Cycling Lawyer infuriated by CPS decision in helmet cam case

No charges against motorist who threatened to kill

by Mark Appleton   November 27, 2010  

Martin Porter, courtesy Cycling Lawyer blog.jpg

We recently reported on the case of Martin Porter QC, the barrister who writes a blog under the name the Cycling Lawyer who was threatened by a motorist while cycling but managed to record the threat on a helmet camera.

Mr Porter has now sent a letter of complaint to the Crown Prosecution Service after its decision not to prosecute the case, apparently on the grounds that it believes it is unlikely to secure a conviction, the Evening Standard reports.

It’s a decision that clearly gives rise to the question of precisely what evidence would satisfy the CPS that a successful prosecution was likely in a situation where a cyclist has been threatened by a motorist.

Mr Porter has written to the West London Prosecution Service saying: “My understanding is that the police officer assigned to investigate this case considered issuing a fixed penalty notice to the suspect for a breach of section 5 of the Public Order Act and took advice from the CPS at Hounslow. The officer was apparently then advised by Manjit Mahal that there was insufficient evidence ‘to pass the threshold test’ and that no action should be taken.”

Upon hearing this the barrister had written to Mr Mahal setting out the legal basis for prosecution and asking that the case be referred to a senior prosecutor, but he failed to receive a response. He has addressed his latest communication to Mr Arwell Jones, the District Crown Prosecutor of the West London Prosecution Office.

In his blog, Mr Porter points out that earlier this year the Hounslow CPS office was the subject of a damning report in which its performance was officially rated as “poor”.  In the area of "Pre-charge advice and decisions" the office was given a zero rating.

Following publication of the report Hounslow, Borough Crown Prosecutor Nick Coates said: "My team and I are dedicated to prosecuting thoroughly crimes committed in Hounslow, ensuring that offenders are brought to justice and that the people of Hounslow have confidence in their Crown Prosecution Service."

Speaking to the Evening Standard about the failure to prosecute the driver for even a minor Public Order offence, Mr Porter said: “He is probably guilty of a more serious offence, including a threat to kill. I would have been content for him to be charged with the lesser offence of threatening behaviour. I can't understand why it's constructive to do nothing.”

12 user comments

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Martin Porter QC is a hero. I am sure Mr. Porter would rather spend his evenings relaxing from a hard days work but he is instead pressing forward and his efforts may very well save someone's life someday.

How the CPS has come to the decision not to prosecute is beyond comprehension.

I applaud you Mr. Porter. Bravo, sir.

posted by lokikontroll [51 posts]
27th November 2010 - 16:19

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Agreed that Mr. Porter is a hero. It's very useful for the rest of us without legal training to have someone that has knowledge of the system take it on. Good luck.

posted by Ush [376 posts]
27th November 2010 - 21:03

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I expect the cycling barrister will eventually force the CPS to do something about this case. It is clear that the CPS in this instance is extremely tardy in its response. I saw the story mentioned in the Evening Standard the other day. I'm curious what the driver thinks of all this. I assume he's been following it too and is now feeling slightly nervous, which is no bad thing. I'd be curious to know if his driving has improved. Martin Porter has the knowledge to push this case through in a way us ordinary mortals could not and in a way it's lucky the cycling QC was the target of this incident as otherwise, it wouldn't have been pursued. It's important the case is taken up because it will have wider ramifications.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2087 posts]
28th November 2010 - 9:21

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Would hope that the CPS see sense, in that no prosecution in this case would make the law seem an ass. A serious offence has taken place - threatening to kill, caught on camera, if this was the police then there would be an automatic prosection.
On a lesser note, motorists often get away with bad driving due to lack of bottle from being complained against. There needs to be precedents.

posted by shm [1 posts]
28th November 2010 - 13:05

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Its good to see someone standing up to these macho drivers who aim their metal boxes at cyclists.
There must be a million stories and cases where similar things have happened. Its the summer drunk drivers that are the worst

RoundtheEdge

spragger's picture

posted by spragger [25 posts]
28th November 2010 - 16:53

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The sound on that video isn't very clear to me, but it doesn't really seem to be that much of a threat to kill, just a confirmation that the driver agreed with the cyclists question.
'did you try and kill me?'
To which the driver said yes.
At no point did the drivers actions appear to be likely to put the cyclist in any threat, or in any way likely to kill the cyclist. The driver could easily say he didn't hear what the cyclist said in defence.
I agree with the CPS, it is extremely unlikely that they could prosecute successfully in this case.

SteveAustin's picture

posted by SteveAustin [34 posts]
1st December 2010 - 7:38

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Thanks for the support. I appreciate it and it encourages me to keep at it. For Steve, and others who may have misinterpreted the video, I have added subtitles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEFOMLngZ08
I am slurring slightly but you know what it is like on a November day when your face has been in the wind.
Safe pedalling
Martin

posted by cyclinglawyer [9 posts]
1st December 2010 - 11:13

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I haven't misinterpreted the video, I can't hear what the driver says.
It matters little what i can hear though, is there a clear audible threat to kill stated by the driver?
I happen to agree with the CPS.
I admire your tenacity and I agree that drivers should not be able to shout/threaten cyclists (something which happens to me on a daily basis) but i think if you really want to push the CPS to charge an abusive driver, you might want to find a better video to champion.

SteveAustin's picture

posted by SteveAustin [34 posts]
1st December 2010 - 14:43

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Hello all!
I noticed this story in The Standard when I was visiting London last week.
May I offer an alternative interpretation (from a position of some insight).
I strongly suspect that this was never formally referred to the CPS at all: it is a stock police excuse "the CPS won't prosecute" and the CPS is widely disliked in the Met so it is easy to blame the faceless lawyers rather than an officers disinclination to folow up an investigation (eg where it isn't proving easy to identify the driver because the vehicle isn't registered to the current owner).
To whom would the officer issue a 'fixed penalty ticket'? Doesn't sound like the officer has identified the driver. Police do not need the authorisation of the CPS to issue a fixed penalty (one reason the police use them, rightly or wrongly).
If an officer consulted a prosecutor, the first question would be "what did the suspect say when he was interviewed". In this case, I understand they haven't even spoken to him...whoever he may be. So, at present there has to be an identification issue (who would get prosecuted) even before the issue of what was said is considered. No prosecutor would consider the case in its present state, nor ought an officer go to the CPS without having completed even a basic investigation (see the CPS website and Guidance by the DPP for pre-charge consultation).
As an aside, a charge of 'threats to kill' is one of the worst charges to select in a case such as this: it can alow a defendant to elect trial in the Crown Court....imagine how much that will cost the taxpayer! Much better would be an offence attracting up to six months imprisonment, either common assault (that means causing someone to fear immediate unlawful violence) or under the Public Order Act (section 4 or 4A). There are also offences under the Road Traffic Act, but they don't carry the potential custodial penalty.
I await the result of the complaint to the area Chief Crown Prosecutor with interest: my money would be on there never having been a referral to the CPS at all, however, if/when the case is properly considered I hope it is not headlined as "CPS Climbdown": one can't climb down from somewhere one hasn't climbed up-to.
It is also worth remembering that a case has to be brought within six months of the incident occuring....
Hope you find some of this 'informative'!

posted by WellOutofTown [1 posts]
4th December 2010 - 1:39

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Another cycling QC writes:

Good luck, Martin. I enjoy the blog and share your astonishment that anybody could think there is not enough evidence to prosecute your little motorised friend for a public order offence. Keep us posted and keep the rubber side down.

posted by ironman1104 [1 posts]
8th December 2010 - 16:13

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Just a line to let you know that the individual has now been charged with a public order offence.

posted by cyclinglawyer [9 posts]
5th May 2011 - 17:28

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A further line to let you know that he has (finally) been convicted.

posted by cyclinglawyer [9 posts]
18th January 2012 - 15:30

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