Cycle and road safety campaigners back British Cycling call for sentencing review

Appeal follows number of cases, including that of Rob Jefferies, where sentence handed down perceived as too lenient

by Simon_MacMichael   June 4, 2012  

Gavel

Leading cycling and road safety organisations including CTC, Sustrans and the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) are backing an appeal from British Cycling that calls on the government to act urgently to review sentencing in cases involving the death or serious injury of cyclists. The campaign follows a number of recent cases in which motorists convicted in connection with the death of cyclists have received what many have viewed as lenient sentences.

Its launch last week coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Rob Jefferies, who worked for British Cycling as a volunteer co-ordinator, and who was killed when he was struck from behind by a car while he was out on a training ride with a friend.

The driver of that vehicle was an 18-year-old who had passed his driving test just four months earlier and who already had a conviction for speeding. After pleasing guilty to causing Mr Jefferies’ death by careless driving, he was banned from driving for 18 months and given a 200-hour community order.

British Cycling maintains that “this level of sentence is common” in such cases, and certainly there have been a number of cases reported here on road.cc in which drivers convicted following the death of a cyclist have been handed down sentences that many perceive as being far too lenient.

Tougher sentences tend to be imposed only where there are other aggravating factors, such as the motorist involved driving without insurance or while disqualified, or if the vehicle involved in the incident has been stolen.

According to British Cycling, the sentencing in cases where a cyclist has lost their life or been seriously injured “frequently undermine confidence in the justice system and send the wrong message about how we as a society value life and the right of people to travel safely,” although it points out that “the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the courts believe they are correctly following the priorities, guidelines and laws that are currently in place.”

British Cycling, as well as the various organisations that support its initiative, is now asking for a review of the entire system surrounding how such incidents are investigated and how their prosecution is handled.

“These issues affect all road users,” says British Cycling’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, Martin Gibbs. “At British Cycling we believe passionately that a culture of mutual respect on the roads is in everyone's interest. An essential ingredient of that culture is a process to ensure that when things go tragically wrong and people have behaved irresponsibly they are dealt with in a manner which is right and fair to all those involved.”

Will Jefferies, the brother of Rob Jefferies, added: “In spite of the best efforts of the police, the CPS and the legal team at British Cycling there could be no justice for Rob. The present state of the law meant that his killer could never receive a sentence proportionate to the crime. Rob’s family all miss him a lot. We hope that his death can play some part in changing legislation for the better."

Specifically, British Cycling is asking for the following issues to be addressed:

  • A comprehensive review of the way that the police, coroners investigate these cases. Crash investigation processes vary from force to force and coroners’ evaluation of evidence is inconsistent across the country. Victim and their families frequently find they have little or no information on how the case is proceeding and what, if any, charges are being considered and why.
  • Review of the CPS charging standards and legal guidance to properly deal with the seriousness of incidents where road users are killed or injured. It often appears that the CPS chooses to go for inappropriately lighter charges or no charge at all.
  • A full examination of the offences available to the CPS. The offence of causing ‘death by careless driving’ came into effect four years ago and its effectiveness should now be reviewed, in conjunction with other related offences. We believe that the threshold for the more serious ' causing death by dangerous driving' offence may be too high which is contributing to a large proportion of cases being charged as 'causing death by careless driving.'
  • A review of the sentencing guidelines to ensure they adequately reflect the consequences of the offence. Assault cases were reviewed and extensively revised by the Sentencing Council last year to enable the courts to take greater account of the harm suffered by the victim. We believe that harm caused to road users and the impact on their families should be specifically dealt with in a similar way. The new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’ which has been recently introduced provides an opportunity to review guidelines across the suite of offences.

British Cycling says that so far this year it has twice approached the Lord Chief Justice, President of the Sentencing Council, regarding sentencing, but has not received a response, and says “it’s time for the government to engage with us on these important matters which are central to developing a safe environment that encourages people to cycle.”

The next step in the initiative is that British Cycling will draw up an action plan to help get members and other supporters involved, as well as meeting senior ministers with responsibilities in the area of sentencing and other groups concerned about cycling and road safety, plus the CPS and ACPO. It also hopes to secure a parliamentary debate on the issue, and to obtain firm commitments from the government to a change in policy.

Among the organsiations and individuals supporting the initiative are the CTC, London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans, Ian Austin MP – co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – road safety charities Brake and RoadPeace, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and British Cycling’s own solicitors, Leigh Day and Co.

Roger Geffen, Campaigns & Policy Director at CTC, commented: “CTC has long been concerned about the systemic inadequacies of the way the police, prosecutors and the courts respond to cases of bad driving where cyclists are killed or seriously injured.

“‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” is no excuse, and our Stop SMIDSY campaign is calling for an end to the botched investigations or weak charging decisions which so often result in derisory sentences of a few hundred pounds.

“Specifically we need to ensure that prosecutors stop using “careless” driving charges where the driver caused obvious danger and which therefore ought to lead to “dangerous” convictions.

“We also want to see much greater use of driving bans as a form of sentencing, not least for public protection from drivers who are prone to dangerous lapses of attention.”

Ashoh Sinha, CEO of the London Cycling Campaign CEO, added: “Too many families are left feeling betrayed by our justice system that appears to treat a road fatality as less serious than any other avoidable death.

“There needs to be transparent monitoring of the legal outcomes from every death or life changing injury. There needs to be an open system allowing victims' families the right to examine and challenge all the evidence.”

“We know that many people would like to walk and cycle for their daily journeys, but feel that the roads in our communities are just not safe enough,” said Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive of Sustrans.

“Everyone should respect other people on our streets, no matter what form of transport they are using. We all deserve to be safe when getting around.

“However, we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable road users, and it’s time our justice system reflected that fact.”

14 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

In my book it's a minimum charge of manslaughter but that will never happen. I have been cycle commuting 15 miles each way for the last three years and on three occasions I have been endangered by deliberate acts of aggression. Would these have been 'careless' if they had killed me?

posted by wyadvd [123 posts]
4th June 2012 - 18:19

3 Likes

Good to hear - this morning on the way back from the skatepark a nutter in a van coming the other way crossed the road to my side so he could cut a few metres off his important journey as he turned into a sideroad. He jsut cleared me. Dunno what that was about. Was he trying to frighten me for his pathetic amusement? Was he a fan of Jeremy Clarkson? But no harm was done at least. Pity I didn't get the reg no of the can as I'm sure his employer, with name emblazoned on the side, would be less than pleased.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
4th June 2012 - 21:55

3 Likes

about bloody time

Really, though?

posted by workhard [389 posts]
5th June 2012 - 18:52

2 Likes

To me 'Careless driving' is only careless if there is no one else on the road and you only risk your own life - otherwise it's dangerous driving.

I was descending a narrow local lane at 26mph last week when I was suddenly beeped loudly as a landrover squeezed past at 30 mph (with gestures from the driver) - only for him to take the next right 50 yards on at the bottom of the hill! Returning his gesture brought the driver to a halt - all of a sudden with time to spare after risking my life to squeeze past me. I interrupted his explanation of why his time was more valuable than my life with a two word suggestion of how he might continue his journey and we parted not as friends.

I'm so tired of variations of this scenario - none started by me or warranted by any behaviour on my part.

If drivers face the risk of real punishment maybe the 10% of drivers who treat cyclists lives with contempt can be cut to 2%. There will always be psychos out there but the rising level of contempt needs curbing somehow.

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

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
5th June 2012 - 22:36

3 Likes

Glad I'm not the only one. We need a telly advert campaign to make this sort of behaviour deeply uncool/ socially unacceptable.

posted by wyadvd [123 posts]
6th June 2012 - 23:21

3 Likes

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments regarding "careless" driving. This offence needs to be scrapped completely You are either in (complete) control of your vehicle or you are a danger to other road users.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [605 posts]
7th June 2012 - 16:45

4 Likes

Causing someone's death on the road should be an automatic lifetime ban from holding a licence *unless* you can prove (very convincing) mitigating circumstances. The victim doesn't magically come back to life after 1 year / 4 years (depending how good your lawyer is and what job you do/golf club you're in!), why should the driver get to forget it and go back to normal?

Even if it was a "moments inattention", that is a moment which has killed an innocent person. It is no excuse. If in doubt, imagine we were talking about firearms licensing...

posted by smudgegs [14 posts]
11th June 2012 - 15:13

3 Likes

So if you murder someone you get mandatory 15 years, but if you kill a cyclist you get banned for only 1.5 years.

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege and needs to be treated as such, what is going on with judges these days? The 18 months ban should be 15 year driving ban + prison.

posted by kie7077 [567 posts]
29th June 2012 - 10:39

4 Likes

One thing I am seeing a lot recently is other drivers flashing to others to let them out of junctions, then the drivers not looking and going for it.

Last night this happend and a women exiting the junction nearly took out a bloke who was coming down hill. Luckily enough he anticipated it and slowed, could of been a different story.

Then, later on in my ride a van pulle dout on me from a side junction, he saw me because he pulled out and went on the opposite side of the road and then got into lane. This was no use to me as he caused me to slam on and slow right down (I was coming down hill).

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
29th June 2012 - 11:01

4 Likes

Darthshearer wrote:
One thing I am seeing a lot recently is other drivers flashing to others to let them out of junctions, then the drivers not looking and going for it.

Last night this happend and a women exiting the junction nearly took out a bloke who was coming down hill. Luckily enough he anticipated it and slowed, could of been a different story.

Then, later on in my ride a van pulle dout on me from a side junction, he saw me because he pulled out and went on the opposite side of the road and then got into lane. This was no use to me as he caused me to slam on and slow right down (I was coming down hill).

This didn't happen in Leeds did it, because this exact thing happened to me the other day.

posted by iammarcmason [47 posts]
29th June 2012 - 11:29

3 Likes

Yes, well, last night actually in Otley.

I have seen it before though in Leeds and, been a victim of it myself.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
29th June 2012 - 11:42

2 Likes

Last week I was on a main road, keeping an eye on a car driver looking to pull out of the side road. He was on the opposite side, looked to his left, right through me I think, then pulled out and turned right almost on top of me. Once we were both travelling in a straight line, I shouted "are you looking?!". He turned his head, made eye contact, promptly wet the bed, and checked his mirrors to see where I'd come from. He waved an apology, but he was clearly just not looking for a cyclist.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3475 posts]
29th June 2012 - 12:24

3 Likes

not an hour ago a bloke in a BMW reg BD 53 OET knocked my handle bar with his near side mirror as i went past him on the approach to a roundabout he then drove straight for my back wheel knocking me partly from the bike and scuffing the rear carrier its ok though now as I mannaged to dent his bonnet with my fist scuff his front bumper with my boot insult him loudly and copiously and when the cops turned up he ended up paying for the carrier I know only too well not all incidetts work this well but the carrier is only scuffed and he has come to the attention of the cops in a negative light

tired old fart

posted by tired old fart [82 posts]
29th June 2012 - 12:38

2 Likes

We need lifetime bans for those who demonstrate no respect for the lives of those around them. If a motorist (and the majority of cyclists are also drivers of course) faced the real possibility of losing driving privilege forever we'd see a very different attitude on the roads almost overnight.

At present it's madness out there and government isn't bothered. I firmly believe this is a human rights issue. One party repeatedly injuring and killing a more vulnerable group for no good reason and no legislation in place to adequately punish, deter or reduce such behavior despite hundreds of lives being taken to date.

I'd simply like government to explain why the right of a dangerous driver to use a lethal weapon without them being restrained is more important than the basic human right to share a resource we all pay for without needless fear of being seriously injured or killed.

Currently it's a bit like a playground bully repeatedly being left to do his bidding in plain sight of a headmaster or teacher who insists all is well. Just what needs to happen to bring reform? Do we really need to 'accidentally' drive our cars into the families of MP's and lawmakers, pay the £30 fine and smirk at their now disabled family member as we leave and get back behind the wheel? It's just unreal.

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [191 posts]
28th September 2012 - 13:24

3 Likes