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

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.

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.

53 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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Darren Squirrel, a serving police officer.....I am saying NOTHING. Others will do that for me  3

As for his business hitting the skids, I hope he goes bust, he cannot ride a motorbike for 3 years after his 10 months (5 months really) inside.

I know its not the done thing in media to name and shame businesses, but I'm just a commenter. So Martin Hook of Break-Away Motorcycles also known as Tunbridge Wells Motorcycle Centre

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80sMatchbox [31 posts] 2 years ago
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The judge said that he was "an honest hard-working family man" but the defence barrister said that he didn't intend or remember contact..

That said, at least the judge didn't believe him.

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Mick Davidson [7 posts] 2 years ago
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Fekkin twat of the lowest order.
Surely someone driving a motor vehicle into a person, be they pedestrian or cyclist, is attempted murder, given the massive difference between motor vehicle and squishy human? I know that isn't the law, but it bloody well ought to be.

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Mick Davidson [7 posts] 2 years ago
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Whether he's "an honest hard-working family man" matters not.
The fact is he put people's lives at risks because was in too much of a hurry. He has no excuse for his behaviour. And he should know better, being involved in motorbikes.

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pz1800 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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no remorse. Banned for 3 years. FFS.

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paulfg42 [387 posts] 2 years ago
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If he finds a road a 'very stressful environment', then he should be nowhere near a car or motorcycle.

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goggy [153 posts] 2 years ago
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Well I know who will never be going to his shop .. and there is some alliance between motorbikes and bicycles so that news has been shared with several people who live in the same town as his business...

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monty dog [457 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree, the fact that one of the victims was a plod suggests this case got some attention that any others in such circumstances would likely not have been afforded...  17

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userfriendly [562 posts] 2 years ago
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One Mr Henderson has no shame whatsoever. I'm just as disgusted by people like him as I am by dangerous cretins like Mr Hook. What pathetic excuses for human beings, the both of them.

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JDebuse [5 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not sure how I feel about the naming and shaming. The culprit may be a dolt, but he is being penalised accordingly.

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IanW1968 [271 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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AWPeleton [3319 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story  3

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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What a c*nt.

And a motorcyclist too, a vulnerable road user who really ought to know better.

Yet another whom I hope is plagued by piles the size of Poland for the rest of his days.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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If the judge believes that this person "remains a danger to cyclists", who's to say how long that danger will persist after he gets his licence back, or indeed whether the likelyhood of aggressive behaviour has increased as a result of his incarceration. Who knows what goes on in the minds of drivers like this one.

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

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

I'm not sure how I feel about the naming and shaming. The culprit may be a dolt, but he is being penalised accordingly.

Is he though?

To me, driving at someone on purpose is an act of attempted murder and should have been dealt with as such. 5 months inside and 3 year driving ban is a shambles to the justice system.

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Cyclic [38 posts] 2 years ago
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I wonder how many of us have been dealing with struggling businesses since the recession but have managed to not drive deliberately at other human beings? Stressful? If it had slowed his journey by 2 mins I would have been surprised. One moment of anger from an honest, hard working man? The judge did the right thing, this wasn't a driving mistake, we all make errors, this was pure anger which could have resulted in serious injury or worse. You break someone's wrist on the street, a GBH conviction is coming your way. The mere fact that you did it with a vehicle makes no odds. Hopefully this will be publicised as a warning to any other angry drivers out there. It's all been said before of course...

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nowasps [426 posts] 2 years ago
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Had one of these "Single File" twerps screaming and honking and close-passing us on a group ride today. It would save a whole lot of bother if the two abreast thing was promoted a bit more. Maybe mentioned by driving instructors perhaps?

Trying to hurt and frighten people isn't on under any circumstances, but it's ignorance of the facts that carries these simpletons into these situations.

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edster99 [336 posts] 2 years ago
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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...

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Tom Amos [236 posts] 2 years ago
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If you use your car as a weapon, you should be banned from driving for life.

Mind you, could be interesting to hear what his insurance quote will be when he reapplies for his license.

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IanW1968 [271 posts] 2 years ago
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I even had one on the opposite side of an otherwise empty country road gesticulating for me and a mate to ride single file.

It's the same as the road tax thing and could be fixed with a little bit of education.

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dp24 [201 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

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.

That is not mitigation. I have stress at work, and get frustrated by traffic on the road. That doesn't mean I can drive in a fashion that endangers others.

If he's deemed a 'risk to cyclists', he should not be allowed back on the road ever, never mind three years.

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Das [242 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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severs1966 [345 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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Pmracingteam [7 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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Ush [692 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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noether [96 posts] 2 years ago
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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!

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Bhachgen [111 posts] 2 years ago
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Except he's not, is he? The 3 year ban is ludicrous.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1198 posts] 2 years ago
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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!

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fatbeggaronabike [815 posts] 2 years ago
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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.

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