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Case likely to put spotlight on 'careless' versus 'dangerous' driving charges...

The driver of a lorry that last year crushed a cyclist who was riding a ‘Boris Bike’ in London, leaving him with serious injuries to his head, chest and pelvis, has been fined a total of £620 and banned from driving for six months. The case is likely to bring renewed attention on the decision to charge drivers with offences relating to careless, rather than dangerous, driving.

Anthony Farmer, aged 44 and from Dagenham, was fined £420 at Highbury Magistrates Court £420 and given nine penalty points for careless driving, and a separate £200 fine for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition, reports the Camden New Journal.

According to a BBC report at the time of the incident in April 2013, which involved a male cyclist aged in his 20s who continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries, Farmer was originally arrested on suspicion of the more serious offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

That legislation creating that offence, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, came into force in May 2012 under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.

When the government confirmed in October 2011 that it planned to introduce the legislation, Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at the road safety charity Brake said: “This new offence finally means that serious injury is recognised within the title of the offence, and this recognition is vitally important to victims and their families.

“It also means that dangerous drivers who inflict serious injuries can expect to see higher sentences to better reflect the terrible trauma and injuries they have caused.”

As far as we are aware, no-one has yet stood trial on the charge of causing serious injury through dangerous driving in a case in which a cyclist was the victim, although a milkman from Cumbria who allegdly knocked a rider off his bike will go on trial for the offence in April.

While it is unclear why the decision was made to charge Farmer with careless driving rather than causing serious injury by dangerous driving, the case is likely to lead to further calls for reform of the law and sentencing, and for the Crown Prosecution Service to press more serious charges where appropriate.

The charge of careless driving, or driving without due care and attention, is defined as “'driving below the standard expected of a reasonable and prudent driver in the circumstances.”

In dangerous driving offences, the prosecution must establish that the way the motorist was driving “falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.”

Following lobbying by British Cycling and national cyclists’ organisation CTC, among others, the government said in its response last October to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report that it has ordered a review of sentencing in cases where the victim is a vulnerable road user.

It also said it would examine the investigation and prosecution of cases in which vulnerable road users including cyclists are the victims, which CTC called for in its Road Justice campaign, launched in June last year.

Brake itself has called for careless driving offences to be abolished, saying: “’Careless’ is an inappropriate and offensive term to use for bad driving, particularly where it has resulted in horrendous suffering. Driving that is bad (especially if it has already resulted in injury or death or could easily have done so) is dangerous.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.