Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Death driving plague ruins another family

On one of the most beautiful days of the year, a young woman walked from her home in north Belfast on an errand. A short time later she was dead, struck down by the driver of a suspected stolen car being pursued by police.

The mother-of-two joins a long list of people who have been killed by those who steal vehicles and drive them at high speed around built-up areas. Once commonly referred to as joyriders, their more apt description is death drivers.

The plague of cars being stolen and driven around recklessly seems to have been with us for decades. And in spite of the many initiatives attempted, it is a crime that is resistant to eradication.

Even during the Troubles, when drivers of stolen cars often encountered heavily armed security roadblocks, the incidents scarcely diminished.

It is often seen as a crime committed by young people who eventually grow out of it, but sadly they are succeeded by another generation and so the death driving continues.

The advent of social media has given some of these criminals new platforms to perform on and videos of cars being driven at high speed around narrow streets while the occupants are cheered on by watching crowds of young people are commonplace.

Yet, as happened yesterday, the potential for tragedy is omnipresent. The unfortunate woman who was killed could have been anyone, as the car struck a number of vehicles as well as her. Indeed, it is fortunate that more people were not injured or killed.

The incident has now been referred to the Police Ombudsman because the PSNI was involved, but that merely shows the dilemma facing officers in cases where they spot a stolen vehicle being driven around.

Do they attempt to chase down the criminals and risk a high speed pursuit, or do they use some surveillance method to apprehend the drivers later?

Police are often criticised for failing to respond to calls about stolen vehicles, but they have to judge every case on its merits and take appropriate action.

The courts also come in for criticism as there is a public perception that those who steal cars are engaged in some sort of legal merry-go-round - apprehended, appear in court, bailed and repeat offend.

But there is a certainly a public appetite for severe sentences for those who injure or kill other people while driving a stolen car. In the meantime, a partner and two children are left bereft and grieving.

Belfast Telegraph

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