May 312012
 
Bike Accident Crime Scene

British Cycling, the governing body of cycling sport in the UK, is increasingly showing its political teeth on cycling policy issues. The organisation has been very visible in lobbying the government on road safety and cycle safety issues recently and is now spearheading a campaign to make the justice system fairer for cyclists and other road users who are hurt or seriously injured on the country’s roads by car and lorry drivers.

British Cycling is writing to Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice, Theresa May at the Home Office, and Justine Greening at the Department for Transport asking for a meeting to discuss a plan of action that will give cyclists and all road users confidence that the justice system is playing the role it should, to support and protect them.

Inadequate sentencing

British Cycling’s campaign for justice for cyclists has been prompted by the first anniversary of the death of keen amateur cyclist Rob Jefferies, who worked for British Cycling as a volunteer co-ordinator. Rob was on a daylight training ride near his home in Dorset with a friend when he was hit from behind and killed. The 18 year old man driving the car, who had already been caught speeding since passing his test earlier that year, was given an 18 month ban, a re-test and 200 hours of community service.

British Cycling said that Rob’s death and the handling of the case by the criminal justice system meant that the issue of sentencing and how seriously cycling deaths/collisions are treated badly needed addressing.

“We believe that the sentences given out when people are hurt or killed frequently undermine confidence in the justice system and send the wrong message about how we as a society value life and the right of people to travel safely.”

Changes to current laws

As it stands, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the courts believe they are correctly following the priorities, guidelines and laws that are currently in place. British Cycling is calling for a review of the whole system that governs how these incidents are investigated and prosecuted.

British Cycling is calling for action in the following areas:

(a) A comprehensive review of the way that the police, coroners investigate these cases. Crash investigation processes vary from force to force and coroners’ evaluation of evidence is inconsistent across the country. Victim and their families frequently find they have little or no information on how the case is proceeding and what, if any, charges are being considered and why.

(b) Review of the CPS charging standards and legal guidance to properly deal with the seriousness of incidents where road users are killed or injured. It often appears that the CPS chooses to go for inappropriately lighter charges or no charge at all.

(c) A full examination of the offences available to the CPS. The offence of causing ‘death by careless driving’ came into effect four years ago and its effectiveness should now be reviewed, in conjunction with other related offences. We believe that the threshold for the more serious ‘ causing death by dangerous driving’ offence may be too high which is contributing to a large proportion of cases being charged as ‘causing death by careless driving.’

(d) A review of the sentencing guidelines to ensure they adequately reflect the consequences of the offence. Assault cases were reviewed and extensively revised by the Sentencing Council last year to enable the courts to take greater account of the harm suffered by the victim. We believe that harm caused to road users and the impact on their families should be specifically dealt with in a similar way. The new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’ which has been recently introduced provides an opportunity to review guidelines across the suite of offences.

Lobbying

British Cycling has twice made representations to the Lord Chief Justice, President of the Sentencing Council, on the issue of sentencing this year but to date has not received a response.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has, however, shown support for British Cycling’s demand for better justice. In response to a passionate and moving question put to him by Rob Jefferies’ brother, Will, at the London mayoral hustings in March he pledged to work with the Sentencing Unit at City Hall to monitor sentences and make representations to the Ministry of Justice and the London Criminal Justice Board. British Cycling said they would be working with the Mayor to make sure that this promise was delivered on.

“It’s time for the government to engage with us on these important matters which are central to developing a safe environment that encourages people to cycle,” British Cycling stated.

“As well as meeting the senior ministers responsible for policy in this area we’ll be meeting with other politicians, key departments, other cycling and road user groups, the CPS and ACPO. We’ll be working hard to get a debate in parliament and to secure concrete commitments on policy change.”

Support

Cycling Weekly is joining forces with British Cycling as a campaigning partner with the magazine expected to mobolise support for the campaign for justice across all levels of cycling.

A range of cycling and road safety related organisations are also supporting British Cycling in their endeavours: The CTC, London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans, Ian Austin MP, the road safety charities Brake and RoadPeace, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.


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