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High Court battle to force police force to take responsibility for permananent brain damage sustained by Guardian journalist

A cyclist who was left with permanent disabilities from severe head injuries he sustained when hit by a police car answering a 999 call in London is suing the Metropolitan Police for more than £1m.

The former Guardian journalist, Donald MacLeod, spent six weeks in a coma after being hit in Islington by a police car on its way to investigate a shooting in May 2010. He is still unable to communicate with those around him.

Now his wife Barbara is flighting a High Court legal battle to make the Met take responsibility for his injuries.

The police force argues that Mr MacLeod himself cycled into the path of the police car.

His barrister, Angus Withington told the High Court that Mr MacLeod had been working at The Guardian’s offices in Farringdon Road and went for a drink at a wine bar before setting off to cycle back to his then-home in Scholars Place, Stoke Newington, North London.

The police car, responding to reports of a shooting on the Wilton Estate in Hackney, was also travelling along Southgate Road with its lights flashing and sirens blaring, he said.

“It is Mr MacLeod’s case that he was proceeding in a northerly direction on Southgate Road, in advance of the police car, and he was struck from the rear and the right,” he said, according to Chronicle Live.

“It is said on his behalf that the driver of the police car simply failed to identify his presence in the road and that that was the cause of the collision.”

David Waters, representing the Met, argued that the collision had happened differently, saying that Mr MacLeod cycled out of Northgate Road or straight from the pavement into the police car’s path at the junction with Southgate Road.

Barbara MacLeod told the court: “He was absolutely safety-conscious and I clearly remember him one night taking the bus because he had forgotten his lights.”

Mr MacLeod’s sister Janet told the paper his survival had been miraculous.

She said: “They thought he would be completely brain damaged but he’s re-learning how to do things despite the fact he’s still incredibly disabled.

“His understanding of things has improved and, although he can’t communicate with us, he understands conversation and he laughs at us. He’s made amazing strides over just a few years.

“I think that’s largely because of the amazing love and care of my sister-in-law and the support of his family and friends.”

The case is expected to conclude in the coming week.

In the year of Mr MacLeod’s collision, we reported how an average of 12 road traffic collisioner per day took place involving vehicles belonging to the Metropolitan Police.

Metropolitan Police drivers responded to 2 million 999 calls in 2009/10 and covered 73 million miles in their vehicles during the year.

Scaled up, that would equate to a fatality rate of 137 per 1 billion miles driven, compared to a national killed & seriously injured rate, according to Department for Transport Statistics, of 85 in 2009.

In all, there were 3,015 people injured as a result of accidents involving a police car during the three-year period covered by the figures, which were released in response to a Freedom of Information request. Of those, 247 were pedestrians and 135 cyclists.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

46 comments

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Bikebikebike [209 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely the noble police would never bend the truth about anything?

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Argos74 [390 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Mr MacLeod cycled out of Northgate Road

That'll be Northchurch Road then, just by the now closed Northgate pub. Am going to assume this was a reporting error by Chronicle Live.

Be interesting to know the locus of impact and witness statements. The implied route cutting across from Essex Road to Southgate Road via Northchurch Road seems odd as a selection of commuter route, and lack of clarity in the report of the police account ("MacLeod cycled out of Northgate [sic] Road or straight from the pavement into the police car’s path at the junction with Southgate Road" - well, which one?) makes one feel uneasy.

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ironmancole [322 posts] 2 years ago
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Pretty scary numbers aren't they? That's a lot of ruined lives just to have police turn up somewhere only to be subsequently let down by the CPS or if it actually gets to court the ever lenient and outdated judiciary.

Let's keep picking on the cyclists though, bloody dangerous lot we are.

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felixcat [467 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds almost a "SWSS", a single witness suicide swerve.

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jacknorell [962 posts] 2 years ago
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For a commuter from Farringdon to Stoke Newington, there's no reason at all to be on Northchurch Road.

The Southgate Road, Northchurch Road intersection used to be on my route for over a year, but then I was going from Oxford St to Hackney Wick. That's West to East.

He was going from South to North.

Police in blatant misdirection shocker... Where's the dashcam footage? Lost I'm sure...

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vbvb [577 posts] 2 years ago
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Police racing but no dashcam footage to show? Guilty, liable, pay up.

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nod [66 posts] 2 years ago
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The police force investigated Stephen Lawrence's family for things to use against them, and their crime was to have a son who was murdered in a racist attack.

Who could honestly expect more from those morally corrupt cretins.

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levermonkey [660 posts] 2 years ago
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1) We are the only creature on the planet that can exceed its own speed limit.
2) The human eyeball has not evolved since we gained this ability.
3) "Blues & twos" do not convey right of way or allow you deviate from the normal rules of the road.
4) Dashcams never seem to be working or switched on when their evidence would prove crucial.
5) Police Officers are human beings with all the frailties and weaknesses of human beings. They are just as likely to lie to cover their mistakes as the rest of us.

Just saying.  4

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brooksby [1096 posts] 2 years ago
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felixcat wrote:

Sounds almost a "SWSS", a single witness suicide swerve.

Didn't they tour with Zodiac Mindwarp in 1988?  105

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brooksby [1096 posts] 2 years ago
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vbvb wrote:

Police racing but no dashcam footage to show? Guilty, liable, pay up.

Seconded.

I'm sorry to the members of the police who post on this site, and IO know it looks like trial by the hoi polloi (never plebs  4 ) but the Met will need to start working very hard indeed to restore confidence, before us civilians stop just assuming that they are lying.

Recent news stories have really messed up the public's trust in the police generally, IMO, and if the police can only put forward the word of their officers rather than any camera footage, then I don't believe they have a leg to stand on.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Edit

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Flatfooted [2 posts] 2 years ago
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I've serviced Met police cars for the last five years and only traffic cars have these "dashcams" that people are talking about and as they wouldn't be going to a shooting that assumption about the footage being lost is incorrect.

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Housecathst [439 posts] 2 years ago
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The police will lie at every opportunity, look at the Ian Tomlinson case.

If the family can win the civil case I wonder if the CPS will look into a criminal case not that ill hold my breath, how many deaths in custody have there been with not one officer being found guiltily.

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anarchy [100 posts] 2 years ago
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Flatfooted, do you not agree that every police car should have a dash cam?

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jacknorell [962 posts] 2 years ago
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Flatfooted wrote:

I've serviced Met police cars for the last five years and only traffic cars have these "dashcams" that people are talking about and as they wouldn't be going to a shooting that assumption about the footage being lost is incorrect.

WTF doesn't every Met vehicle that can be used for rapid response / blue and twos have a camera?

Hmm, £150 piece of kit for a £25k vehicle (minimum)... Guess the Met does not trust its drivers to drive well?

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BikeBud [204 posts] 2 years ago
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Wishing Donald MacLeod a full and speedy recovery, and best of luck with his case.

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giff77 [1237 posts] 2 years ago
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I was always of the understanding that the emergency services when on a call out were obliged to negotiate junctions and other road users safely and with caution. The only function of blues and twos is to make others aware of that vehicle's presence and their need to overtake, join a main carriageway or jump a red light SAFELY and not to endanger themselves or other road users. It is also recommended in the Highway Code that you pull over when SAFE to do so to allow the emergency vehicle to pass.

Sadly there are too many police drivers out there who disregard other road users when they have the opportunity to use their blues and twos and are so pumped up with adrenalin when responding to a call.

Maybe it is time that all station cars are fitted with cameras not to record the misdemeanours of others but to monitor the drivers behaviour on the road. These could be activated with the blues and twos and could then be used as evidence in a situation like this. Much the same way as bus companies now use external cameras.

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Dr_Lex [283 posts] 2 years ago
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With the increasing distrust of police, it's a surprise that all their vehicles aren't equipped with dashcams, especially since some forces are testing bodycams.

brooksby wrote:

[...] know it looks like trial by the hoi polloi (never plebs  4 ) [...]

Small point, but if you use foreign words to give you an air of learning, it's quickly dispelled by repeating yourself in English; "hoi" = "the".

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Ush [669 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

They thought he would be completely brain damaged but he’s re-learning how to do things despite the fact he’s still incredibly disabled.

Good on him.

And shame on the Met for dragging his wife through the legal system.

Am not interested in Starsky & Hutch speeding to "a report of a shooting".

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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"Expert" police witnesses so sure of what happened that they have put forwards two possible explanations...  31

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brooksby [1096 posts] 2 years ago
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Dr_Lex wrote:
brooksby wrote:

[...] know it looks like trial by the hoi polloi (never plebs  4 ) [...]

Small point, but if you use foreign words to give you an air of learning, it's quickly dispelled by repeating yourself in English; "hoi" = "the".

I know, I'm sorry  40 (it's a long time since my Latin O-levels...).

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severs1966 [324 posts] 2 years ago
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To be absolutely fair to the Met, they generally kill anyone they feel like, not just cyclists. Complaints against the police are never taken seriously, and complaints backed up by evidence will be suppressed using lies and conspiracies where necessary.
Lots of people - not just riders - have been run over or crashed into by cops on their way to crime situations or in pursuit of crims. The cops in question don't get punished, and the victims are generally not compensated.
This is just another one of those situations. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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AWPeleton [3282 posts] 2 years ago
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I hope the gent makes a full and healthy recovery.

My Police car that i attend emergency jobs in is a Vauxhall Astra 1.4 tdi, hardly 25K, its also fitted with a black box showing speed, direction, what lights / sirens were on, if any, and the location of impact. I cant comment on the Met but if they have them fitted then that evidence is crucial.

Has anyone seen the full report as to whether there was any independant witnesses ?

Only our motor patrol and firearms vehicles are fitted with cameras.

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jacknorell [962 posts] 2 years ago
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Stumps, I was referring to the cost of the vehicle once modified. There's a big load of computer stuff in the trunk, and I'm certain various other kit, bringing the value & cost right up.

I know the standard U.S. Ford Crown Victoria police car, once on the road, was about $50,000... So I'm actually assuming there's less cost on a British police car. I'm probably wrong and it's more!

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Sarah Barth [86 posts] 2 years ago
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brooksby wrote:
Dr_Lex wrote:
brooksby wrote:

[...] know it looks like trial by the hoi polloi (never plebs  4 ) [...]

Small point, but if you use foreign words to give you an air of learning, it's quickly dispelled by repeating yourself in English; "hoi" = "the".

I know, I'm sorry  40 (it's a long time since my Latin O-levels...).

Hate to break it to you = it's Greek.

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AWPeleton [3282 posts] 2 years ago
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jacknorell wrote:

Stumps, I was referring to the cost of the vehicle once modified. There's a big load of computer stuff in the trunk, and I'm certain various other kit, bringing the value & cost right up.

I know the standard U.S. Ford Crown Victoria police car, once on the road, was about $50,000... So I'm actually assuming there's less cost on a British police car. I'm probably wrong and it's more!

Sorry mate, its as cheap as chips to be honest. Really basic inside with no computer wizardry other than the little black box and it was commented on once that the Ford Focus we had previously the force got for about 7k.

All our cars are leased now not owned by us and we get them very cheap.

The only vehicles that are improved on are the firearms and traffic cars which are nearly all BMW's. They have all the cameras, computers, upgraded engines and body work etc but the cars you see being used by 24/7 officers are just a bog standard vehicle with lights and a siren.

I digress a bit but our force is having to save 65 million over the next 3 years so gadgetry is not something they pay for. I've also done a bit of digging and the Met do have black box technology installed in their vehicles, whether that is in all of them or not i dont know.

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brooksby [1096 posts] 2 years ago
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Sarah Barth wrote:

Hate to break it to you = it's Greek.

Haven't done Greek since a term at the beginning of university (hated it). Plebs is from the Latin, though...  36

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Cyclist [295 posts] 2 years ago
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So by the the majority of the above posts, I take it then that none of you will any longer be using the police? As they are all lying perjurors and of no worth in this world. So, I suggest that when your bike gets nicked you don't call the police, your wife, child gets mugged/murdered don't bother, just man up and live with it, I am sure you will, as you all think the police are bent anyway so lets just handle it ourselves shall we? And if you you do find a thief in your house and call 999 don't worry about the response time as there is a speed limit.

Some of you and your comments truly come from planet mong and in real terms should just be put to sleep. Idiots.

Try doing their job for one day, let's see how most of you desk jockeys get on?

I sympathise with the family I do, however this relentless police bashing needs to stop, you don't like the relentless cyclist bashing do you, FFS. Who you gonna call when you get knocked off? The Fcuking ghostbusters. Go and live in Mombasa if you aren't bothered about having a police force see how long you last there.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

And that has always been a stupid saying! Who will police the polices police-ad infinitum.

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levermonkey [660 posts] 2 years ago
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hoi polloi is ancient Greek for "the many" and means the majority/the great unwashed.

Pleb is Latin and comes from Plebeian. The Plebeians were the main body of free roman citizens and tended to be tradesmen and as such are one step down from the Patricians/Nobles. They could rise to noble rank (Crassus and Cicero were noble Plebs). I'm happy to be a Pleb.

Just as a side note.
Referendum is the question; Plebiscite is the vote. A vote by all the free people of a country eligible to vote.

Can we now get back to the actual subject of this comment string? Please.

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A V Lowe [573 posts] 2 years ago
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It is interesting that the contract conditions for providing a bus service for TfL London Buses now mean that every London bus has 8 external cameras, and a set of internal cameras, recording continuously. The 100% coverage came steadily as each bus route contract came up for its 5-yearly renewal, in much the same way that it has been a legal requirement to buy only low floor buses since 1999, with the aim of having a fully low floor UK bus parc by 2020.

A simple policy decision to specify dashcams, vehicle monitoring systems etc for vehicles offered to the Police on their lease contracts, would presumably get the suppliers making sure they offered the best package with all the required features, in order to win the contracts. Fitting data recorders, and other technology might also reduce the damage to the cars, and thus enhance their value at the end of the lease period, so it would have the incentive of being in everyone's interest

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