Five days after it announced that the death of cyclist Michael Mason had been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Metropolitan Police Service has withdrawn that statement, issued on Friday, saying it was “incorrect.”
The admission was made in an email sent out to members of the media today, with police saying: “We have previously stated that the below matter was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. This is incorrect. No referral has been made.”
It appears that police did not communicate the error to Mr Mason’s family in advance of making their error public.
Martin Porter QC, the barrister who has represented them, told road.cc this afternoon that the first he knew of it was when a journalist contacted him, two hours before he received confirmation of it from the police.
The news comes just four days after the first anniversary of 70-year-old Mr Mason’s death on 14 March last year from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car on Regent Street north of Oxford Circus on 25 February 2014.
The Cyclists’ Defence Fund, run by national cyclists’ charity CTC, had said in December that the failure of police to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service was a clear breach of CPS guidelines.
Writing on his blog last year after a coroner’s inquest at which he represented Mr Mason’s family, Mr Porter said: “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 barrister subsequently liaised with police and the DPP in an attempt to have the decision not to refer the case to the CPS reversed, and his family had plans to bring a private prosecution against the driver involved if that did not happen.
The confirmation, then, on Friday – the same day a vigil was held at the scene of Mr Mason’s death to mark the weekend’s anniversary – was seen as an admission by police that they had made the wrong decision in deciding not to refer the issue to prosecutors.
Rhia Weston of CTC, who co-ordinates the CDF, told road.cc on Friday: "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," she added.
But the Metropolitan Police’s statement today, correcting the one issued on Friday, makes it clear the case will not now be reviewed.
While admitting its error may be embarrassing enough to the police, some may view the timing of the issue of the two statements as being particularly insensitive given they have been released either side of the anniversary of the collision that resulted in Mr Mason’s death.
Moreover, many will note that the correction has been made on an afternoon when the focus of much of the media is firmly on today’s Budget, the last before May’s General Election.
We have asked the Metropolitan Police for an explanation of how the mistake happened, and have also sought comment from Mr Mason’s family as well as CTC, whose Road Justice campaign is calling for more thorough investigation, prosecution and sentencing of cases in which a cyclist is the victim.
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.