Cyclist Donald MacLeod, who spent six weeks in a coma and was left with permanent disabilities from severe head injuries sustained when he was hit by a police car answering a 999 call in London, has won his High Court case against the Metropolitan Police.
Judge Martin McKenna ruled out contributory negligence on the part of Mr MacLeod, who was cycling home to Stoke Newington in March 2010 when he was struck by the police car on Southgate Road in Islington, reports The Guardian.
The 63-year-old father of three, a former education journalist at that newspaper who went on to become head of communications at the Russell Group of universities, needs 24-hour care as a result of the injuries he suffered.
The judge noted that at the time of the collision on a mini-roundabout, he was wearing a helmet and high visibility jacket and had working lights on his bicycle.
The Met had insisted that Mr MacLeod, whom the court heard had enjoyed two small glasses of wine with a colleague before heading home, cycled out of Northgate Road or straight from the pavement into the path of the police car at the junction with Southgate Road.
But the judge found that contrary to Metropolitan Police policy, the driver, who was on his way with colleagues to a shooting in Hackney, entered the roundabout at a speed – 55mph – that meant he could not stop in time to avoid hitting Mr MacLeod.
"The manner of his driving plainly fell below an acceptable standard and he failed to drive with such care and skill as was reasonable in all the circumstances," he said.
"His speed was high and consistent with a desire to get to the rendezvous point as his priority rather than safely.
"The reality is that he would have arrived at the rendezvous point within the expected response time if he had driven to the speed limit. But for the breach of duty, the injury to the claimant would not have occurred."
The case was brought on Mr MacLeod’s behalf by his wife, Barbara, who is seeking more than £1 million in damages to help pay for his care at the family’s new home at Inveresk, near Edinburgh.
She told The Guardian: “Don's care is now secure and we don't have to worry about that in the long term. It has been such a difficult time."
Her husband cannot speak, although he is able to communicate by smiling, nodding and shaking his head. He also needs to be moved in a wheelchair, but Mrs MacLeod says he "is as good as he has been" since that day that changed their lives.
"I threw my arms round him when we got the message [about the court’s decision],” she said.
“I don't know if he fully grasped how important the announcement is. He is physically well, getting some good physiotherapy and getting stronger all the time. Hopefully a change in his drug regime will help with communication."
She continued: "We are getting out a lot, he enjoys being out and I am hoping to get an adapted vehicle so we don't have to use a taxi all the time," adding that soon they will be attending the ballet.
"We are beginning to do normal, everyday things," she concluded.
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.