Gazette letters: Road safety and capital punishment

Cycling campaigners have staged "die-in" protests to raise the issue of road safety in London. Pictu

Cycling campaigners have staged "die-in" protests to raise the issue of road safety in London. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

This week marks the UN’s Global Road Safety Week, and it comes as a reminder that we all have a part to play when it comes to reducing the risks faced by pedestrians and all road users writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly Member for North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

The latest Transport for London (TfL) data shows that in 2017 152 people were tragically killed or seriously injured on Hackney's streets. The pain and distress suffered by families cannot be overstated. With the right interventions and level of ambition, we can save lives. This is why TfL is implementing its Vision Zero for London plan which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from our transport network by 2041.

The plan focuses on introducing lower speed limits across the capital, improving safety at junctions and imposing more rigorous standards on some of the most dangerous vehicles such as buses and HGVs.

However, as a community, it also falls to us to remain vigilant when using the roads and to reflect more often on the risks we pose to others, as well as educating the next generation of Londoners.

I am writing having read the news flashback 60 years ago in the Gazette which concerned the execution by hanging of Ronald Marwood for the murder of a police officer in December 1958, writes Mr J E Kirby, Clissold Crescent, Stoke Newington.

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I can remember this quite well as I lived in Huntington Street at the time and would have been around 11-years-old. At the time I believe that many people sentenced to death had their sentence commuted to a long term of imprisonment but in this case, ie the murder of a police officer or a prison officer in the course of their duty meant that the death sentence was upheld.

I have thought long and hard about this over the years and must admit that I do not support the bringing back of the death penalty, indeed, I believe this is why the last public hangman resigned from the job as he felt that hanging people didn't solve anything.

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Whether in today's climate where we see every day reports of people being killed and stabled this does make me wonder if, when the people who do had the threat of capital punishment hanging over them, would think twice/three times about taking a weapon out with them. I just don't know.

What I do know is that if this penalty was in force today that the public hangman would be working overtime in hanging these people. I do feel that there may well have been miscarriages of justice that happened, for instance, if we take the Craig and Bentley case. If this happened today, I don't doubt that the mental age of Derek Bentley would be taken into consideration.

Craig was too young to be hanged as he was under 18, Derek Bentley was in his 20s but had a mental age of about 11 or 12 so possibly today he would not have been hanged.

Having said that, today of course we have DNA analysis which can prove a person's guilt or indeed innocence. For instance, there was a great outcry about the Deadman's Hill murder and execution of James Hanratty at Bedford jail for this. A few years ago his remains were exhumed and DNA taken from his remains matched deposits on the woman's clothes who survived this crime and proved that he was the guilty person.

By all means, jail a person for a crime and if later evidence is found that they are innocent then they can be pardoned and recompensed for time served, unfortunately, once a person has been hanged, you can't dig them up and say "Sorry old chap, we made a mistake", you can't bring them back, even a posthumous pardon can't do anything for them or their families.

There is no easy solution to reducing crime. There are of course many factors to be taken into consideration but I do feel that not seeing the local police officer on the beat on foot who got to know his or her patch and got to know who was up to what and also knew the people is missed.

It would generally be a good idea to have "boots on the ground" to coin a military phrase.

Is there any chance bus drivers could be told to stop trying to get people who are cycling lawfully out of the way by frightening them? writes Anita Frizzarin (60, cyclist in London for 36 years), Wedmore Gardens, Archway.

I've witnessed two rather unpleasant episodes this week. On one occasion, the driver that was just starting his shift, before boarding the bus shouted at a man who happened to be cycling past, and both drivers (the one who shouted at the cyclist and the one who was ending his shift) then had a laugh together; what the man on the bike felt we don't know, but I doubt he found the situation funny.

On another occasion, a driver of a bus beeped and signalled to a girl on a bike to get out of the way; the terrified girl went on the pavement with her bike.

Both cyclists were cycling normally and lawfully.

I know from experience how concentrated you need to be when cycling on London roads, as it is impossible to know which driver will try to push you out of the way or run you over. But now bus drivers as well?

Are bus drivers authorised to treat people on bikes as if they are rubbish in the way?

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