shoplifting and, because the defendant pled guilty, it was dealt with by the local magistrates’ court, that tier of British justice more generally used to dealing with vandals, disorderly drunks and minor driving offences. A magistrates’ court can also only impose a maximum of 12 months’ custody. Perhaps I may seem cynical, but it is in the interests of a defendant charged in such a case as this to plead guilty in the knowledge that the penalties that can be imposed upon him or her by this court are limited.

Yes, accidents happen. There is not one of us who cannot say that we’ve not been involved in an incident, however minor, that, in hindsight, we could have prevented. But, as members of society, we also need to take responsibility for the consequences of those actions, however unplanned or regretted they may be. Right now, as Andy’s story—and those of too many motorcyclists across the country—demonstrates, the legal system is actually eroding rather than enforcing that moral responsibility. 

Andy’s family, led by his 82-year-old mother, Theodora, is spearheading a campaign to ensure that no other grieving families are faced with the extra devastation and insult of seeing the person responsible for the death of a loved one punished by what amounts to nothing more than a legal slap on the risk. They have started a petition at change.org to have every death as a result of careless or inconsiderate driving or lapse of concentration regarded as falling not far short of dangerous driving according to the Road Traffic Act 1998, and each case automatically referred to Crown Court for trial and sentence. Even in their grief, the Cochrane family is not calling for Draconian sentencing proposals.  Instead, they believe that the minimum sentence, even in the face of a Guilty plea, should be a four year driving ban, a 12 month prison sentence suspended for four years and an advanced motorists’ course followed by a full driving test before a driving licence is reissued. 

Please, sign the petition at www.change.org/p/theo-justice-for-andy. It will only take a moment of your time, and you have that moment. Andy doesn’t.