British Cycling & CTC meet justice minister to call for review of sentencing

Current rules "send the wrong message about the right of people to ride safely on the roads", say British Cycling

by Dave Atkinson   December 20, 2012  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

Representatives of British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace met today with justice minister Helen Grant as part of their campaign to review sentencing in cases where someone is killed or injured on the road. British Cycling described the meeting as "a significant step forward" in its efforts to persuade the government to reform the system.

Also in attendance today was Will Jefferies, brother of British Cycling employee Rob, who was killed last year while out training on his bike in Dorset. The 18-year-old driver in that case was given a 12-month community order after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving.

British Cycling says that Ms Grant, who was joined at the meeting by officials from the Department for Transport (DfT), who agreed to back "a cross-stakeholder meeting with the different agencies involved to discuss a review of the system and how it might be improved."

Other issues to be addressed will include improvements to the way that support is given to victims and their families, whether greater transparency can be introduced to the system, as well as involving ministers from Ms Grant's own Ministry of Justice and other Whitehall departments.

The campaign was launched earlier this year, and the issues it raises were among those discussed at a parliamentary adjournment debate on the wider topic of victims of crime held in October. The initiative is also supported by other other organisations including the London Cycling Campaign, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, The Times, Brake and Leigh Day & Co solicitors.

Martin Gibbs, British Cycling's policy and legal affairs director said “We thank the minister for agreeing to meet with us and discuss our calls for a comprehensive review of the justice system.

“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 look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice and other organisations to look at how the justice system can better serve cyclists when they’re hurt on the roads.”

20 user comments

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I hope they get some progress on this.

Harsher sentences are need as some of the ones given out now are a joke.

The undue hardship defence for driving offences should be removed, as it just get used as a loophole for poor drivers now.

A big step forward would be more use of driving bans and much longer one for serious offences. If you kill someone through careless or dangerous driving it should be a life ban from driving.

posted by thereverent [313 posts]
20th December 2012 - 17:10

2 Likes

this urgently needs updating, the laws are so ridiculous right now, will benefit all cyclists ...

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
20th December 2012 - 17:15

2 Likes

Sometimes I read news reports and cannot for the life of me work out why some people aren't charged with attempted murder. If you want someone dead don't kill them with an axe, you'll go to prison, kill them with a car, you'll be asked to try not to do it again.

posted by Jonathing [53 posts]
20th December 2012 - 18:10

1 Like

Well its a start, only time will tell whether anything tangible comes from all the talk.

Rupert

posted by Rupert49 [38 posts]
20th December 2012 - 19:26

3 Likes

Jonathing wrote:
Sometimes I read news reports and cannot for the life of me work out why some people aren't charged with attempted murder. If you want someone dead don't kill them with an axe, you'll go to prison, kill them with a car, you'll be asked to try not to do it again.

This may sound a little insensitive, but when there was speculation of foul play in the death of the GCHQ worker, Gareth Williams, who was also a keen cyclist, I thought if they really wanted to assassinate a cyclist, they could run him over - and just get a slap on the wrist.

The motor car rules the world. This is why children go to school hungry, but fuel duty is frozen.

Dedicated cycling price comparison | http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [195 posts]
21st December 2012 - 9:42

2 Likes

These comments apply equally to pedestrians, or more so as there are more pedestrian deaths per mile.

Crosshouses's picture

posted by Crosshouses [210 posts]
21st December 2012 - 15:41

1 Like

How does tougher sentencing reduce road accidents, would someone tell me, please?

Isn't this just about revenge, which seems to satisfy those content merely to assign blame than to understand why accidents happen?

Roads and the vehicles upon them are part of a system, which is designed by human beings. It doesn't work as well as it should, and a great deal of work is going into finding out why. Shouldn't we encourage that?

On a practical level, why are we not calling for the rapid introduction of, for example, ISA in appropriate urban areas?

The blame culture, which appears to be driving some of the above comments, has never got us anywhere before, and it will never get us anywhere in future.

posted by Andrew Fraser [3 posts]
21st December 2012 - 18:46

1 Like

Andrew Fraser wrote:
How does tougher sentencing reduce road accidents, would someone tell me, please?

Isn't this just about revenge, which seems to satisfy those content merely to assign blame than to understand why accidents happen?

Roads and the vehicles upon them are part of a system, which is designed by human beings. It doesn't work as well as it should, and a great deal of work is going into finding out why. Shouldn't we encourage that?

On a practical level, why are we not calling for the rapid introduction of, for example, ISA in appropriate urban areas?

The blame culture, which appears to be driving some of the above comments, has never got us anywhere before, and it will never get us anywhere in future.

Good comment; and I suppose a valid point?? IF, You've not been knocked off your bike, run down by a vehicle; and dragged from one side of the road to the other? I have! A solution to the problem would be the answer. I also believe that the sentencing of those who commit a crime through Dangerous Driving should face harsher and more severe sentencing from our courts of law. Let justice be seen to be done; and let the punishment fit the crime. Manslaughter or causing injury to others should carry a heavy penalty. BLAME CULTURE you say! Lets apportion blame where blame is due.

posted by Mostyn [407 posts]
21st December 2012 - 19:15

1 Like

Andrew Fraser wrote:
How does tougher sentencing reduce road accidents, would someone tell me, please?

Deterrence, it doesn't work to deter everybody but people should understand that driving dangerously is unacceptable, current sentencing doesn't say that.

Justice, the sentences are absurd and the families of the dead and injured deserve better. Why shouldn't families have (legal) revenge?

As far as I'm concerned, careless driving is dangerous driving and the law needs to be corrected to reflect this. The wording of dangerous driving law is horribly vague and the sentencing for careless driving is far too lenient - 3 points off the license.

posted by kie7077 [537 posts]
21st December 2012 - 20:47

1 Like

it all needs to be a part of the package, prison at one end, but there has to be effective policing, not speed cameras, but officers in cars whose job it is to arrest ALL dangerous road users, speeding, jumping lights, tailgating, etc.

Then penalties if you misbehave that have meaning, Why shouldn't fines be set as a percentage of income?

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1280 posts]
21st December 2012 - 21:39

1 Like

I've solved the problem myself. I carry a Rothko painting round in my rucksack. That way if I get knocked off and injured, while the motorist might get told not to do it again for damaging me, they should get 2 years for damaging the Rothko. Expensive but effective. Wink

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20444436

posted by Tony [79 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 6:38

2 Likes

@Andrew Fraser: How does tougher sentencing reduce road accidents, would someone tell me, please?

Very simple - deterrence. It used to be that people got a slap on the wrist too for having a few drinks and then driving home from the pub. And a lot of people got killed by drunk drivers. Then they made the penalties significantly tougher. Now most people are very careful not to drink drive - because of the penalties if they do - and drink-driving deaths and injuries are massively reduced. QED.

posted by Tony [79 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 6:49

2 Likes

Drunk driving requires a deliberate act: getting drunk first. Lots of opportunity to consider it. Hitting a bicyclist requires relatively little forethought or consideration, just a slight miscalculation or absent mindedness. So I don't think punishments alone is going to have the same effect as it did for drinking and driving.
However, investing in publicity, many many television commercials, etc., could be very effective.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [109 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 7:06

5 Likes

Drunk driving requires a deliberate act: getting drunk first.

It does now. I didn't use to. Nobody bothered to think about how much they had drunk before driving. "Its not a problem/I drive better after a few drinks/I can drive fine" were common attitudes as was "one for the road". Stiff penalties have made them think seriously about it and made drink driving a deliberate act rather than one of omission. If we can do the same for the risks drivers daily take around cyclists I for one would welcome it. Its well accepted that increasing the other form of punishment - presumed liability and its effects on your insurance premiums - has had a big deterrent effect where it is used in Europe so I don't buy the harsher penalties won't make a difference line, sorry.

posted by Tony [79 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 8:00

2 Likes

Andrew Fraser wrote:

On a practical level, why are we not calling for the rapid introduction of, for example, ISA in appropriate urban areas?

ISA?

posted by SideBurn [854 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 9:11

3 Likes

As I think I've said before, I don't necessarily believe harsh prison sentences are a good idea (including for damaging Rothkos) - more important are tougher bans, lifetime bans indeed, for death or serious injury caused by dangerous driving.

I find the deterrence argument tough to buy: there isn't a straight analogy with drink-driving, which was a more specific and measurable problem (and which also benefited from a lengthy and hard-hitting marketing/ad campaign to slowly change society's view of it). As things stand, the most important thing for me speaking selfishly as someone who cycles daily is to get these people off the road. Whether they're in Strangeways or on the number 42 bus, from that perspective, is neither here nor there.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1102 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 17:32

3 Likes

It makes a difference to me whether they are in Strangeways or driving their car while disqualified instead of being on a No.42 bus. Remember, for example, the driver who killed cyclist Anthony Wakelin had never taken a driving test, had amassed over £1,400 of fines for driving offences before he killed 15 year old Wakelin over taking a traffic queue at 60mph in a 30mph area. He was banned for two years. The next year he was given an 18month rehabilitation order and tagged having been caught driving while banned.

Getting these sorts of offenders off the road will not, as with untaxed, uninsured drivers, happen by slapping their wrists and banning them from driving. Too many have shown they will continue driving regardless. One of the prime reasons for imprisonment is to protect society from a criminal individual and that is what is needed here.

posted by Tony [79 posts]
23rd December 2012 - 10:49

2 Likes

Andrew Fraser wrote:
How does tougher sentencing reduce road accidents, would someone tell me, please?

Isn't this just about revenge...?

It is all about changing the culture, and sentencing ends strong messages. So long as courts keep telling motorists who have caused a death or injury, 'Oh, it was just an accident. It could have happened to anybody,' rather than putting the blame where it is due for excess speed, lack of consideration, lack of keeping a good lookout, etc. Everyone should drive as if a vulnerable road user could be just round that bend / about to pull out / coming in the opposite direction and failing to drive like that is inexcusable. Too many people drive on the assumption that nothing will go wrong and if it does, it is just one of those things. After all, accidents happen all the time. But most 'accidents' are not unavoidable and people need to know they are accountable.

Quote:
Roads and the vehicles upon them are part of a system, which is designed by human beings. It doesn't work as well as it should, and a great deal of work is going into finding out why. Shouldn't we encourage that?

Of course we should. Sentences are part of the system too, as they are one way to control the human behaviour that causes the problem. But not the only one.

Not sure how you think Individual Savings Accounts will help -- or did you mean something else? Wink

posted by arowland [96 posts]
2nd January 2013 - 16:16

1 Like

Tony wrote:
Very simple - deterrence.

It is not as simple as mere deterrence. There was also a shift in public opinion against drinking and driving so that mates were less likely to encourage you to 'just have a pint' or turn a blind eye to drink driving, and drinking non-alcoholic drinks if you would be driving became acceptable. (I can still remember being 'teased' for ordering fruit juice -- that wouldn't happen now.) I certainly take the change in attitudes to drink driving as a big encouragement -- society can change, and cycling can become mainstream!

To a certain extent, sentencing follows public opinion (at least enlightened public opinion, one would hope). That is probably the right thing in a democracy. Once a significant proportion of the population accepts a certain position, the courts reflect that, and the deterrence is for those who won't bow to the wish of the majority of the people. Which is not to say that courts don't need to be encouraged and pushed to change their practices -- they need to change their culture like the rest of us.

And there are signs that the culture is starting to change. The widespread support for 20 mph areas is one: people putting people ahead of cars, at least in residential areas. But there is still a long way to go.

posted by arowland [96 posts]
2nd January 2013 - 16:18

1 Like

posted by dand_uk [4 posts]
17th January 2013 - 19:57

4 Likes