Justice minister to meet with British Cycling over sentencing review

News follows today's Westminster Hall adjournment debate on victims of crime

by Simon_MacMichael   October 17, 2012  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

Justice Minister Helen Grant has confirmed at today’s Westminster Hall adjournment debate on victims and the criminal justice system that she will meet with a delegation from British Cycling to discuss the prospect of a review of sentencing in criminal cases where cyclists are the victims.

Ms Grant was speaking at the end of the debate, which had been tabled by Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central, whose constituency includes British Cycling’s headquarters.

While the debate was not purely focused on cases where cyclists are the victims, the presence of a number of MPs who have campaigned on cycle safety issues and signed an Early Day Motion on the issue of sentencing of drivers found guilty in cases involving bike riders meant that it was one of the key areas discussed today.

As comments to stories published here on road.cc regularly attest, the perception of lenient sentencing in cases where cyclists have been killed or injured is an issue that concerns many cyclists in Britain.

Although criticism is often directed at judges or magistrates, and sometimes justifiably so, in most cases they are simply following the sentencing guidelines applying to the offences the motorist has been convicted of – and responsibility for reforming those lies with the legislature.

Custodial sentences are the exception, typically applied only in cases where there are aggravating factors such as driving without insurance, drink-driving or failure to stop, and it does appear that crimes against property, such as theft, are dealt with more harshly than those against the person, at least where the victim is a cyclist.

The Early Day Motion regarding driver sentencing was tabled by Dr Julian Huppert, who together with Ian Austin acts as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG).

Mr Austin, who is a member of British Cycling, was among those who spoke this afternoon.

"I want to use this debate to ask the minister to look at what many people feel are often derisory sentences drivers receive after killing or injuring cyclists,” he said.

“I’ve raised these examples with ministers before and I will continue to do so until action is taken to make the roads safer for cyclists.”

After giving some examples of cases where he believed drivers had received lenient sentences, Mr Austin continued: "We need a comprehensive review of how the justice system operates when people are hurt or killed on the roads, to reflect the harm the victim suffers.

"British Cycling has called on the Minister of Justice to start a review, but despite repeated letters and 78 MPS signing an EDM in favour, British Cycling has had no response.

"Will the Minister undertake a review of the justice system, to ensure the punishment fits the crime and, more importantly, to deter drivers from engaging in the stupid and dangerous driving that puts cyclists and other road users at risk?"

Another APPCG member, Dr Sarah Wollaston, told the debate: "We all refer to accidents, but if someone is killed by a speeding lorry driven by someone on their phone that's not an accident, it’s a crime."

Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, compared the sentences given to motorists in cases involving cyclists to a slap on the wrist, adding, “It brings the whole of our criminal justice system into disrepute."

In May this year, British Cycling launched its campaign urging the government to undertake a review of sentencing in cases involving cyclists, and after today’s debate, its director of policy and legal affairs, Martin Gibbs, commented:

“'I'm very pleased to see the widespread cross party support, both from MPs and the Shadow Justice Minister for our call for a comprehensive justice review.

“This is an issue that concerns everyone who cycles, whether they are a world champion or someone who rides their bike to work occasionally.

"People need to feel that they are protected by the law. It is clear to us that the current justice system often delivers results which send the wrong message about the right of people to ride safely on the roads.

“We need to take action now to make the government take this issue seriously.”

British Cycling’s campaign is backed by a variety of organisations including CTC, Sustrans, the London Cycling Campaign, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, the APPCG, RoadPeace, Brake, Leigh Day & Co solicitors and the Road Danger Reduction Forum.

6 user comments

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So I shall expect another Westminster fancy envelope from my MP, I always say its my OBE or application to be PM...... Nerd

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8858 posts]
17th October 2012 - 22:21

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I asked my MP to sign the EDM and he refused, saying they rarely achieve much - in his defence he did then write to the MoJ and copy me on both his original letter and their dismissive response.

I am VERY pleased to see that enough people have been kicking up about this to make an issue of it - appears the only way to get attention is to make a scene - DAMN, the wife has been right all these years!

posted by mad_scot_rider [548 posts]
18th October 2012 - 8:43

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he did then write to the MoJ and copy me on both his original letter and their dismissive response.

What did the MoJ say? Is their response online? I'd love to see that, it'd be worth an article on it's own. MoJ and Dep't for Transport clearly don't give a **** about cycling in the UK if their policies are anything to go by.

posted by kie7077 [476 posts]
18th October 2012 - 10:19

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The more fuss you make the more attention it gets. The end result isn't always what you wanted but you have to start somewhere.

The bit i find dissapointing is "discuss the prospect of a review of sentencing in criminal cases where cyclists are the victims".

So in other words they are only going to discuss the possibility that there might be a review. I can see the ministers private sec saying "just smile and nod at them then they will go away happy".

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2755 posts]
18th October 2012 - 10:23

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What did the MoJ say? Is their response online? I'd love to see that, it'd be worth an article on it's own. MoJ and Dep't for Transport clearly don't give a **** about cycling in the UK if their policies are anything to go by.

My MP also refused to sign the EDM, but after more pestering he wrote to the MoJ on the matter for me. The MoJ forwarded the enquiry to the DoT presumably because in their view it was a matter relating to transportation policy. The DoT replied saying that they didn't have jurisdiction to change sentencing guidelines. Which is, of course, why I asked for my query to be sent to the MoJ in the first place. Useless.

At this point I just forwarded the correspondence to BC for their files, and gave up in despair.

mintimperial's picture

posted by mintimperial [18 posts]
18th October 2012 - 11:19

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This is good progress for cycling. I know from having talked with my MP that they take notice of what constituents write to them about. A letter to an MP is rarely a waste of time.

There is a stream of helpful measures in the pipeline, many reinforcing the same messages about the need for a more hospitable road conditions for cycling.

The NICE public health guidance on local measures to promote walking and cycling is due to be published before the end of November and it should contain some very practical suggestions to get agencies working together locally.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
18th October 2012 - 12:57

3 Likes