London riders hold protest vigil outside CPS

Prosecutors urged to do more about cycle deaths

by Tom Henry   July 3, 2009  

road.cc news

London cyclists were gathering today (Friday July 3) outside the offices of the Crown Prosecution Service to protest at what they see as lenient treatment of drivers who kill cyclists.

The demonstrators were due to gather at 4pm at the CPS offices at 50 Ludgate Hill EC4 to hold a short vigil and read out a prepared statement demanding that the CPS take a more thorough approach when investigating cyclist deaths.

July 3 is the first anniversary of the death of Berkshire cyclist Anthony Maynard, who was hit from behind by a van driver who claimed he didn’t see him. Another cyclist was seriously injured in the crash, but the CPS decided not to prosecute. Protesters will also gather outside the CPS’s office in Reading to remember Anthony.

Kate Cairns, sister of Eilidh Cairns, killed in a collision with an HGV in Notting Hill, will be one of those protesting outside the CPS office in Ludgate Hill, London, today.

She said, "It seems that 'Sorry mate I didn't see you' is enough for the Crown Prosecution Service. Is that all a driver has to say to get away with killing a cyclist?"

Below is the text of the demonstration statement in full:

We are cyclists of London, gathered here this afternoon, in a quiet protest and short vigil in memory of all our fellow cyclists killed by the drivers of vehicles; several more during this year already.

In particular we think of Eilidh Cairns, 30, who was killed at Notting Hill Gate by a tipper lorry driver on 5th February this year, and of Anthony Maynard, 25, who was killed north of Henley by a van driver exactly a year ago.

We make our protest here at the London Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to remind Ms Dru Sharpling, Chief Crown Prosecutor, of the decision of her colleagues at Reading CPS, when last year they inappropriately, remissly, and to our minds unforgivably, ordered that the van driver who struck Anthony (and his companion) from behind would not face charges. We do not hold Anthony’s life so cheap.

You, the CPS at London, will shortly be reviewing the case of Eilidh Cairns who was also hit from behind on a one-way straight road.

Our protest is on behalf of all cyclists.

Across Europe, motorists are presumed to be at fault in motorist-cyclist collisions. In the UK, even faced with prime evidence of a dead body, a driver does not have to prove his innocence. Instead, the CPS decides whether charges can successfully be brought against the motorist, and can then choose to drop a case entirely.

In Anthony’s case (and as is claimed in Eilidh’s case, and in the cases of many others) the van driver’s defence that he simply didn't see the cyclists was accepted by the CPS as an adequate accounting for the death of a highly principled and well-loved citizen in the prime of his life.

In a time when the nation as a whole is encouraged to exercise, and use forms of transport other than the car, and when climate change is seen as a real threat, cyclists need to feel that they have the full and equal protection of the law when on public roads, and not a law apparently interpreted (or simply set aside) to the maximum advantage of the driver, no matter how culpably careless.

The CPS was in dereliction of its duty last year. We fervently hope that it will adopt a different perspective, starting with the forthcoming case of Eilidh. Allowing drivers to kill with complete impunity just will not do, and does not meet the nation’s needs and priorities.

We append a quotation from Christopher G Thompson, District Crown Prosecutor (Oxford Rural) in a letter sent by him to one of the Reading Cycling Club committee who had written deploring this failure to prosecute (dated 16 March 2009):

“The fact that no prosecution has followed in this case does not in any way mean or suggest that drivers may drive carelessly around cyclists or that cyclists will not be afforded the protection of the law where appropriate.”

In what must have been a considered letter, the phrase affording cyclists the protection of the law “where appropriate” is chilling: NO! We demand the protection of the law.