A Cambridgeshire man has been found guilty of causing racially or religiously aggravated fear or provocation of violence following a road rage incident involving four American cyclists, two of them serving soldiers in the US Army. Despite admitting punching his victim repeatedly, Robert Steele, aged 47, was found not guilty of assault and possession of an offensive weapon.
The incident took place on 6 March on the B1040 at Papworth Everard when self-employed bricklayer Steele took issue with the quartet – Paul Shiefer, Brianna Huot, Refugio Lopez and Lance Harris – who all take part in triathlons, after they reportedly pulled out of the road in front of him, reports Cambridge News.
One member of the group, Mr Lopez, attracted particular attention from Steele because, as the driver himself admitted, “I thought Mr Lopez looked foreign and he is foreign. The others looked as English as I am, so I only said it to him.”
Although the accused denied the charges against him, according to a report of the court proceedings on Cambridge News, in his own testimony he not only admitted hitting Mr Lopez, but also punching him repeatedly.
Penny Cannon, speaking for the prosecution, told Steele: “Mr Lopez was a small chap with only cycling gear on. He could see you were angry and would have felt terrified. If you were in his position you would have been scared too.”
Steele claimed that Mr Lopez was headbutting him with his cycle helmet and admitted: “I gave him three upper cuts to his face while his head was down. I gave him a couple of whacks and he fell to the ground.”
He then retrieved some plastic piping from his van and waved it at the cyclists, shouting racial abuse at Mr Lopez and saying “I’m going to kill you.”
In Steele’s defence, Guy Holland said that the accused was suffering pressure due to one of his children suffering from cerebral palsy. He added: “Mr Steele is of good character and has never shown violence in the last 47 years.”
Steele was fined £300 and told to pay court costs of £215 as well as a £15 victim surcharge.
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.