New Transport Minister convicted in 2009 of careless driving in incident that left cyclist with broken neck

Conservative MP told police coast was clear as he drove out of Houses of Parliament - CCTV evidence proved otherwise

by Simon_MacMichael   September 6, 2012  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

Simon Burns, appointed Minister of State for Transport in the wake of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, was convicted in 2009 of careless driving following an incident that left a cyclist with his neck broken in two places, it has emerged.

The Conservative MP for Chelmsford West, who was serving as Opposition Whip at the time, initially intended to plead not guilty to the charge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in February 2009, according to a report at the time in the Daily Mail.

On the eve of the hearing, however, which Burns did not attend, his lawyer entered a guilty plea on his client’s behalf, and the politician was fined £400, ordered to pay £200 in costs and had his driving licence endorsed with four penalty points.

Immediately following the incident in April 2008, he had told police that the road was clear – a claim that was disproved through CCTV evidence.

Burns subsequently claimed that a lamp post and tourists had obscured his vision, meaning he did not see the victim, Army Major Stuart Lane who was riding home from the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, as he drove his Range Rover out of the House of Commons car park into Parliament Square.

Prosecutor Kristel Pous told the court: “A collision was inevitable. Major Lane went over his handlebars, hit his head on the top of the front wing of the car and broke his neck in two places."

She added that the injuries sustained by Major Lane and the fact he needed to wear a neck brace following the incident “may affect his operational duties in the future.”

The court was also told that CCTV footage demonstrated that Burns’ assertion that the road was clear was “clearly mistaken,” with the cyclist shown heading towards him.

Speaking on behalf of Burns, Melanie Cumberland, said that he was “extremely sorry” and that the collision had been caused by a “momentary lapse of concentration.”

She added that a lamp post that he claimed obstructed his view had subsequently been removed on safety grounds and that the road had been “strewn with tourists.”

District Judge Timothy Workman agreed that the manoeuvre Burns was attempting was a difficult one, but added that it therefore needed “extra vigilance.”

Meanwhile, new Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin – the third holder of that post in less than a year – got off to a bad start in his new job when he turned up 17 minutes late due to his car being held up in traffic, according to a tweet from Adam Boulton of Sky News.

Hopefully his departmental colleague Norman Baker, whose responsibilities as Minister for Transport include cycling, will be passing on tips about how switching to two wheels can help beat the London traffic.
 

23 user comments

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One way to look at this is that at least the new minister will have an acute personal awareness of poor road design in London, and the particularly bad access for the HoC car park, where a rapidly arriving or departing official car has to cut through a milling crowds looking up at Big Ben's tower, occasionally assisted by the Police on duty.

Perhaps a Road Safety campaign based on all road users using their eyes more effectively is on the card. A campaign there methinks?

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [433 posts]
6th September 2012 - 5:13

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"as he drove his Range Rover"

Why do people need to drive such bloody huge cars in central London?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
6th September 2012 - 7:43

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londonplayer> Why do people need to drive such bloody huge cars in central London?

article> ...hit his head on the *top* of the front wing of the car...
(my emphasis)

Suggests that if he had been driving a lower, "normal", car the victim may have gone straight over the bonnet, and possibly received less severe injuries ?

posted by zoxed [62 posts]
6th September 2012 - 8:50

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Over the years, on this web site, we have learned that being convicted of causing serious injuries to someone else does not mean you will go to prison, as long as you cause those injuries with your car. Nor does it mean you will be prevented from using your car again. But now it turns out it doesn't even prevent you from becoming a transport minister! What a ridiculous omnishambles. All I can say is that The Thick of It is back on this weekend. Watch that, enjoy it, but don't ever, ever think anything will change for the better, because it won't. Not from where we, as a species, have got ourselves. The people get the government they deserve. Personally, I'm hoping for a massive asteroid strike - then, maybe, in a few million years, something more rational will have evolved from the cockroaches or something. Goodbye, good luck, peace out.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:38

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No one *has* to drive a Range Rover, we must remember that people who have them *want* to own them, or be seen to own them. Completely unjustifiable cars. If you were in the country you'd have a disco or defender anyway.

In my small cyclist brain anyone in a RR is a cock. I know that's reductive and one of my best friends has one - he is definitely a cock when he's driving it!

List of cars automatically given a wide berth and a cock ranking:

Range Rovers
BMW X?
Audis over A4
New minis
Addison Lee anything
Private Hire anything
Anything with dark windows
People carriers in North London
Anything white with panels
Turning trucks
Scooters

But I digress.

Yes, actually I think AV Lowe might have a point. At least he's (hopefully) felt the guilt of injuring someone. Empathy is a good quality in a politician.

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posted by alotronic [231 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:40

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zoxed wrote:
londonplayer> Why do people need to drive such bloody huge cars in central London?

article> ...hit his head on the *top* of the front wing of the car...
(my emphasis)

Suggests that if he had been driving a lower, "normal", car the victim may have gone straight over the bonnet, and possibly received less severe injuries ?

I have to say that, having been in a similar side-impact RTA myself, once you've gone over the handlebars you travel mostly in a down direction. The hight of the car's front wing has little bearing on whether you're going to hit it or not. Unless you are on a BMX or a clown's bike.

Hopefully you don't think that cyclists who hit a 'normal' car's front wing just go sailing serenely over the bonnet.

posted by Philbert [16 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:48

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I'm going to add 'old looking Rovers' to the list of vehicles to give a wide berth to. I'm sure the vast majority of elderly drivers are superb, but I'd still rather not be near them...

posted by Darkerside [56 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:51

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londonplayer wrote:
"as he drove his Range Rover"

Why do people need to drive such bloody huge cars in central London?

Ah, you missed the point, Cameron has filled the cabinet with his chummies who are all multi millionaires with land in the countryside and they need a big car to run over the peasants in their way as they beg for a little bit of tax back Devil

The whole lot of them are a bunch of knackers, you just have to look at Osborne and the wicked witch May, they got booed to the rafters at the Para Olympics but found it all a joke. Make the lot walk i say, dont even give them a bike cos i dont want to be associated with them as cyclists, anyway i digress Big Grin

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2434 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:54

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Hopefully this will mean he will be more aware of the dangers on the roads in London particually to cyclists.

Cars exiting the Palace of Westminster car park are a real hazard. They always seem to pull out too fast across several lanes to get round Parliament square. I've had a few near misses there.

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
6th September 2012 - 9:56

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The same reason people ride road bikes through London instead of hybrids or town bikes - because they want to.

Let's not get in to limiting personal choice on the basis of our own preferences, it's a very slippery slope.

posted by Mr Will [84 posts]
6th September 2012 - 10:12

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Is a man with a conviction for careless driving, and who considers it appropriate to drive a monster 4x4 in the middle of a city, a suitable chouice for a transport minister? Justine Greening was moved presumably because her highly public opposition to Heathrow Runway 3 (actually 4 - there is already a third runway going NE/SW across the site) called into question her impartiality, manifesto committments notwithstanding. Does not this man's background call similar questions?

And why do they need to drive there anyway? I saw in the news the other night Camerson arriving back at No 10 from the House - by car. It must be all of 300 yards - and parents who drive their kids 500 yds to school (rightly) get stick for it!

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
6th September 2012 - 10:41

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Paul M wrote:
And why do they need to drive there anyway? I saw in the news the other night Camerson arriving back at No 10 from the House - by car. It must be all of 300 yards - and parents who drive their kids 500 yds to school (rightly) get stick for it!

The security issue is the biggest concern to the Police protection officers.
I think Cameron would prefer to walk back to Downing Street (as it would be as fast), but if it was know he did it would be easy for an assassin to hide in the crowds of tourists.

The INLA managed to kill Airey Neave by a car bomb in the car park. Since then the Police have been very paranoid about threats to government members and MPs.

posted by thereverent [284 posts]
6th September 2012 - 10:52

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Philbert wrote:
...
Hopefully you don't think that cyclists who hit a 'normal' car's front wing just go sailing serenely over the bonnet.

No !! I was thinking that the higher the bonnet on a car the more likely you are to go head first into the *side*, i.e. very high deceleration. If you *miss* the side of the car and start to go over it then I can imagine the deceleration may be less (eg a glancing blow across the bonnet).

posted by zoxed [62 posts]
6th September 2012 - 10:58

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Looking at the story from yesterday we have:

Careless driving => broken neck and likely permanent damage => £400 fine and 4 points

Careless cycling => wing mirror broken => £350 fine

It's just so wrong that it's funny.

posted by SpamSpamSpam [20 posts]
6th September 2012 - 12:13

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"District Judge Timothy Workman agreed that the manoeuvre Burns was attempting was a difficult one..."

Difficult? Is he a bit "challenged" as a result of inbreeding? I hope he doesn't have to perform any three point turns.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
6th September 2012 - 12:14

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We could always adopt that old Tory line 'bring back hanging'...

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posted by mr-andrew [293 posts]
6th September 2012 - 12:20

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In a 4x4, it's amazing his vision was obscured by anything. But he had time to notice the critical mass of 7-foot tourists and avoid them, but not a cyclist?

posted by spaceyjase [48 posts]
6th September 2012 - 15:08

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What bothers me is that a man who committed a crime leading to another's injury and lied about it is in a position of power.

Would this have happened if he'd injured the Major in a punch-up after closing time at the Red Lion?

But then there's that Blair chap...

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
6th September 2012 - 16:33

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londonplayer wrote:
"as he drove his Range Rover"

Why do people need to drive such bloody huge cars in central London?


To look over the heads of the proles, of course.

posted by Cauld Lubter [113 posts]
7th September 2012 - 19:09

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"Hopefully you don't think that cyclists who hit a 'normal' car's front wing just go sailing serenely over the bonnet"

Actually that happened to me once. I flew over the bonnet and more or less landed on my feet.

No injuries to me or damage to my bike, but a huge scratch in the car.

It was my fault Confused

Spare time project - cycling price comparison: http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [158 posts]
7th September 2012 - 20:29

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The moral of this story (and the other article) seems to be if you get squeezed by a car and clip his wing mirror stop, drag motorist out of car and break his bloody neck it will only cost you £50.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [484 posts]
8th September 2012 - 8:26

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David Cameron is desperate, which is why this clown has been given a post for which he is so obviously ill-suited. If the Labour Party has any teeth, when the matter of road safety is discussed in the house, he will be the subject of sustained barracking.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
8th September 2012 - 21:38

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"Immediately following the incident in April 2008, he had told police that the road was clear – a claim that was disproved through CCTV evidence."

Isn't that perjury, the **** got of lightly.

So he runs over a cyclist with his SUV, breaks his neck, lies about it, and gets off scot free, he's probably a millionaire, £400+£200 is a joke.

posted by kie7077 [354 posts]
22nd November 2012 - 15:21

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