The UK's two leading cycling organisation have responded with dismay and anger to last weeks decision by Solihull Magistrates court to fine a taxi driver £35 for a collision in which 20-year-old student Tim Ridgway was killed. As matter of days later the same court fined Donna Lloyd, 27. £110, with £80 costs and £15 victim surcharge when she hit a parked car in a multi-storey car park and drove off.
Both the CTC and British Cycling re-affirmed their commitment to a review of sentencing in such cases, which both are jointly campaigning for, and both were highly critical of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed against 54 year-old Ichhapal Bhamra on the least serious charge at its disposal, driving without due care and attention.
As reported in our original report on the case - Bhamra collided with Mr Ridgway on a road in Solihull last June. The initial collision threw Mr Ridgway on to the bonnet of Bhamra's taxi but he failed to stop carrying on for another 90m colliding with a number of traffic signs, before finally stopping when he hit a tree. Mr Ridgway, who was studying animation at Bournemouth University died of his injuries a short time later.
It's worth reiterating, as we did in our original piece, that only those who sat through the case in court have heard all the evidence on which the magistrates based their sentence and only the CPS and police know the reasons for the level of charge in this case - in a comment on the Cycling Silk blog Mr Ridgway's mother said that the driver panicked panicked when he collided with her son pressing the accelerator rather than the brake which is why he did not initially stop. Even so, viewed from the outside by any ojective measure this looks like a woefully inadequate outcome to a case involving a fatality that sends the wrong message about how the legal system deals with incidents of this nature.
Speaking to road.cc Rhia Weston, CTC campaigner, also raised questions about how the initial incident was investigated by the police and the quality of evidence that the CPS was given by the police on which to base it's decision on what charge to press:
“CTC is disappointed with the outcome of this case. This case clearly highlights the multiple failures of the justice system CTC frequently sees in many similar cases: unsatisfactory investigations; inappropriate prosecution decisions that do not reflect the severity of the offence; and sentences which neither act as deterrents to bad drivers nor as tools to improve driving standards.
Surely there can be no doubt that Mr Bhamra’s driving caused Tom’s death, whether from the initial collision or the subsequent injury Tom sustained, therefore it is incomprehensible that the CPS did not decide to prosecute Bhamra for the more serious offence of ‘causing death by careless driving’. If the CPS had chosen to prosecute for this offence the courts would at least have been able to issue a driving ban and take Bhamra off the nation’s roads. However, despite the fact that Bhamra has voluntarily relinquished his taxi license he is still legally permitted to drive a vehicle. Only through more appropriate prosecution decisions and sentencing that removes bad drivers from the roads and re-educates them before they return can the justice system make the roads safer for cyclists – and indeed all road users.”
Ms Weston's comments echo those made by Martin Gibbs, Policy and Legal Affairs Director at British Cycling yesterday, who said:
“Once again the justice system has failed us. Mr Bhamra could provide no explanation of why he didn’t see Tom Ridgway and continued to drive 90m with him on the bonnet before crashing into a tree.
“There is no other reasonable conclusion than that Bhamra’s driving caused Tom’s death and the CPS has failed to bring the appropriate charge. These failures send completely the wrong message about how we expect people to behave on our roads and demonstrate the need for an urgent review of the justice system.”
Both British Cycling and the CTC along with Sustrans, RoadPeace and a number of other cycling and road safety organisations have been lobbying the Government for a review of the lenient sentences given to drivers that kill or seriously injure cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Last month they met Helen Grant, the Justice Minister who agreed to support such a review.
You can find out more details regarding the Justice Review Campaign here
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.