A curious article popped up on my Facebook page this morning. It was link to Sussex police, asking members of the public to help them in keeping an unlicenced driver off the road. Ben Botting of Crawley has been caught on three separate occasions since December driving a car without a licence. On at least 2 of those occasions the car appears to have been fraudulently registered to a fake name and address. Botting has been fined, and the cars taken away and crushed, yet still the police feel the need to ask members of the public to be on the look out for him.
True enough that driving a car without a licence is not, in and of itself, a very serious crime. No one is inconvenienced or harmed by it provided no accident happens. A fine and a stern warning is probably the appropriate sanction for a first offence. However to have been caught three times in 6 months shows that Botting has a complete and utter disregard for the law in this area. It also raises the question of what else he is doing with these cars, registered to a bogus address and presumably bought dirt cheap (they haven't even made Ford Sierras for over 20 years).
The police aren't everywhere, and they tend to stop cars that are being driven erratically or at speed. There's no indication that Botting was doing so on any of the occasions when he was stopped, and it's quite possible that he was picked up by a number plate recognition system or a keen eyed policeman running a spot check. However it is equally possible, and to me seems more probable, that this man routinely ignores the law. In his estimation of the likelihood and consequences of getting caught he believes it is worth his while to drive a car with no licence. And he's been proved right. At the 3rd time of convicting him, he has been given another fine, which he probably won't pay and been told not to do it again.
I imagine he will one day find his way to prison. The question is what level of disregard for the law does he need to display to do this? Does he need to wreck someone else's car, in one of his uninsured bangers? Does he need to injure or kill someone?
This is utterly pathetic, and no way at all to run a country. The whole purpose of having a penal system is to keep dangerous offenders off the streets where they can not harm innocent members of the public, and to provide a disincentive to offend in the first place. Our impotent and cowardly refusal to use it has ensured that this has failed on both counts and is putting lives at risk, as well as sending out a signal to anyone else weighing up the costs and benefits of adhering to the law that it doesn't really matter.
If Ben Botting were to spend even the next 6 months in prison then it is guaranteed that he won't be driving around in unroadworthy, uninsured cars, causing a danger to other road users and their property during that time, and it's quite possible that he will think a bit more carefully about doing it in future if he knows that the law has actual teeth and if provoked repeatedly will bite.