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Injured cyclist highlights sentencing disparity

A cyclist who suffered a shattered arm when he was hit by a car, requiring him to undergo five hours of surgery, has criticised the apparent leniency of the driver’s sentence and highlighted the disparity between the punishment handed out to the driver and that given for more trivial offences that don’t involve bodily injury.

Stewart Smith, aged 42, was struck by a car in January on the Brook Hill roundabout close to Sheffield University, and has been unable to work as a result of the injuries he received after being hit, with his humerus broken during the collision, which was seen by two police officers, according to The Star.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court fined the driver, a Mr Szewczyk, £90 plus a £15 victim surcharge and ordered him to pay £35 costs after his conviction for driving without due care and attention, and also put a four-point penalty on his driving licence.

Mr Smith, a member of Thurcroft Cycling Club, needed surgery to put his arm back together, including two plates, 15 screws and wire being inserted, and has been unable to return to his work in a children’s residential home.

However, his own research has unearthed the case of a woman who appeared in Chesterfield after dropping a cigarette end in the street who was fined £175, £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge, and he now plans to take legal action as a result of the perceived leniency of the sentence handed out in his own case.

"I want to bring to people's attention, yet another case of inconsistency and failure of the British justice system,” Mr Smith explained to The Star.

Highlighting the case of the woman in Chesterfield, he said: "I think it beggars belief in the whole justice system that someone who has caused such injury gets a lesser sentence than someone who drops a tab end."

He continued: "The surgeon told me that the bone was so badly smashed, some of it had turned to dust. I am unable to work as the bone has still not fused together and I have been informed that I will lose some of the movement in my arm and I may even be left with a permanent disability.”

Mr Smith added: "I feel the sentence was extremely lenient and offers no deterrent to drivers to change their driving habits,” saying, “The injury I sustained will affect the rest of my life."

The newspaper said that a court spokeswoman had told it that the fine given to Szewczyk would have been finalized taking into account the driver’s circumstances and the specific details of the incident.

The Star also spoke to Solicitor Nicola Meese, who specialises in road traffic accidents at the firm Irwin Mitchell, who said: "Cycling is a great way to keep fit as well as help the environment by cutting the use of cars for smaller journeys.”

She continued: "But there are still dangers on the roads for cyclists and we see many accidents often resulting in very serious injuries as a result of other road users not doing simple things that can avoid accidents.

"Those in cars and on motorcycles need to make sure they remember the basics from their tests, such as checking mirrors and giving cyclists enough space.

Ms Meese concluded: "Cyclists are some of the most vulnerable road users in a collision and we need to make sure they are well protected by drivers of other vehicles."

Speaking about the case to road.cc CTC Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen said:

"While CTC does not know all the facts in this case, it seems that 4 points on the driver license and a small fine doesn’t reflect the severity of the damage done to Stewart Smith’s health. Such a lenient punishment does not send out the message to other motorists that they need to watch out for cyclists.

The case also demonstrates why it is so important for cyclists who are injured by motor vehicles to let CTC know about it, by reporting it to www.Stop-SMIDSY.org.uk. Not only to we want to be able to fight for justice in cases like this, but also to be able to demonstrate the systematic failures of the police, prosecutors and the courts to treat pedestrians’ and cyclists’ injuries and deaths as seriously as they deserve. However we can only do this if we hear from the cyclists or their families facing these situations - we are powerless to act on media reports alone.”

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.