There are similarities in the tragic violent deaths of Lavna Chuttoo and Bailey Gwynne
- Both were teenagers either on their way to school or at school
- Both killers did not intend to kill their victims
- Both killers were in possession of weapons whose main use is not to inflict harm
- Both killings were investigated by multiple agencies
There are some striking difference however in what happened after the two killings:
- One killer was tried, convicted and sentenced to nine years in detention; the other was not even charged
- The hearing of one case lasted five days; the hearing of the other lasted less than one hour
- National media conducted their own investigations in the circumstances leading to one killing; national media totally ignored the other.
- The multi-agency investigation of one of the killings looked to establish whether there were “wider issues for the whole of Scotland”; the investigation of the other killing just looked at possible interventions at the site of the killing
- The investigation of one of the killing was headed by a top civil servant, “with a track record of involvement in high-profile investigations across the UK”; the other investigation was carried out by a Police Officer, obviously ignorant of International best practice.
- One investigation openly published a set of proposals; the other investigations refrained from suggesting any intervention, afraid of objections from local residents. The only way to read the latter is through a Freedom of Information request.
- A senior Government Minister promised “to look at the conclusions of the first review and report back in due course”. No Government Minister is even aware of the other killing, let alone of the investigation report.
The most striking difference is that the killing which was properly investigated was a one-off, admittedly with a troubling background of contributing factors; the killing which was not properly investigated is sadly replicated several times around the country.
The reason for this galling unfairness is the weapon used: Bailey was killed with a knife; Lavna was killed with a motor vehicle.
We have reported before of the perfunctory inquest following the death of Lavna Chattoo, who was blamed for running into a turning HGV. Following the inquest, we requested the Traffic Investigation report which was not disclosed at the Inquest.
Here is what the Investigative Officer decided:
I discussed with the officer for Neighbourhood Engineering at the Highways and Transport Department at Kingston Council the alternative of a HGV prohibition except for access; we agreed that, with the Council’s adoption of enforcement powers, would be very difficult to enforce and with the required exemption for access would make no practical difference. Furthermore it wasn’t believed that HGVs used these side roads as a short-cut because they were too narrow and busy to allow large vehicles a journey saving time over the alternative larger roads. He explained that the Council had proposed to make the road one-way a few years ago to help prevent rat-running, prevent conflict between opposing traffic and to create more space for turning movements at the junction but that the proposal had been rejected by local residents. We were unable to anticipate any alternative practicable engineering measures that would help prevent this type of collision from happening again.
The amateurism of the report is alarming. Here are a few points:
- Both officers seem to be ignorant of (or choose not to consider) the standard Danish continuous pavement treatment of side-roads. This gives visual priority to pedestrians crossing a side road and reduces the prevalent abuse of Rule 170 by British drivers
- Contrary to the report, Kingston Council is very keen of using cameras to enforce road rules, when they can make money from it.
- If Trevor Perkins wants to operate its timber yard on a road which has many school children walking to school, it should have safety staff (orange lollypop people) operating when children walk to and from school; just like all constructions sites are required to do by the HSE.
- Surely local residents are likely to reconsider their objection to making their street one-way, in light of the tragedy that struck the Chattoo family.
Sadly Lavna’s killing was not a one-off; in September this year for example Aaron Matharu, 11 was killed while walking back from school, crossing a road where another child was severely injured the year before.
We can only hope that, the new Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Will Norman will spend little time, money and effort on “promoting” active travel, and concentrate on making our roads safe for walking and cycling especially for the most vulnerable in our communities.