What’s prompted me to write this?
Well…a few things have happened recently, and that’s triggered a whole chain of thoughts.
The most recent event was catching up with family and having a discussion about the allegations made against certain celebrities. Some of us were convinced that the accused were guilty because of what the accusers had said, the alleged timeline, the similarities between given accounts, the fact that these celebrities did things that weren’t normal and shouldn’t be accepted as such. Others were silent or felt we couldn’t be adamant about their guilt or innocence, one way or another. Funnily enough, the same discussion came up with a friend the night before.
The other event is a bit closer to home. I was reversing out of a parking space and another car was reversing perpendicular to my car. Both cars collided. We both got out of the car, checked both vehicles, wiped the potentially damaged areas with a cloth to see if it was paint transfer or more than that and discussed the insurance etc. A few weeks later, we got a letter in the post saying that the other driver can’t sleep, is feeling sick and is suffering from headaches. They are also saying that their car was stationary when my car collided with it! There was someone in the passenger seat of the other car. Now I wonder if they are going to be a false witness too! I didn’t have anyone with me. If anyone witnessed it, I am unaware of them. So now what? Luckily for me, I have a dashcam, which recorded the entire thing. It shows that the other car wasn’t stationary and so on. But what if there was no recording? What would happen then?
The legal system
For the longest time, I haven’t had much faith in the legal system, mainly because every single part of the process involves humans. The witnesses, the person who takes the statement, the solicitors, the jury, the magistrate or judge and so on. So you may be wondering if I think it should all be done by robots! No I don’t, but I am all too aware of how humans can be manipulated, that we have our own prejudices which drive the way we think, and we’re often unaware of them and how influential they are, and that we can never have all the facts, even when we think something is a dead cert, it often isn’t!
I understand that there needs to be some type of system to deter people from doing things that we deem illegal and to prevent those who we believe to be guilty, from doing it again. Although I don’t think the current system is anywhere near accurate, I don’t have a better alternative in mind. This feeling left me stuck and frustrated for a long time. I’ve found a way to make my peace with it now, but I’ll leave that for another article.
Why I got a dashcam fitted…
Back in 2010, I was driving down a residential road when someone reversed out of their drive and collided with my car.
I stopped and rolled the window down to check that the other driver was OK, but before I had a chance to do that, all these people started appearing from different directions. A man came from across the road and started taking photos of the collision. He seemed to know the driver. Someone appeared on the pavement behind me and was shouting ‘didn’t you see her’ or something like that. She added ‘it shows how fast you were going.’ Someone carrying a child came from around the corner and started shouting ‘what if it (meaning the car) was a child!?’ The other driver then said ‘didn’t you see me?’ I thought I should get out of the road, so I started driving away to park the car and the one with the child then shouted ‘Oi, where are you going!’ As you can imagine, it was a lot to take in and very surreal!
I approached the other driver but the one with the child came towards me and said ‘can I have your details?’ She said ‘I’m her friend, so I’m taking them for her’
I remember saying ‘I know you’re shaken up but are you OK?’ The driver replied with ‘What if it was a child?’ I tried to persist and check if she needed an ambulance but she said something about being at home and thus not needing one.
Going to court
All of this continued in the same way. There was lots of drama and I was sued and taken to court. The case was heard in the Magistrates Chambers. The Barrister was confident that it would go in my favour as the fault was clearly the other drivers. He couldn’t have been more wrong!
The other driver claimed that she had reversed onto the road, was stationary, and was in the process of checking her rear before driving on, when she saw me speeding from the top of the road before I collided into her vehicle. The Magistrate believed her, lay all of the fault in my lap, made me cover her expenses to take time off work for the case, the repairs, the legal fees and so on.
Disbelief and shock
I couldn’t believe it! She pulled it off! She and her Barrister presented a completely false account of events and the Magistrate was somehow blindsided by the case they put forward and I was labelled as the guilty party.
I spoke to my solicitor afterwards. The solicitors for either side weren’t at the hearing. The solicitor said that by the time she got the message that they were thinking about settling but both Barristers didn’t agree and that it was going to court, it was too late. If she had known, she would have told us to settle because you can never tell how it will go in court. Apparently, parties often discuss and agree to settlements in the court before the case is heard. I think the other party proposed something and my Barrister rejected it because he was confident we would do better with the Magistrate. After hearing the judgement, he was mortified and said he had never experienced anything like it. He said we should have ‘won’ but if not, the liability should have been split, rather than, me being blamed for the entirety of it.
This also made me realise that I was wrong when I assumed that people must be guilty if they settle out of court, because they would fight for the truth, if innocent.
Why did the Magistrate make that decision?
To be honest, who knows?!
- maybe he had stuff going on and wasn’t his usual centered, objective self?
- perhaps he didn’t like the look of me and thought I was lying
- maybe he thought the other driver looked like the sort who wouldn’t lie
- was he under pressure to come to a decision quickly and therefore rushed it without really thinking?
- maybe someone nearly collided with his car when he was reversing out of a drive and he thought they were wreckless
I could go on thinking about what may or may not have caused him to rule in her favour, but what’s the point? Will it serve me? Will it change the decision? Will it compensate me in any way for the time, money and energy spent before, during and after the case?
Going back to the title: when we’re sure we have all the facts and make a judgement based on that, it’s dangerous…
I knew the truth about the accident in 2010, the Barrister was sure we would win, but we didn’t.
I know the truth about the more recent accident and yet, wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, were it not for the dashcam. The assessor may have concluded any of the following:
- she’s a female reversing so it was probably her fault
- it’s his word against hers and he’s white so…
- she was reversing out a parking space so it’s her fault no matter what
- she’s had a number of accidents before, so it must be her fault
- women are easily distracted and men are better drivers so…
Of course, assessors are supposed to be objective and have no bias at all. They are meant to treat each case individually and disregard statistics and what they experience through all the claims they assess. At the end of the day, they are human…
Also, I assume that they would want claims closed sooner rather than later, to save on costs and utilise ‘manpower’ especially when they’re inundated with claims.
So allegations…when we hear stories and accusations about abuse, violence, theft or anything else, can we be sure about whether they’re innocent or guilty? Can we even be close to certain?
A few questions for us all to ponder on
- What constitutes clear evidence?
- How can we be sure of who’s guilty and who isn’t?
- Should intentions matter?
- If so, how can we work out if someone did something intentionally or not?