Persistence pays off for cycling lawyer as motorist who threatened to kill him convicted

Case only went to court after two complaints over lack of action despite video evidence caught on helmet camera

by Simon_MacMichael   January 18, 2012  

Martin Porter, courtesy Cycling Lawyer blog.jpg

Motorist, Scott Lomas, has been convicted of a public order offence after the persistence of the cycling lawyer he threatened finally paid off. You may remember our coverage of the frustrations encountered by Martin Porter, the Queen’s Counsel who blogs as The Cycling Silk, in persuading the Metropolitan Police to take action against a driver who had threatened him in November 2010 as he commuted to work by bike, despite the incident being captured on the cyclist’s helmet cam.

Lomas was fined £250 and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge as well as costs of £300 after pleading guilty to the offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.

It transpired that he was also in breach of a suspended sentence handed down in April 2010 for malicious wounding, although the court today decided that it would not refer that issue back to the Crown Court.

The defendant, aged 24 at the time of the incident, had initially pleaded not guilty, with his lawyer arguing that since the police officer investigating the case had indicated that no further action would be taken, the subsequent decision to prosecute had been an abuse of process. When the judge rejected that argument, Lomas changed his plea to guilty.

That Lomas was eventually brought to justice was due to Mr Porter’s determination to get the authorities to take action in connection with the incident that took place on 4 November 2010 on the A315 near Hounslow as he rode to work.

Lomas, apparently frustrated at being unable to pass the cyclist as the road narrowed due to a traffic island, had beeped his horn and shouted abuse, continuing to do so as the pair passed each other several times over the next few minutes, and eventually threatening to kill him. The episode was filmed by the cyclist’s helmet camera.

Despite that video evidence, Mr Porter, who reported the incident the same day, found that police were reluctant to investigate and that after what he describes as “casual contact” with the CPS, the officer handling the case had decided that no further action would be taken.

A complaint to the Director of Public Prosecution’s resulted in the CPS telling the police to investigate the report and submit evidence, but again the recommendation of the same investigating officer was that no further action be taken. It was only when a further complaint was made that a senior police officer decided that the case should indeed be referred to the CPS, who decided to prosecute, resulting in today’s conviction.

Commenting on the case, Martin, who besides being a Queen’s Counsel is also a keen racing cyclist with Thames Velo, said: “I am pleased that justice has now been done and that the Crown Prosecution Service had the moral fibre to reverse the Metropolitan Police’s attempts to drop this case notwithstanding the strength of the evidence. 

“It is sadly too much to hope that all mindless aggression and violence directed at cyclists will instantly cease but at least this conviction may help to discourage similar incidences of mindless ‘roadrage’ against vulnerable road users.

“I am very grateful to prosecuting counsel (a cyclist it transpires!) who dealt with the case efficiently and courteously.”

He added: “I am grateful too for the moral support I have received from the CTC, Roadpeace, The Road Danger Reduction Forum and the vast majority of cyclists who have contacted me.”
 

37 user comments

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downfader wrote:
This whole situation should have been dealt with on the day but the reluctance of the officers involved means a little trust in the police gets eroded. Thinking

What trust?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
18th January 2012 - 20:15

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Lovely. A few more convictions like this would be good. The driver and his mate that drove me and a club mate off the road either side of his 4x4 instead of waiting at the passing place would be top of my list.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [933 posts]
18th January 2012 - 20:35

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cat1commuter wrote:
londonplayer wrote:
I thought that insurance companies were extremely reluctant to insure people who have criminal records and often turn them down. So I wonder how he managed to get car insurance at 24 years old as well?

Assuming that he was insured...

If he hadn't been insured he would have been convicted with that.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
18th January 2012 - 22:53

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Lomas was not the owner or the registered keeper of the vehicle. It would be nice to think that the police constable would have checked insurance details but...

posted by cyclinglawyer [9 posts]
18th January 2012 - 23:40

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Very good to see a positive result. I don't think this is the way to make most of the population change their behaviour (that would be through reasoning and sharing of perspectives) but if the threat of prosecution is what we need for the really stupid ones then good to see that it is there, even if you need solid evidence and a lot of persistence. Great effort in getting the death threat repeated for the camera and microphone.

I'm riding the 2013 Giro d'Italia for charity! Check it out and follow my progress live at www.tourletour.com

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posted by Tour Le Tour [91 posts]
18th January 2012 - 23:55

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cyclinglawyer wrote:
Lomas was not the owner or the registered keeper of the vehicle. It would be nice to think that the police constable would have checked insurance details but...

Is it too much to hope that the investigating officer might be reprimanded for such an obvious dereliction of duty?

posted by paulfg42 [355 posts]
19th January 2012 - 0:39

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Excellent result. Thanks for having the persistence to stay with this. It's instructive for the rest of us.

posted by Ush [356 posts]
19th January 2012 - 2:15

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Well done @cyclinglawyer

Now, how can we consistently get at least warnings from the Police on incidents like these?!

Considering a camera, didn't really think it was worth it due toi lack of convictions but this and the incident where the guy eventually came forward for assault charge might change my mind. Slightly worried I would become a literal minded vigilante Sad

A

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posted by alotronic [231 posts]
19th January 2012 - 8:13

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Regarding the insurance, it's pitiful that the police didn't check the drivers insurance or licence.

As for actually getting insurance, insurers ask if the driver has any previous motoring convictions, but do not ask about any other types of convictions, so in this case, malicious wounding would not count against the driver getting insurance, and also won't suffer any penalties from this offence either.

I'm following the case of the chap who was hit by a bus driver, on purpose, in Bristol with interest - the driver pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced at the end of the month - I wonder what penalty he gets and hope that Road.cc reports on this. It's a similar situation but luckily for our cycling lawyer friend, the tosser didn't act on his threat to kill him. The bus driver did and the cyclist still has plates in his arms, although is still cycling! Hurrah for persistence.

posted by Myriadgreen [89 posts]
19th January 2012 - 10:20

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Well done, great result and you've done a service to all cyclists

Argon18 E-112 - Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [163 posts]
19th January 2012 - 10:24

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Myriadgreen wrote:
As for actually getting insurance, insurers ask if the driver has any previous motoring convictions, but do not ask about any other types of convictions, so in this case, malicious wounding would not count against the driver getting insurance, and also won't suffer any penalties from this offence either.

Even if it's not specifically asked, an unspent criminal conviction is a material fact that needs to be disclosed when taking out insurance cover. Failure to do so can entitle the insurer to render cover void, even if the offence has nothing to do with the type of cover being sought.

The period for a conviction to be deemed spent varies depending on the sentence imposed (Rehablitation of Offenders Act 1974).

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7489 posts]
19th January 2012 - 11:08

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Congratulations to this man, I have read his blog and it's very interesting.

Also congratulations to Road.cc for continuing to report these kinds of stories both at the beginning and the end. Excellent work.

posted by italiafirenze [68 posts]
19th January 2012 - 12:52

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Good for Martin. Applause
It show you need persistence with the Police on matters like this.

As it wasn't his car, it would be interesting to know if he was insured.

On the original story on Road.cc the driver came on the comments section: http://road.cc/content/news/27275-cycling-barrister-captures-death-threa...
All his claims seem to now have been proven false by this case.

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
19th January 2012 - 13:26

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Myriadgreen wrote:
As for actually getting insurance, insurers ask if the driver has any previous motoring convictions, but do not ask about any other types of convictions, so in this case, malicious wounding would not count against the driver getting insurance, and also won't suffer any penalties from this offence either.

Even if it's not specifically asked, an unspent criminal conviction is a material fact that needs to be disclosed when taking out insurance cover. Failure to do so can entitle the insurer to render cover void, even if the offence has nothing to do with the type of cover being sought.

The period for a conviction to be deemed spent varies depending on the sentence imposed (Rehablitation of Offenders Act 1974).

Whilst there is a duty to disclose any material facts, I'm not sure that the conviction for wounding is material to a motor insurance policy. Convictions for dishonest offences might be relevant (more likely to make a fraudulent claim), for example, but an insurer would have a hard time voiding a policy for a conviction like that, especially with a consumer, where the rules are pretty strict. Doesn't mean they wouldn't try, mind you....

posted by step-hent [638 posts]
19th January 2012 - 14:48

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I understand that there is ample evidence to suggest that the most egregious motoring offences - road rage, significant over-limit speeding, dangerous driving etc - have a strong statistical link to more general common criminality. Most police forces acknowledge this. Surely then the Metplod must have been able to establish immediately that Scott Lomas has a conviction for wounding and a suspended sentence which should have been reviewed in the light of this incident?

In light of their performance on the Steven Lawrence case however, I would have no confidence in their ability to join the dots here.

As to insurance, perhaps criminal convictions for violence should indeed be disclosable as material information on an insurance proposal form - dishonesty I can see as it suggests a propensity to defraud, and violence as it appears to indicate a propensity to dangerous driving behaviour.

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
19th January 2012 - 15:03

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step-hent wrote:
Whilst there is a duty to disclose any material facts, I'm not sure that the conviction for wounding is material to a motor insurance policy.

"All ‘unspent’ criminal convictions are considered to be material facts irrespective of the type of offence they relate to. Therefore the onus is on the customer to disclose them."

Source: http://www.unlock.org.uk/userfiles/file/unlockinginsurance/UNLOCKInsuran...

The insurer has to prove nothing other than there was an unspent conviction that was not disclosed when the policy was taken out. What that conviction was for, and what type of insurance it is, is irrelevant.

Of course, it may well be that if an unspent conviction for wounding is disclosed as part of the proposal, the underwriter may deem that it's irrelevant in assessing the premium to be charged (assuming they are still prepared to offer terms - some don't).

The fact remains, it still needs to be disclosed.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7489 posts]
19th January 2012 - 15:47

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Myriadgreen wrote:
As for actually getting insurance, insurers ask if the driver has any previous motoring convictions, but do not ask about any other types of convictions, so in this case, malicious wounding would not count against the driver getting insurance, and also won't suffer any penalties from this offence either.

Even if it's not specifically asked, an unspent criminal conviction is a material fact that needs to be disclosed when taking out insurance cover. Failure to do so can entitle the insurer to render cover void, even if the offence has nothing to do with the type of cover being sought.

The period for a conviction to be deemed spent varies depending on the sentence imposed (Rehablitation of Offenders Act 1974).

If Lomas was in breach of a suspended sentence, then the conviction definity wasn't spent.
Most insurance policies I have taken out recently ask if you have any unspent convictions.
I just think the Police haven't bothered to look further.

The court not not refering that breach of suspended sentence back to the Crown Court is wrong. Whats the point of a suspended sentence if another conviction means nothing?

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
19th January 2012 - 15:48

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Step-hent - many insurance companies now ask policy holders if they have ANY criminal convictions. This is because convicted criminals have higher incidences of accidents. Studies suggest there is a direct correlation between the risk taking behaviour of criminal activity and poor judgemment while driving.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
19th January 2012 - 17:47

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Great to see justice done! Big Grin ... Thank you Martin for persisting and paving the path for all of us! Thanks road.cc for keeping us updated!

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posted by Argy [147 posts]
19th January 2012 - 18:06

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Moral of the story.

Always wear a helmet cam and get a cycling lawyer. Wink

posted by Decster [244 posts]
20th January 2012 - 10:33

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I just hope that Publicity and Justice like this shows Drivers that Us cyclist are only Human, and in fact Most of us own a car anyway, I hope also that it well help others to see we all need to just get along......... Unfortunately we don't have lovely cycle lanes like most Parts of Holland etc..

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posted by uksportives [30 posts]
20th January 2012 - 22:39

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Paul M wrote:
Surely then the Metplod must have been able to establish immediately that Scott Lomas has a conviction for wounding and a suspended sentence which should have been reviewed in the light of this incident?

The review of a suspended sentence (after a further conviction) is a matter for the courts and has nothing to do with the Police. If you read Martin's blog you can see that the court decided not to revoke Lomas's suspension in light of this case. You would have to read the court papers to establish why.

posted by don_don [149 posts]
21st January 2012 - 12:13

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Well done Martin

I usually give these idiots a piece of my mind, but I admire your courage. You have as they say, more balls than most.

posted by Grumpyoldbiker [15 posts]
21st January 2012 - 16:29

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I stand (or sit or ride) corrected - after 6 years in motor insurance sales and claims, I thought I knew it all - we never use to ask for any details of convictions other than motoring ones, and there was never a field to complete for anything other than motoring convictions. Innnnterestting.

posted by Myriadgreen [89 posts]
21st January 2012 - 17:05

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Been thinking of this for a while concerned at the general (conscious or unconscious) apathy that the police shows towards incidents against cyclists:

Is there a provision in UK law under which a victim, whose case has been dismissed by Police despite convincing evidence, or an independent party, using collective evidence over a period, can sue (say) the Met for bias against cyclist(s)?

Even if such a case can/may not be won, it'll put the police officers and leadership on alert about being under observation, and force them to at least give all offences against cyclists a serious thought (to prevent the incident from being used as evidence against them in a future suit).

If it pushes the police leadership enough to really force a serious change of attitudes inside the police departments, the cost of the suit may well be worth it.

~rbx

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posted by rbx [243 posts]
22nd January 2012 - 1:41

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Regarding another thought I've been having lately - are there any public numbers on what percentage of police officers regularly cycle, as part of official duty or for recreation?

My hypothesis is that most police officers do not cycle, but a big majority of them do drive. The result is that they treat a motor vehicle sideswiping a cyclist the same as, say, a car scraping against another - a casual event that just caused a few scratches on the metal that shall be settled by the insurance companies anyway.

Unfortunately, cyclists know that getting sideswiped by a motor vehicle can easily go from something as little as a damaged bike and scratched skin to ending up under the wheels of an HMV.

If this is the case and statistics can be found to back it, it could help show a direction in which to work to ensure incidents against cyclists get a proper hearing.

~rbx

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posted by rbx [243 posts]
22nd January 2012 - 1:56

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"Have iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit"! Cool

Top effort!

posted by cllr hodgen [45 posts]
23rd January 2012 - 10:00

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However,

Secretly filming members of the public, and it is secret until they realise it, and because these cameras do not discriminate between people actually offending and innocently going about their lawful business, including young mums and kids, public are entitled to be outraged at it. Although there is no law against such filming it can be deemed to be behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace and can be stopped. It is a form of unwelcome vigilantism. We are asking ministers, MPs and police, where they stand on covert filming of innocent members of the public and if there needs to be checks carried out on the people who do it too.

Before exploding at me, do check the law out on this. Also do not get indignant when people have a go at you for it. If they ask you to stop, then stop. It is a natural reaction.

This barrister was foolish. This could've resulted in injury and death for him. His camera probably encouraged him to maintain contact. Is It ok being right but a right cabbage or dead? Don't be daft. On bikes, we are very vulnerable. Remember filming people makes them angry and they are controlling heavy lumps of machinery. Any sign of this get off the bike. Let them go. Don't take them on.

This whole thing needs looking at from a very strict licencing point of view.

Why aren't we surprised that there is an Ex Acpo Ltd money maker involved in this? See http://bit.ly/u92z0U

posted by Driver Protest Union [16 posts]
23rd January 2012 - 10:59

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You're confusing the word 'secret' with the word 'small' there, DPU. And you're also confusing yourself, it seems, saying that "there's no law against such filming", which is true, only to later say we should "check the law", which you already seem to have done.

Quote:
If they ask you to stop, then stop. It is a natural reaction

it might well be a natural reaction. That doesn't put the law on your side.

Quote:
Remember filming people makes them angry and they are controlling heavy lumps of machinery. Any sign of this get off the bike. Let them go. Don't take them on

The conviction in Martin's case rested on him challenging the driver, so not always the case. There's no amount of provocation that would legitimise using your vehicle as a weapon in any circumstance.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7036 posts]
23rd January 2012 - 11:12

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Once upon a time Constable Plod rode a bike and was very aware of all that was happening around them and the dangers of the other road users .
As they go about policing now they sit in the comfort of their vehicle usually stuck in traffic without very much awareness of what is happening around them . Fact is it is very hard to get them to pull over to pass them info or seek their assistance .
Recall reading here that the first ( 2 london women )death caused by that truck driver was witnessed but the Police on the scene just wanted to keep the traffic moving and so did not do their work correctly and the witnesses were sent on their way without being recorded ! how many more incidents of sloppy Police work will be reported before there is an improvement in procedures ?
So far i have seen no report of any worthwhile penalty for the driver or reimbursement of Martin Porter's costs even though he may have declined them . Surely the Police and CPS should be aware that a member of the public loses time and incurs expense when they fail to do their duty correctly .
Once again the cyclist is wronged and the perputrater walks from court with a little less cash when the case merits custody as a warning to others !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [372 posts]
24th January 2012 - 19:41

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