Kent motorist branded "a danger to cyclists" by judge is jailed for 10 months

Anger at cyclists riding two abreast led to Martin Hook knocking one off bike, causing him and fellow rider broken bones

by Simon_MacMichael   April 20, 2014  

Justice (Lonpicman, Wikimedia Commons)

A judge who sentenced a Kent motorist to ten months in jail has described him as “a danger to cyclists” following an incident last year in which he became so frustrated by a group riding two abreast that he knocked one off his bike, causing him and a fellow rider broken bones.

Martin Hook, aged 58 and from Marden where he runs a motorcycle business, had pleaded guilty to two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

He was also banned from driving for three years and will have to take an extended retest to get his licence back, reports the Kent & Sussex Courier.

One of the cyclists knocked over in the incident in September last year as they returned from a race, Lee Staples, broke his hand while the other, Darren Squirrel, a serving police officer, sustained a broken collarbone.

James Ross, speaking for the prosecution, told Maidstone Crown Court that Hook was driving to Tenderden with his two daughters when he encountered a group of cyclists on the road ahead.

“He was irate about them cycling two abreast, rather than single file,” he said.

As he passed them, he used his horn and drive his vehicle “a couple of inches away from one,” Mr Ross went on.

“The defendant got in front of them and was waving his arms in anger and shouting.

“He carried on until he came across the second group of cyclists.

“They included Darren Squirrel and Lee Staples. He drove close to Mr Staples and knocked his bike, causing him to crash into Mr Squirrel,” he added.

Speaking in mitigation on behalf of Hook, defence barrister Ian Henderson said he had been in business difficulties since the recession and that his client had been frustrated by what he believed was a lack of regard among cyclists for other road users.

“He was in a very stressful environment,” Mr Henderson said. “In that stressful environment he found himself in contact with the cyclists.

“He was frustrated by what he saw as cyclists not paying much regard to other road users. They were straddled along the road.

“He accepts he pointed and remonstrated with the first group. He didn’t intend any collision. He doesn’t recall there being contact. He accepts there must have been some.

“He is a hard working family man and these offences are utterly out of character,” Mr Henderson added.

Passing sentence on Hook, Judge Charles Macdonald QC said he was “satisfied the cyclists were deliberately endangered.”

He told him: “You are an honest, hard-working family man. There will be hardship as a result of the sentence for your family as a result of your driving.

“In my judgment, there is no true remorse here and no real insight. You are, and remain, a danger to cyclists.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier’s report of the case did not mention that riding two abreast is permitted under the Highway Code, something that was pointed out to the newspaper in the comments.

Rule 66 of the Highway Code says: “You should… never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”

The custodial sentence imposed on Hook contrasts with some that have been handed down recently in cases where motorists have been convicted of the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment compared to five years for the offence in this case.

Last month, lorry driver Paul O’Callaghan was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of cyclist Tarsem Dari in Southall, West London, in July 2013.

In July last year, David Cox, the lorry driver who pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving at Bow Roundabout of Brian Dorling as he rode to work also received a suspended sentence.

The issue of sentencing in cases where a vulnerable road user such as a cyclist or pedestrian is the victim is currently been reviewed by the government following pressure from organisations including British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace.

53 user comments

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Metal Box Syndrome at its worst. The Government really needs to look at a proper and concerted effort to educate the motorist on what to do when you meet cyclists on the road. I wonder if this idiot would have done the same had it been two motor cyclists, i highly doubt it.

Das's picture

posted by Das [50 posts]
20th April 2014 - 23:20

22 Likes

JDebuse wrote:
You may find that having numerous witnesses to the offence would have increased the chances of a conviction. Nowt to do with being a "plod" as you've blindly pointed out.

No, it is everything to do with being one. I have seen this happen: multiple witnesses and the report to the police completely ignored. The police hate cyclists, and generally will not act on situations like this unless the victim is a cop, or dead. Or maybe a celebrity.

posted by severs1966 [84 posts]
21st April 2014 - 0:33

37 Likes

severs1966 wrote:
JDebuse wrote:
You may find that having numerous witnesses to the offence would have increased the chances of a conviction. Nowt to do with being a "plod" as you've blindly pointed out.

No, it is everything to do with being one. I have seen this happen: multiple witnesses and the report to the police completely ignored. The police hate cyclists, and generally will not act on situations like this unless the victim is a cop, or dead. Or maybe a celebrity.

Don't be a plum. Yes I'm sure it helped with one of the victims being a police officer but to say that the police hate cyclists is just bollocks. Pull your head from your backside and have a think about what you say. ALL POLICE HATE CYCLISTS, really... Clearly not seen the PSUK team out training and ex national road race champion Matt Stephens was a bobby. I will give it to you that some police hate cyclists, as much as some hate football fans, forum idiots etc etc. Don't paint everybody with the same brush.

Pmracingteam's picture

posted by Pmracingteam [7 posts]
21st April 2014 - 1:10

28 Likes

Neil753 wrote:

The sensible thing, surely, is to hand out lifetime bans for anyone who displays agression like this behind the wheel.

Leave the roads to the not-proven-insane. Seems like logic.

posted by Ush [403 posts]
21st April 2014 - 3:32

29 Likes

Those who mention the lack of education have a point. Until cycling becomes a major feature of the traffic landscape, scores of drivers will remain convinced that the roads are "theirs" and cyclists have no place on them.

Only "heavy" investments in cycling infrastructure (including public transport) to make cycling safer and more convenient - the cheap and easy bit - paired with massive media campaigns - the expensive and difficult bit - will produce the necessary mind change. It has been done before and is well worth the effort given the potential for substantial increases in well being, impressive decreases in public health cost and better spending of taxpayer money.

Timid tweaks will only yield insignificant improvements. What is needed is a bold leap forward. Make it happen!

The entropy of the universe increases constantly. Carpe diem.

posted by noether [55 posts]
21st April 2014 - 7:15

23 Likes

Except he's not, is he? The 3 year ban is ludicrous.

posted by Bhachgen [91 posts]
21st April 2014 - 7:34

23 Likes

severs1966 wrote:
JDebuse wrote:
You may find that having numerous witnesses to the offence would have increased the chances of a conviction. Nowt to do with being a "plod" as you've blindly pointed out.

No, it is everything to do with being one. I have seen this happen: multiple witnesses and the report to the police completely ignored. The police hate cyclists, and generally will not act on situations like this unless the victim is a cop, or dead. Or maybe a celebrity.

There was another case reported here recently where the cyclist victim was a police officer - quite a senior one. What struck me there was that _even_ when the victim is a cop the sentence can be quite light.

Frankly I think it wouldn't be surprising if criminal behaviour gets taken more seriously when the victim is a copper...but that's not, actually, something I'd get particularly annoyed about.

Compared to other problematic issues around policing that doesn't seem an especially heinous problem. If that was the only police-related problem this country had we'd be doing very well. And I guess there is always going to be an assumption, rightly or wrongly, that a police officer is a reliable witness.

Instead, I'm just pleased every time I hear that there are cops who cycle. (Its not as if there is a shortage of cops who are poor-to-mediocre drivers!).

But what _is_ depressing is that even in _those_ cases the perpetrators don't exactly get the book thrown at them. Car culture trumps everything, even police tribalism. No force can stand in its way!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [683 posts]
21st April 2014 - 8:05

23 Likes

May I be the first of the commentators on here to say THANK YOU to Judge Charles Macdonald QC to see through the obvious BS excuses of the defence and probably the first (hopefully of many) to say enough is enough and start to ramp up the sentences on drivers involved in collisions with cyclists.

Some people are saying sentence not harsh enough and I agree, but it is a damn sight better than some of the woefully inadequate sentences of late.

Perhaps just perhaps the wind is changing.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [591 posts]
21st April 2014 - 8:24

41 Likes

FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:
May I be the first of the commentators on here to say THANK YOU to Judge Charles Macdonald QC to see through the obvious BS excuses of the defence and probably the first (hopefully of many) to say enough is enough and start to ramp up the sentences on drivers involved in collisions with cyclists.

Some people are saying sentence not harsh enough and I agree, but it is a damn sight better than some of the woefully inadequate sentences of late.

Perhaps just perhaps the wind is changing.

The problem is that, even having seen the lies and BS for what they were, he still hands out (maybe had to hand out because of pathetically soft guidelines) a trivial punishment that does nothing to say to this toerag, or others like him. that this is unacceptable behaviour.

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
21st April 2014 - 9:46

21 Likes

Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
21st April 2014 - 10:23

22 Likes

edster99 wrote:
I think its relevant about driving instruction.
a) you are right about the lack of training about how to interact with cyclists e.g. 2 abreast is OK.
b) thinking about my own experience of driving, when I took my test there was no such thing as an ASL (or if there was, we weren't told about it).
It made me think, what should we be doing about informing / retesting drivers on changes to driving law / driving regulations / new requirements? I understand cyclists get unhappy about car drivers jumping into ASLs, with good reason. But we should be aware that many people have no idea what they are. They have never received instruction on them, and there's no obvious way of being updated about it. So it makes me think there is a massive hole in the way drivers are instructed, and particularly being kept up to date. Not sure how we can improve that...

Mandatory theory retest every 5 years perhaps? Make it a big blitz on things that have been added/changed in the last few years in the highway code plus some safety related questions that if gotten wrong mean an automatic fail.

posted by Paul_C [185 posts]
21st April 2014 - 12:54

14 Likes

stumps wrote:
Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

Shame the law can't distinguish between the unpleasant but not life-threatening assault, which you seem to be describing, and using a deadly weapon in a manner which only avoids killing someone by fluke.

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
21st April 2014 - 15:25

18 Likes

JDebuse wrote:
You may find that having numerous witnesses to the offence would have increased the chances of a conviction. Nowt to do with being a "plod" as you've blindly pointed out.

[[[[[ What??? PLENTY to do with one of the victims being a cop. Check out the incident reported by "IanW 1968", above, and think again.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [284 posts]
21st April 2014 - 16:02

19 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Its not as if there is a shortage of cops who are poor-to-mediocre drivers!

Do you have any evidence of this, or is it just routine bad-mouthing of the police?

harman_mogul's picture

posted by harman_mogul [132 posts]
21st April 2014 - 18:21

10 Likes

stumps wrote:
Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

So if you have a baseball bat and you smack two people with it indiscriminately with no care for what damage you do, then you will get less than 10 months? Seems to me like that would come under the category of "Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm", which seems to carry around a 5 year sentence before you start worrying about the aggravating factors.

posted by Bikebikebike [78 posts]
21st April 2014 - 19:32

12 Likes

I ride with a copper. I keep suggesting he keep his warrant card in his back pocket.

Rule 66 is fine in theory but written in a different era. All the roads I ride on are either narrow or busy - or both. Worried

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1059 posts]
21st April 2014 - 19:53

12 Likes

Plenty of bad police drivers out there but more skilled than unskilled. Most are ERV trained these days and if not ERV they will have had a 1 week GPD course. The worst ones are the ones who forget their training but still keep the speed.

And yes I do feel like I'm in a very good position to make comment

Pmracingteam's picture

posted by Pmracingteam [7 posts]
21st April 2014 - 20:15

14 Likes

IanW1968 wrote:
Same happened to a group I was riding in.
The police were reluctant to do anything despite four written statements.
Eventually (12 month later)the driver was charged with driving without care and attention 3 points and. £30 quid fine.

[[[[[ Well, my giddy godfathers! Can you believe that? Er, yes.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [284 posts]
21st April 2014 - 20:23

18 Likes

Bikebikebike wrote:
stumps wrote:
Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

So if you have a baseball bat and you smack two people with it indiscriminately with no care for what damage you do, then you will get less than 10 months? Seems to me like that would come under the category of "Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm", which seems to carry around a 5 year sentence before you start worrying about the aggravating factors.

I give up, i really do.

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
21st April 2014 - 20:29

9 Likes

stumps wrote:
Bikebikebike wrote:
stumps wrote:
Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

So if you have a baseball bat and you smack two people with it indiscriminately with no care for what damage you do, then you will get less than 10 months? Seems to me like that would come under the category of "Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm", which seems to carry around a 5 year sentence before you start worrying about the aggravating factors.

I give up, i really do.

Most sensible thing you've said in a while.

posted by Bikebikebike [78 posts]
21st April 2014 - 22:31

11 Likes

stumps wrote:
Bikebikebike wrote:
stumps wrote:
Put it this way, an assault in the street whereby someone sustained a broken wrist and and a dislocated collar bone would never get a 10 month sentence for a first time offender, which the bloke here seems to be.

So if you have a baseball bat and you smack two people with it indiscriminately with no care for what damage you do, then you will get less than 10 months? Seems to me like that would come under the category of "Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm", which seems to carry around a 5 year sentence before you start worrying about the aggravating factors.

I give up, i really do.

Why? Because you think indiscriminate wielding of a baseball bat won't be severely punished, or because, like most people involved with the law, you have yourself persuaded that somehow reckless driving isn't like reckless baseball bat wielding? That reckless baseball batters may be bad people, but reckless motorists are all lovely cuddly family loving charitable religionists who only need a hug?

posted by oldstrath [146 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 6:50

8 Likes

harman_mogul wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Its not as if there is a shortage of cops who are poor-to-mediocre drivers!

Do you have any evidence of this, or is it just routine bad-mouthing of the police?

Well I could start by pointing at the number of instances I personally see of police vehicles rolling into ASLs on red.
Then throw in the reported cases where police drivers have killed people through bad driving, or been caught speeding at ludicrous speeds when not on duty.

But how is it 'bad mouthing the police' to point out they are not that different from other drivers? Most of them are drivers, a lot of drivers in general are not that great at it.

The point is (as with racism, say) they are much the same as the population they are drawn from, and have the same biases, not that they are uniquely wicked.

Hell, they could even be better drivers than most, on average, and my original statement would still stand. The only thing is that I'm pretty sure cops are far more likely than the general population to actually be drivers at all and that is likely to influence how they view things.

(Come to think of it, that can probably join race as another issue with the police in inner London differing from the population they are policing).

Which is why I find a cop travelling by means other than a car to be a cheering thing.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [683 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 7:22

9 Likes

To a certain extent I sympathise with him. I was recently down in the Westcountry and two cyclists were taking up the whole of the road by selfishly riding abreast of each other where it would have been much easier to ride in tandem. But even worse they were remonstrating vociferously and aggressively with any motorist who had the temerity to point this out including one severely disabled woman driver.
Now I know you get knobheads on both sides of the debate and nothing excuses deliberately driving at cyclists but there needs to be consideration on both sides. Many mostorists think that we cyclists think we own the road precisely because some act as if we do.

posted by Ridgebackrambler [13 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:54

4 Likes

Ridgebackrambler wrote:
To a certain extent I sympathise with him. I was recently down in the Westcountry and two cyclists were taking up the whole of the road by selfishly riding abreast of each other where it would have been much easier to ride in tandem. But even worse they were remonstrating vociferously and aggressively with any motorist who had the temerity to point this out including one severely disabled woman driver.
Now I know you get knobheads on both sides of the debate and nothing excuses deliberately driving at cyclists but there needs to be consideration on both sides. Many mostorists think that we cyclists think we own the road precisely because some act as if we do.

Personally I've always thought that motorists think they own the road, precisely because most of them act as if they do.
Do you think petrolhead forums are full of drivers bemoaning that fact and telling each other to not let the side down?

Granted, I hardly ever ride those ridiculous country lanes, with their absurdly high speed limits, poor visibility and subsidised motor-traffic, but I note that many in the country can't walk from one place to another precisely because of the way motorists 'own' those lanes.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [683 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 13:03

9 Likes

We all know that 'car drivers', have for some inane reason, lack exactly that REASON. When I drive i find unbeleiveably inane. I amaze' at the comfort and look in admirance at cyclists who 'tough it out' on the roads just like myself and us'.

I view anyone who even thinks negatively towards anyone on a bike as an instant war-crimes subject.

To put it plainly;

Their's a bad attitude in this country amongst people who drive, a VERY BAD attitude, it needs to be addressed and addressed firmly.

The standard of driving is diminishing to astounding levels...to the extent i literally feared for my life even just riding a straight road.

At one point i even considered giving it up after 25 hardcore years and in December had 3 misses that very nearly ended me' !

I've noticed with a small minority of vehicle users that they just dont like us'; be it jealousy, aggression or absent mindedness, this the resultant thoughts via experiences in group rides or chain gangs.

I hope the entry of the 'tour to this land gets and changes some people attitude away from the get, get, get of daily life to consider 2 wheels and realise that we are flesh and bone not glass and metal and soo dearly injure and damage when impacted.

Stay safe out there, all !

posted by yenrod [100 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 19:05

6 Likes

Ridgebackrambler wrote:
To a certain extent I sympathise with him. Many mostorists think that we cyclists think we own the road precisely because some act as if we do.

[[[[[ "Mostorists"? Were you trying to say "monsterists", by any chance?
P.R.
[[[[[ Also, this "severely disabled woman driver" you're defending---is there now a "SEVERELY disabled" badge I've not seen yet?
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [284 posts]
24th April 2014 - 2:36

7 Likes

Mostorists or even monsterists are both pretty good words but obviously what I really wanted to type was motorists (there's no spell check on here!!!)

The point about the woman being severely disabled was that she actually was. I saw her trying to get out of the car. Quite a few people borrow/use others' disabled badges don't you know? Does it make it any better if she's severely disabled or merely disabled? It's still very upsetting when a cyclist gets all macho and aggressive on you.

But the real point and the one you've cleverly ignored is that there's a strident group of cyclists out there who think "Two wheels good; four wheels bad." and don't allow for any shades in between. As many of these posts point out there needs to be a huge amount of education about how to use the roads courteously and safely both by cyclists and monsterists (deliberate)

posted by Ridgebackrambler [13 posts]
25th April 2014 - 15:53

5 Likes

Of my little peloton here in Bedfordshire, all of us drive/own and like cars, with the majority using them as regular transport, one is employed as a van driver for a supermarket, one (up until recently) had a Suzuki Hayabusa, I have a Yamaha R6 which I try to enjoy to its fullest extent and there's even a copper amongst our ranks - who has yet to display any cyclist hating or fascistic tendencies. As we're all heterosexual white males in the 25-45 age range with varying degrees of disposable income, I guess we fit with the majority of modern cyclists / bicycle riders in the UK, and fit the demographic that the bike companies get some good revenue from.

As a general rumination on this site regarding the more vociferous commenters on it I cannot help but think that it tends to portray road cyclists as a pretty fucking weary bunch of car haters endlessly harping on about how everyone is against them.

I really don't think I belong here.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
25th April 2014 - 16:20

5 Likes

severs1966 wrote:
JDebuse wrote:
You may find that having numerous witnesses to the offence would have increased the chances of a conviction. Nowt to do with being a "plod" as you've blindly pointed out.

No, it is everything to do with being one. I have seen this happen: multiple witnesses and the report to the police completely ignored. The police hate cyclists, and generally will not act on situations like this unless the victim is a cop, or dead. Or maybe a celebrity.

So the police hate cyclists? Even the coppers that are cyclists, like this one, or the lad killed in Portsmouth recently or Nick Gargan the police chief in Bristol who is an avid cyclist. What about the Metropolitan Police Cycling Club?
Surrey Police Cycling Club, or one of the other Police Cycling Clubs all over the country. All their members are copper and all those coppers are in a cycling club but they all aparrently (according to you) hate cyclists.

Somewhere in a pub right now is a bloke telling everyone that the police hate motorists cos they police them as well.

If you had said that police officers are a reflection of a society where most people drive but fewer ride bikes and that quite often cyclists needs and experiences aren't always fully understood or that motorists are sometimes given too much benefit of the doubt when in conflict with other road users by the public and / or the police I might find that a reasonable statement.

The copper that dealt with a case where I was run into the kerb by a van and assaulted was also a cyclist. The copper that is responsible for roads policing in Surrey where I live Deputy Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave is a former racing cyclist. Assistant Chief Officer Jane Harwood is a triathlete. so cyclist as well.

You may want in future to be less sweeping in your statements.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [631 posts]
25th April 2014 - 16:23

5 Likes

"You may want in future to be less sweeping in your statements."

OK, you are correct. I will re-word my statement:

"Almost every cop doesn't care if cyclists live or die. Obviously this doesn't apply to cops who are themselves cyclists".

Is that better?
Really?
Isn't it an appalling indictment of policing that the only cops you can think of who care whether cyclists live or die are themselves cyclists?
Isn't it still reprehensible that non-cycling cops are almost (not entirely, but almost) universally actively hostile to RTA victims on bicycles, or at best ambivalent? Shouldn't they be universally supportive of victims regardless of whether they dared to sling a leg over a bike or not?

posted by severs1966 [84 posts]
3rd May 2014 - 16:46

3 Likes