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Threat of private prosecution embarrasses Met into action

The Metropolitan Police has referred the death of cyclist Michael Mason to the Director of Public Prosecutions ahead of a vigil this evening for the 70-year-old who died a year ago after being hit by a car.

Michael Mason was hit from behind by the driver of a Nissan car on Regent Street on February 25 and died from his injuries on March 14, 2014.

No prosecution was brought against the driver; the Metropolitan Police did not refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in what the Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF) said last year was a clear breach of CPS guidelines.

The inquest into Mr Mason's death returned a finding of accidental death. The driver accepted that if the cyclist was there she should have seen him.

Martin Porter QC represented the family at the inquest. On his blog Porter wrote: "Witness evidence and CCTV evidence … left no doubt that no witness aside from the Nissan driver failed to see Mr Mason on his bicycle."

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that a detective inspector from the Met's Roads and Transport policing command took the decision that there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution.

An investigation by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) supported that decision, but after representations from Mr Mason's family and others, the DPS has referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Cyclists' Defence Fund

The CDF has been supporting Mr Mason's family in their fight for the case to be re-examined. The family has said it will consider bringing a private proisecution if no case is brought against the driver.

Rhia Weston, CDF Coordinator told road.cc: "The threat of embarrassment from a private prosecution highlighting the police's failure to act seems to have made the police change their minds about this case.

"Now that the CPS has received the case file, we hope that they decide to prosecute the driver involved and that they choose a dangerous driving charge rather than a lesser charge of careless driving."

Road.cc understands that the CPS will now review the evidence and see whether there is enough evidence for a reasonable chance of conviction and prosecuting would be in the public interest.

As the CPS have received the file, Michael's family will now be entitled to review any unfavourable decision that is made under the Victims' Right to Review scheme.

Vigil and ride

This evening at 5:30 pm campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists will hold a vigil and ride along Regent Street to commemorate Mr Mason/.

The ride will meet by the Keith Park statue on Pall Mall / Waterloo Place.

Speakers will include Michael's daughter, Anna, and Green Party local transport spokesperson Caroline Russell.

Jenny Jones MLA

In February, Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones wrote to Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe requesting the Met review its decision not to recommend prosecution in the case.

Jones expressed concern that the police were relying too much on the need for eyewitness accounts of the crash and not giving enough emphasis to the physical evidence.

She wrote: "The Met Police appear to believe that the considerable physical evidence is inadequate to secure a prosecution, as none of the witnesses interviewed saw the actual collision. The policy implications of this are serious as the Met appears to be over reliant on witness statements."

Michael Mason was easily seen by numerous other witnesses, Jones points out, and had a rear flashing red light and a red rear reflector.

She wrote: "The most worrying aspect of this case is that Mr Mason as an experienced cyclist, was riding well out from the kerb in a highly visible position. 'Taking the road' at pinch points is exactly what Transport for London funded training courses advise cyclists to do. A failure by the Met Police to pursue this case, could send out a message that cyclists who do 'take the road' are not protected by the law if a motorist simply drives over them."

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police this morning issued this statement:

Following an extensive investigation involving two Senior Investigating officers, a Detective Inspector from the Met's Roads and Transport policing command took the decision that there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution.

The case was therefore not referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) but was instead referred to the legal processes of the Coroner's Court.

An inquest at Westminster Coroner's Court recorded a verdict of death by road traffic accident.

Legal representatives of the family of Mr Mason have written to the Met Police to challenge the decision not to refer the matter to the CPS, prompting an investigation by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS).

The DPS supported the Detective Inspector's original decision, but have referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

19 comments

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CXR94Di2 [1585 posts] 2 years ago
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The police shouldn't have to be embarrassed into action. Strict liability would do away with these poor decisions

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jacknorell [969 posts] 2 years ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

The police shouldn't have to be embarrassed into action. Strict liability would do away with these poor decisions

No, it wouldn't.

Strict liability is about civil claims liability, not criminal where means rea and reasonable doubt still comes into it.

Police borough commanders (& similar roles) insisting that collision investigation protocols are followed, and decisions are based on evidence however might help.

As would also be the case if CPS insisted on a flawless investigation for road traffic death incidents, and as policy always brought the case to court.

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CXR94Di2 [1585 posts] 2 years ago
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If strict liability was added to the road traffic act then it would be irrelevant civil or criminal. Vulnerable road users would be presumed innocent, unless irrefutable evidence countered the strict liability.

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ron611087 [356 posts] 2 years ago
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About bloody time!

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racyrich [282 posts] 2 years ago
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'I didn't see him' should result in immediate suspension of driving licence pending a full medical and opthamological examination.

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Joeinpoole [441 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

'I didn't see him' should result in immediate suspension of driving licence pending a full medical and opthamological examination.

I agree. It seems quite bizarre to me that the driver, who has just killed a vulnerable road user without any explanation or apparent mitigating circumstances, is simply allowed to carry on driving.

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mike the bike [900 posts] 2 years ago
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Our thanks should go to Martin Porter QC, who has beavered away on this case for months. If you have never read his blog, "The Cycling Lawyer", you should.

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Housecathst [587 posts] 2 years ago
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So, this will end up in front of a jury of other equally incompetent motorists and the verdict will be ? I wonder

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wycombewheeler [1073 posts] 2 years ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

The police shouldn't have to be embarrassed into action. Strict liability would do away with these poor decisions

no it wouldn't as it only applies to civil law (insurance) and not criminal law

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brooksby [2235 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

'I didn't see him' should result in immediate suspension of driving licence pending a full medical and opthamological examination.

Exactly. If you are driving a car and you completely fail to see a grown adult riding a bike directly in front of you under street lighting with all of the appropriate lights and reflectors... I'm not necessarily saying it should be a criminal prosecution but, well, you really need to explain why you think you should keep your licence to drive, because something ain't right...!

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brooksby [2235 posts] 2 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

'I didn't see him' should result in immediate suspension of driving licence pending a full medical and opthamological examination.

Exactly. If you are driving a car and you completely fail to see a grown adult riding a bike directly in front of you under street lighting with all of the appropriate lights and reflectors... I'm not necessarily saying it should be a criminal prosecution but, well, you really need to explain why you think you should keep your licence to drive, because something ain't right...!

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noether [96 posts] 2 years ago
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"There was insufficient evidence". It seems the rules have to be re-written: this is a collision from the back, cctv footage available and witnesses around who maybe did not actually see the impact but could testify on the situation before and after. Perhaps there was a lack of "motivation"?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1582 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

'Taking the road' at pinch points is exactly what Transport for London funded training courses advise cyclists to do. A failure by the Met Police to pursue this case, could send out a message that cyclists who do 'take the road' are not protected by the law if a motorist simply drives over them."

I think this is an important point (regardless of the eventual outcome of this case, given the similar cases we've already had). As long as drivers can run into you from behind when you've done everything you are supposed to, and get away with it. it makes a nonsense of 'vehicular cycling'. These cases make me want to toss 'cyclecraft' in the recycling bin.

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Xrecymech [10 posts] 2 years ago
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There are some seriously bad police officers who are effectively breaking the law by posing as actual police officers, my own experience with a PC Good (ironic I know) of West Yorkshire police is similar although obviously not as serious as this case, in that he just could not be arsed to investigate and just said no offence had been committed, waste of space these people and they will only realise how frustrated and angry people feel about that if/when it happens to them.

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cookdn [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Xrecymech wrote:

[....] my own experience with a PC Good (ironic I know) of West Yorkshire police is similar although obviously not as serious as this case, in that he just could not be arsed to investigate and just said no offence had been committed[....]

The problem is that many police forces no longer have a dedicated road traffic unit. Certainly in Nottinghamshire traffic collisions are dealt with the same response officers attending robberies and cases of ABH. Because most of the time all the parties in traffic collisions are people driving motor vehicles, they seem to be quite happy delegating most investigations to insurance companies.  2

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Jonny_Trousers [278 posts] 2 years ago
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 35

Joeinpoole wrote:
racyrich wrote:

'I didn't see him' should result in immediate suspension of driving licence pending a full medical and opthamological examination.

I agree. It seems quite bizarre to me that the driver, who has just killed a vulnerable road user without any explanation or apparent mitigating circumstances, is simply allowed to carry on driving.

It's because roads are intended for motorists and cyclists are taking their lives into their own hands by riding on them. It's a bit like swimming with great white sharks. If something happens to the cyclist then they only have themself to blame. Or that's the widely held perception, anyway.

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Cyclist [295 posts] 2 years ago
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The faith in the senior management teams of police forces to uphold the law, to protect and serve, takes another chink in its already battle worn armour. The back peddling after a year just highlights the high level of incompetence at the senior level.... These idiots who are part of the 'wink wink nudge nudge roll up my trouser leg and slap me three times with a wet fish brigade' have no understanding of real policing and should be sued direct for the mental stress and anguish caused to the family.
Embarrassment is all their worried about, as the magnifying glass will highlight the incompetence even further. The driver, life ban. Plus a custodial sentence.

Chapeau to the CDF

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Xrecymech [10 posts] 2 years ago
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PC Good was/is a traffic officer, albeit a completely useless one as far as my experience goes, they steam into action if they think you have called one of them a pleb though.

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Xrecymech [10 posts] 2 years ago
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cookdn wrote:
Xrecymech wrote:

[....] my own experience with a PC Good (ironic I know) of West Yorkshire police is similar although obviously not as serious as this case, in that he just could not be arsed to investigate and just said no offence had been committed[....]

The problem is that many police forces no longer have a dedicated road traffic unit. Certainly in Nottinghamshire traffic collisions are dealt with the same response officers attending robberies and cases of ABH. Because most of the time all the parties in traffic collisions are people driving motor vehicles, they seem to be quite happy delegating most investigations to insurance companies.  2

PC Good was/is a traffic officer, albeit a completely useless one as far as my experience goes, they steam into action if they think you have called one of them a pleb though.