Suspended sentence for driver who tried to run cyclist off road…9 times

Court hears that victim was senior police officer

by Simon_MacMichael   February 3, 2010  

road.cc news

A teenage driver who repeatedly tried to run a cyclist off the road has been told by a judge sentencing him to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, that he had made a “bit of an unfortunate choice of victim” – an off duty senior police officer. Even so, the judge only gave him a suspended prison sentence.

Detective Inspector Martin Melvin had been cycling home from Burnley police station last July when 18-year-old Benjamin Harrison, who lives in the town, pulled alongside him and started beeping his horn, shaking his fist and shouting, “Get off the road. I will run you off the road. I will kill you. Get off the road,” according to a report in the Lancashire Telegraph.

Prosecuting counsel Sarah Statham claimed that Harrison had no idea that the cyclist was a detective inspector and that he had acted as he did specifically because he was riding a bike.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Harrison had made nine attempts to run Detective Inspector Melvin off the road, trying to hit him on the pavement and making contact with his handlebars and causing him to veer into trees, with the result he came off his bike. He also threw coins and stones at his victim.

The court was also told that the police officer had no option other than continuing along the same quiet road as Harrison since there was no means of escape available to him. Detective Inspector Melvin was, however, able to take down Harrison’s registration number, which led to the teenager’s arrest.

Harrison pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and to common assault, and Recorder Graham Wood, QC told him that he was “very fortunate indeed” to retain his liberty.

Besides the suspended sentence, Harrison was given a 12-month supervision order, ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work and pay £750 costs, and banned from driving for two years.

Harrison was arrested at his parents’ house, where it is claimed he told police, “Can I not just apologise?”

Police interviewed him twice, and each time Harrison made statements that conflicted with the facts as presented by the prosecution.

On the first occasion, Harrison maintained that the cyclist had gestured at him, and that to begin with he believed he knew the bike rider. The second time officers interviewed him, the driver admitted to further details of what he had done, but said he had turned round on only two occasions.
 

28 user comments

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Poor show. The tone of the article is that the car driver got a lot more than expected, but frankly it's appalling how lightly he got off.

posted by blueangel [3 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 9:42

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ffs - a suspended sentence? on what grounds exactly?

with amazon22 here - that's pretty piss-poor justice.

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posted by jezzzer [339 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:13

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And his target was a copper.

He would have got away with no sentence at all had it been a regular joe riding a bike.

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posted by jobysp [145 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:35

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When will the courts start using appropriate sentencing for offences such as these? An attempted assault with a deadly weapon would have been dealt with using a much heavier sentence. Why is a car weighing 1.5tonnes or so regarded as being less lethal than a heavy lump of wood, baseball bat or a cricket bat for instance? And I agree that had the victim not been a policeman, it's possible the sentence would've been lighter still or that it would never even have reached court.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1944 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:51

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Just been talking to Simon on this one, and he made the point that if you or I had reported such an incident with no witnesses would the case have even made it to court? I'd like to think it would, but hand on heart I can't be certain.

What is amazing is that once it got to court the sentence was so light it doesn't seem proportionate with the intent or the result - he did succeed in running Insp Melvin off the road and presumably for all he knew could've seriously injured him. As Amazon22 says if he had only threatened him with a gun or knife, let alone actually attacked him with one he'd be going down for a very much longer stretch indeed, so what's the difference?

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4111 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:53

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"On the first occasion, Harrison maintained that the cyclist had gestured at him"

Would it somehow have been less of a crime if the cyclist had gestured to the driver first?

When I'm cycling and drivers cut me up, overtake too close or generally make me feel like my life is in danger I let them know the only ways I can - by shouting or gesturing at them.

Is this provocation permitting them to threaten to run me off the road?

How else can I let drivers know?

posted by Milky88 [10 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:55

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No where near enough in terms of punishment!!

When will the courts realise that using a car to force a cyclist off the road is attempted murder; as the most probable consequence will be serious injury or worse? Failing that, what about assault with intent or assault with a deadly weapon?

Agree with jobysp, if the victim hadn't been a copper then they wouldn't have bothered pursuing it.

Angry

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

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posted by jova54 [526 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:57

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In offences such as these against cyclists, perhaps it would be a requirement for drivers to cycle a minimum of 1000 miles during the ban period and be able to verify this as a condition of their driving entitlement then being allowed again when the ban ends.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1944 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 10:59

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"so what's the difference? "

Well unfortunatley we give people licences to handle/use these dangerous weapons (cars) and have created a law system around there use. I think becuase of this the courts compare this sort of attack with assault (ie, with fists), which is frequently seen by the court system as a lesser offence even though its just as likely to injure/kill someone as using a bat/gun/knife.

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posted by STATO [400 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 11:14

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A couple of years ago I had 2 lads in a car who slapped my arse as they drove by. I went past them in a queue - then they went past and did it again. They thought that wasn't funny enough so they doubled back and did it a third time.
I don't know what makes these people tick - I could easily have gone under a wheel, especially as I was doing 20-25mph the first time.
I did report the incident to the police who followed it up and apparently they were apologetic and got an official caution - not much comfort to me, but maybe they'll think twice about doing it again.
If it happens - report it. Nothing will change if you don't. Angry

Exercising my rights by taking them cycling

posted by pedalingparamedic [86 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 13:08

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Surprise It just gets worse.
Honestly, what is the justice system coming to? CPS obsessed with putting costs and performance targets before justice; judges told not to send people to prison coz there's no room at the inn, etc.

It's enough to make you go out and buy the Daily Mail. Sad

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posted by neilwheel [130 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 13:59

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I think I'm going to ahve to stop reading some of these news items, they're not helping my state of mind regarding the intentions of a proportion of road users.

However, I have to remind myself that the majority, in fact probably the vast majority are decent. Quite a few are even considerate. People like this are, after all, a tiny minority.

Since he is a teenager I'm inclined to hope that he will learn from the warning. But I blame his parents, they should be ashamed.

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 14:32

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Very true Simon, let's not forget that if all drivers were like this kid this story wouldn't actually be news.

For an insight into what would've happened if he'd used a gun instead of a car in another part of the world check out the story from the US in the related stories box

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4111 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 16:53

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Had the victim been walking, and this jerk had walked up to him with a loaded shotgun (for that is what a vehicle is), pushed him over, shoved a gun in his face and screamed 'I will kill you', he would have had more than this slap on the wrists. Its no less than attempted murder. Lock him up, make an example and start getting the message out that cyclists are people too.

posted by amazon22 [143 posts]
3rd February 2010 - 18:45

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tony_farrelly wrote:
For an insight into what would've happened if he'd used a gun instead of a car in another part of the world check out the story from the US in the related stories box

I think I'll pass, I have had my fill of disturbing news for this week.

Meanwhile, although perhaps tangentially related to this particular article, but relevant to all threads and stories about car-bike interaction on the road - Strict Liability and a Youtube video on the subject here:

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/02/strict-liability.html

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
4th February 2010 - 13:18

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i'm not sure that's technically correct - see the comments below about how the danish system works, and most of europe is the same. there's a separate concept, independent of liability, at work here – operating risk – and *that's* what we need in the UK.

basically car drivers are insured against the fact that a car is dangerous, whether they drive it well or not. so if a car hits a cyclist, they can be awarded damages because cars are dangerous, not because they're assumed to not be at fault.

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posted by mattbianchi [15 posts]
4th February 2010 - 14:09

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the comments in that copenhagenize article, that is Smile

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posted by mattbianchi [15 posts]
4th February 2010 - 14:10

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Thanks. I had read the article via RSS so missed the comments.

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posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
4th February 2010 - 17:20

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the laws in this country are now such an ass with no common sense anywhere in the equation being shown by the assholes who sit on the various benches passing so called "judgement" on idiots like this .... it only ever gets worse in this damn country.

posted by ceeque [6 posts]
5th February 2010 - 14:44

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It's a pity his driving ban was not for longer. I too am disappointed that he did not at least serve a token week in prison to let him dwell on what he has done. The small consolation is that the next time he applies for car insurance, hopefully it will be so excessive that this lunatic will not be able to afford to drive any more.

posted by Tom Amos [203 posts]
5th February 2010 - 15:35

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How does a Judge get to sit on the bench in England? Surely there is some understanding of what is "Common Sense"?Crown Courts are where serious matters are dealt with, Slapping a "Murderous thug on the wrist " just does not count as justice!
The CPS should be appealing this sentence as inappropriate and seeing this thug gets a minimum of 5years in prison where he can learn that to steal candy from school kids gets a sensible sentence immediately!
The judge like so many of his colleagues would do well to live in the real world with contact with the victims of crime!
Road rage leads too often to murder and even minor injuries are too high a price to pay for being victimised by a "motorised imbecile".Cyclists and the media reporting their sport and activities need to work together month after month to "petition "for change! Vote the lazy Law makers out and replace them with people who are aware of Justice!Follow @skippydetour and Visit www.parrabuddy.blogspot.com where we can make a difference for "disabled sport" some of whom are the victims of this sort of injustice!

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
5th February 2010 - 18:27

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Given that the offence was committed against a local Police officer I would reckon that the offender will need to move a substantial distance from Lancashire to avoid having his future motoring VERY closely scrutinised. Local Police will doubtless soon work out which car(s) he uses and make sure that any fault in his driving gets a friendly reminder or appropriate warning.

I worked on the initial Police Bike programme locally (almost 15 years ago) and for better or worse am regularly recognised and acknowledged by local beat officers. Fortunately I 'normally' behave myself when cycling and driving.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [433 posts]
8th May 2010 - 16:50

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tony_farrelly wrote:
Just been talking to Simon on this one, and he made the point that if you or I had reported such an incident with no witnesses would the case have even made it to court? I'd like to think it would, but hand on heart I can't be certain.

See my post above.

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posted by TiNuts [92 posts]
4th August 2011 - 16:25

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tony_farrelly wrote:
if you or I had reported such an incident with no witnesses would the case have even made it to court? I'd like to think it would, but hand on heart I can't be certain.

In my case, the answer was a definite NO:

Several years ago a motorist pulled out from a side road into my path causing me to brake to avoid collision. I shouted at him (as one does in these situations..), something he clearly took offence at as he then tried to force me off the road by progressively slowing down in my path and driving in towards the curb until he - and I - stopped. He did this at least 4 times at which point I informed him that if he did it again I would report him to the Police. Of course, he did pull the same stunt again so I stopped and wrote down his number as he sped off up the road.

Shortly after this I noticed the same car coming towards me from the opposite direction. The driver had obviously done a U-turn somewhere down the road and was now heading back. As he got within about 50m he crossed the central line and headed straight for me. I remember thinking - and you know how it all seems to go slow-mo at times like this - that he wouldn't actually drive into me (as that would involve damaging his precious motor vehicle) so I held my line. Luckily for me I made the right decision as he slammed on the brakes and came to a halt a few feet from my front wheel. It was a blatantly intimidatory action and I must admit that, at this point, I lost it - so I won't repeat what passed, at a furious level of decibels, from my mouth. Suffice to say that he didn't hang around to listen.......I wish, in hindsight, that I'd at least thrown something large and heavy through his windscreen; instead I took the somewhat more rational approach and did report the incident at the local Police Station.

Several days later I got a call from the Police who informed me that, regrettably, they could take no action on this occasion as there were no witnesses. I requested that they keep my statement on record so that, in the event that this lunatic (some would say homicidal) driver was the subject of any further complaints, a future case for prosecution could be made.

I've not heard anything since........

Suffice to say that I now use a helmet cam on just about all my journeys.

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posted by TiNuts [92 posts]
4th August 2011 - 16:26

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Tom Amos wrote:
It's a pity his driving ban was not for longer. I too am disappointed that he did not at least serve a token week in prison to let him dwell on what he has done. The small consolation is that the next time he applies for car insurance, hopefully it will be so excessive that this lunatic will not be able to afford to drive any more.

Yes, but what's the betting he'll just join the one-and-a-million uninsured drivers currently at large on our roads already....
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [228 posts]
21st October 2011 - 14:16

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PhilRuss wrote:
Tom Amos wrote:
It's a pity his driving ban was not for longer. I too am disappointed that he did not at least serve a token week in prison to let him dwell on what he has done. The small consolation is that the next time he applies for car insurance, hopefully it will be so excessive that this lunatic will not be able to afford to drive any more.

(Pardon my typo). Yes, but what's the betting he'll just join the one-and-a-half million uninsured drivers currently at large on our roads already....
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [228 posts]
21st October 2011 - 14:18

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How do we get ridiculously light sentences like this appealed?

Really, though?

posted by workhard [293 posts]
30th January 2012 - 8:41

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How bad does it have to get before a judge actually jails somebody for this behavior.
Assault or GBH suddenly seem to bring much more lenient sentencing if the offender is cocooned in a metal box with four wheels Sad :(
Perhaps the Judge should face a charge of wasting Police time as this is effectively what he has done.

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posted by Fixedwheelnut [15 posts]
3rd March 2012 - 13:42

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