Cyclist whose life was ruined by careless driver calls for harsher sentencing

Lost livelihood and had fractured skull - but driver got £300 fine and four penalty points - partly because cyclist not wearing helmet

by Sarah Barth   October 27, 2012  


A man who lost his livelihood and suffered a fractured skull due to a careless driver has called for harsher sentencing after the man who hit him was  fined £300 and given four penalty points on his licence.

Nigel Barclay, 45, from Banstead, was on his way home from a ride in March when Harry Ledger, 19, turned across him and knocked him from his bike.

Mr Barclay spent two months in hospital, having suffered a fractured skull, multiple facial fractures, and broken arms, legs and pelvis. He also suffered brain injury, leaving him deaf in one ear and with double vision in one eye.

He has not been able to work in his job as a gate installer, and may never be able to do physical work again.

He told the Local Guardian: He said: "Victims are being let down by the courts and the people who cause the problems seem to get away with it lightly.

"This guy has totally changed my life.

"Because I suffered a brain injury, I had to surrender my licence, but the guy who caused this has not had his licence taken away.

"I was a man in his mid-40s who was perfectly fit and able, enjoyed sports and playing with my kids.

"Now, I’ll have to be very careful not to sustain any more injuries."

Ledger pleaded guilty to careless driving, but the court took into account the fact that Mr Barclay had taken off his helmet because he was close to home.

There is no legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets in the UK, but it's not the first time injured riders have been disadvantaged in court by not wearing one at the time of their accident. This is in spite of helmets only being certified to help prevent injuries at low speeds below 12mph.

Mr Barclay, who is seeking damages from Ledger, said: "There’s no legal requirement to wear a helmet, and, even if I was wearing one, it wouldn’t have helped me with the breaks in my arms, legs or pelvis, which are having the biggest effects on my life.

"There’s clear evidence to suggest that a helmet only makes a difference in a low speed collision."

The local paper backs this up, pointing out: "Cycle helmets provide best protection in situations involving simple, low-speed falls with no other party involved."

His solicitor, Malcolm Underhill of IBB Solicitors, said: "If someone is charged with careless driving, the starting point in the criminal justice system is the court looking at the standard of the person’s driving - it does not particularly take into account the ramifications of the person’s actions.

"Mr Barclay’s issues will affect him for the rest of his life and, conscious of that, there is an imbalance."

As we have been reporting in recent weeks, British Cycling, along with a number of other publications and campaign groups, are lobbying for an ugent review of sentencing in cases involving the death or serious injury of cyclists.

16 user comments

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its your own fault

But of course, everyone knows that cyclists are poor, they can't afford a car, that they jump red lights, terrorise pedestrians.

The only good cyclist is a dead cyclist, i wouldn't be surprised if the Daily Mail were to offer a bounty on the scalp of every dead cyclist.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1838 posts]
27th October 2012 - 14:16


The driver admitted it and only got a slightly larger penalty than not wearing his seatbelt or being on a mobile phone.

Total nonsense and something needs changed. It should have NO bearing on the outcome what the rider was wearing.

Whats next, expecting road cyclists to wear full off road body protection and if you don't its your own fault Angry Angry Angry

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9333 posts]
27th October 2012 - 14:29


I hope the civil action is a success and the perp' has to pay for his actions.

Clearly the law is not working here. I am unclear how in law a deliberate action the driver has chosen to make can be described as careless. Careless is forgetting to lock the car door, it is not making someone an invalid through poor judgement in a situation where your special training is supposed to kick in!

If I was carrying a loaded gun down the street, tripped and accidentally shot someone, would the courts be so lenient?

The Helmet thing comes up again and again. Can someone not produce a video that can be used court to illustrate the low level of protection a helmet gives in situations where you do not fall off your bike.


robbieC's picture

posted by robbieC [62 posts]
27th October 2012 - 14:31


Just how does wearing a helmet stop you from being hit by a careless driver? That's surely the only way it can contribute to the punishment.

Following the same logic, a driver that knocks down a pedestrian should only get a slap on the wrist if the pedestrian wasn't wrapped in cotton wool.

Similarly, any whiplash injury claims from a car accident should be refused because there are neck braces designed to prevent such an injury. Doesn't matter that there's no legal requirement to wear one.

Talk about victim blaming.


posted by robert.brady [159 posts]
27th October 2012 - 14:44


And noting the Chris Boardman commentary.

In parts of London there are shootings, so if I get shot passing through the area does the gunman get more leniency/I get less compensation, because I wasn't wearing a bullet-proof vest, in that part of town?

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

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [550 posts]
27th October 2012 - 18:03


If you're in an area in London and catch a stray bullet not aimed at you, it's clearly your fault for going there. i live in an area with gun crime and an innocent lad was shot dead by a fully automatic weapon just last summer. Clearly it is my fault for choosing to live in such an area should something happen.

What chance would the victim in this instance have by appealing I wonder? And surely he should be due damages?


posted by OldRidgeback [2537 posts]
27th October 2012 - 23:20


Surely the victims injuries that affect him most stem from the head injury and not broken bones? If he had been wearing his helmet then perhaps the brain and eye wouldn't not have been sustained?

gb901's picture

posted by gb901 [172 posts]
28th October 2012 - 0:37


robbieC wrote:
I hope the civil action is a success and the perp' has to pay for his actions.

What is likely to happen is that:

a- the perpetrator will carry life as normal (less £300) until the points are wiped from his licence in three years time .

b - Over the same time frame the victim's solicitors will pursue the defendents' insurers via their solicitors who will force the victim (not his solicitor) to spend the next three/four years logging, filing and justifying every penny of financial consequence of the disaster in his life and out of pocket expenses arising from spending hundred of hours visiting crappy NHS services, physiotherapy, lost income etc. The cost of bike and damaged clothing will be only partially reimbursed (its no new for old you know pal). The tens and tens of days worth of accumulated time the victim is forced to spend justifying to everyone else about how his life has been totally trashed not considered a recoverable expense, only the cash he spends as he tries to recover from his injuries.

In the meantime also, several greedy expert witnesses (i.e. NHS doctors working on the side for generous fees charged to the defendant's insurers) will, under instruction from the soliciors', (who's time and fees are also recovered from the defendant's insurers) will, on the basis of a 10 minute questionnaire and a well oiled 25 minute rushed examination (they have after all got another 14 victims to see that day) will probably conclude that some of the physical injury/impairment never evident before the collision would have emerged by now anyway despite the injuries because he was middle aged and that therefore the defendants' crap driving cannot be said to be wholly causal to the nightmare that has engulfed the victim.

Court proceedings will be issued, barristers instructed and then the defendents' insurance company will make a commercial offer of compensation. The victims solicitor will recommend acceptance (because a bird in he hand is worth two in the bush which also required loads more work by the solicitor) and so the case is settled and the victim gets a p*ss poor financial insult to add to his injuries. The two set's of solicitors/barrister's/moonlighting NHS medical experts /the solicitors etc etc bank amounts of cash that make the victims compensation look like small change and the defendents' insurers cover the cash from premiums anyway and increases everyones premiums next year to maintain profits.


posted by Sudor [184 posts]
28th October 2012 - 7:59


I have written to my MP (again) about sentencing guidelines with reference to this incident. May I urge all readers of this to do same?

AndrewRH's picture

posted by AndrewRH [54 posts]
28th October 2012 - 9:37


I presume Old Ridgeback has the irony switch 'on' You should be able to go about your business, without being shot in exactly the same way you should be able to cycle without being hit by a motor vehicle in any public place, without having to dress for victim protection.

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

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [550 posts]
28th October 2012 - 22:47


madness, injustice and just plain wrong! Let's hope British Cycling get some movement from the Government in respect to solving this situation.

for me - The ride is about adventure, camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes after a long day in the saddle.

Mountain-Nic's picture

posted by Mountain-Nic [119 posts]
29th October 2012 - 11:18


In civil cases the reduction in copmpensation is based on the same principles for not wearing a seat belt (25% reduction if wear one would have stopped the injury, 12.5% reduction if it would have reduced it). But this could only apply to the head injuies obviously.

But I can't find anything in the CPS documents I have found that mentions safety equipment the victim was wearing or not.

As always the fact the driver only got four penalty points is a discrace. he should have had a decent length ban.

posted by thereverent [350 posts]
29th October 2012 - 14:03


Helmet law was invented here in the state of Victoria. There were four groups that got together for it, the transport accident commission, Vicroads, the department of Justice and most importantly and significantly, the RACV (Royal Automobile Society of Victoria).
In your own country one of the active groups that tries to put helmets on everybody is the GB equivalent of the RACV, the AA.
Elsewhere in Europe and the US it is mostly car manufacturers who desparately promote bicycle helmets.
This all says that it was about the DRIVERS to begin with. The WHOLE idea of helmets is, and always was, to take away responsability and accountability from the drivers.

posted by Pjrob [30 posts]
29th October 2012 - 21:48


when I encounter dangerous driving if possible i make like I want to remonstrate with the driver and when the prick pulls over I simply make like I am about to punch him and whilst he is focused on my fist i am removing the ignition key. By the time he has noticed I have his key I am down the road with it looking for a drain or a ditch to throw it in unless of course they accept my generous offer of a reasonable 'fine' to have it awarded back to them. It is suprising how often these people pull over and even more suprising how many drivers give me a lot of room on the road if any driver wishes to use his vehichle as a weapon I wish to dissarm the fucker

tired old fart

posted by tired old fart [82 posts]
31st October 2012 - 11:54


will this madness ever end?

posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
12th November 2012 - 12:38


blaming him for not wearing a helmet isnt a million miles away from the view the courts used to have on a rape victim that was wearing a short skirt!

posted by mrchrispy [400 posts]
12th November 2012 - 13:14