District court judges were back in class this week for a one-day online seminar on how sentencing can serve as an effective deterrent to road fatalities.
The seminar, organised by the supreme court’s reform and training department in view of Cyprus’ new road safety strategic plan for 2021-2030, was the first of a series aiming to contribute to efforts to stem the bloodshed on the roads.
Welcoming participants, head of the judges’ school Yiorgos Erotocritou said handing down the appropriate sentence is considered one of the most difficult tasks facing judges because of the many factors that must be taken into consideration.
Sentences cannot on their own reduce fatal road accidents, and the state should therefore give the courts additional tools, he said.
University of Cyprus professor Andreas Kapardis said the two main reasons for road fatalities were speeding and careless driving. Third on the list was alcohol. Supreme Court judge Nicolas Santis noted that one possible option, that rests with parliament, was increasing maximum penalties. He also highlighted the need for the state to turn attention to prevention and not just punishing violations. This will require cooperation between state institutions, family and schools, he said.
Oxford University professor Julian Roberts spoke on how sentencing can operate as a deterrent, and the remaining elements that must co-exist to achieve this. He also outlined the guidelines implemented in England ad Wales as regards sentencing, especially for fatal traffic accidents. He made special reference to the R v Gard case where a driver with a prior offence was jailed for 10 years for his involvement in a fatal accident, as he was sending a text message on his mobile.