The Shame

While I was writing yesterday’s post I was reminded of a very sad call some years ago.

An elderly gentleman had been out driving. For some reason, best known to him, he decided to execute a U-turn in the middle of a major road. During the manoeuver another car came shooting round the corner and ploughed into him. No one was really hurt. A bit shaken and stirred perhaps. I can’t be sure, I wasn’t there. Nevertheless, as is often the case, the police were called; statements were taken and a breathalyser requested. No alcohol involved. As a parting comment, the policeman advised our gentleman that he was probably going to be “prosecuted for diving ‘without due care and attention’ “.

PROSECUTED.. Prosecuted.. prosecuted…

All the way home the word reverberated round his brain. He’d never been in trouble with the law before: no speeding fines, no parking tickets, nothing. He was devastated. Now I’ve no idea what the penalty for driving ‘without due care and attention’ is likely to be, perhaps our friend Bystander could enlighten us. To this gentleman however, being prosecuted meant ‘going to jail’. How would he cope? How would his wife cope without him? How could he endure the shame in front of his family and friends? It was more than he could bear. That evening, he did what he felt any self-respecting English gentleman would do in such a situation; he retired to the garage, took down the step ladder, found a length of rope…

and hanged himself from the rafters!

And that’s where I came in. Luckily he was hopeless at knots. He ended up face down, flat on the concrete floor. A broken nose, a few loose teeth, lots of bumps and bruises and his pride in tatters. In the back of the bus he shamefully told me what had happened. I tried to console him. I explained that at worst it’ll probably mean a fine, a few points on his licence and, at worse, a small article on page 26 of the local ‘rag’. “No one would ever know”. “It could happen to anyone”.

I pass his house quite often. It’s not far from where I used to live. It went up for sale not long afterwards. I do hope he managed to come to terms with what happened. I pray he didn’t try again.

This call always reminds me of how the most innocent of comments can be devastating to someone who doesn’t understand what’s happening. We need to be so aware of everything we say, no matter how innocent.

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7 Responses to The Shame

  1. Greg says:

    Wow. I hope he is OK now.

  2. Happystance says:

    Good grief! I can understand that most of the time the police must be dealing with people who are more knowledgeable about the consequences, but I might have hoped that they might be slightly more aware of the sensibilities of an older person who had never been ‘in trouble with the law’ before. I think that my grandfather might have had a similar reaction, particularly when he was in the earlier stages of beginning to lose some of his cognitive powers.

    There is a lot of ridicule attached to sensitivity training, but incidents like this explain why it can be so necessary. There’s a pre-employment training unit in Birmingham that works with people with learning disabilities. I don’t know if it is still running, but there used to be a programme where trainee constables spent some time there, learning how to work with and talk with the people who attended the unit. This was very successful for all the parties involved.

  3. Merys Jones says:

    Jeez that’s nasty. It’s funny how even the slightest little thing can be deemed as driving without due care and attention. It’s why I shall be driving incredibly safely until I decide if I shall be joining the ambulance service (can’t risk the points!)

  4. Sal says:

    Sorry, but as a bobby, there’s no way to sugarcoat something like that – there’s not a nice way of telling someone that they are going to be prosecuted. We also aren’t in a position to sit and explain what the probable outcomes of any such prosecution will be – more than my job is worth to say ‘don’t worry, it’ll just be some points on your licence and maybe a fine’ particularly in the current climate where some of the judges and magistrates are completely out of touch with reality and, frankly, a bit barmy. These are the folk who jail pensioners for protesting over council tax and let violent criminals off with a slap on the wrist.

  5. hwitcomb says:

    Great job guys… Thank for you work…

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  7. aran says:

    Well i have recently lost all my respect for the police in my area and now feel that because i live in a low crime area the police are just plainly looking for nicks and this driving without due care and attention is just another crime that will earn the police more bonuses, i will not be helping the police in any further enquires as i feel i have not been treated well i was in an accident that could have happened to anyone and im being presecuted for driving without due care and attention its ridiculas i feel like a criminal im the son of a vicar and never been in trouble with the law before.

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