CTC and British Cycling heavily critical of legal system over £35 fine for collision that caused cyclist's death

CTC and British Cycling heavily critical of legal system that places so little value on a cyclist's life

by Tony Farrelly   January 22, 2013  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

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

21 user comments

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How about the CTC and British Cycling get together and finance appeals against such lenient sentencing and they could also fund private prosecutions of offenders (where families/those involved want it). I'll chuck a tenner into the kitty no problem.

posted by Dropped [32 posts]
22nd January 2013 - 19:47

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Does'my the CTC have the Cyclists Defence Fund?

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
22nd January 2013 - 20:20

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How about we all get a sense of utter f*cking outrage about this?

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [134 posts]
22nd January 2013 - 23:17

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WTH...WTH...What the fuck!?!? how the hell can this be tolerated???

posted by NeilXDavis [111 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 0:18

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This makes me soo angry. My brother was killed in 2011 by an 85 year old man who shouldn't have been on the road in the first place. All he got was a 6 month suspended sentence and a 10 year driving ban (effectively got off with nothing), when is the British justice system going to take cyclists deaths seriously, because it is effectively manslaughter when careless driving is involved.

posted by jncrockett [1 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 6:42

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A very unsatisfactory outcome which justifies a review of the decisions made by the CPS. Reminds me of how the terms of reference for the HIllsborough inquiry were 'rigged' to deflect attention away from the police.

The cycling silk's blog on this is worth a read.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 10:35

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Why are the lawmakers so silent on this topic? There doesn't appear to be any national discussion about it.

Tripod16

posted by Tripod16 [109 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 10:59

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I hoenstly don't see, how when a cyclist/pedestrian is killed on the road that it can't be manslaughter or Murder, as they've both had the same outcome. Angry

posted by gazer117 [25 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 12:27

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Whilst i'm outraged about the whole affair, which i clearly put across in the original topic, can i just say that the Police present the evidence to the cps and they and only they decide on the charge.

If the original request was for death by careless / dangerous the cps can and usually do knock down the charge to a lesser one so that they are assured of a conviction.

The Police can appeal the decision to the cps but generally it will stay the same.

So whilst i completely agree with the general disgust of the forum users, ctc and others the blame should be directed towards the cps firstly and if it comes out that the Police applied for the charge which the driver appeared at court with then serious questions must be asked why they did this and not a more serious offence.

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

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2667 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 12:42

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Can i just point out that whilst i regularly go on record on this forum supporting the Police i cannot abide sloppy, poor and basically half hearted / incompetent efforts by forces to bring a person to justice. Big Grin

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

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2667 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 12:45

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I think the problem is that deaths caused by careless / reckless behaviour by motorists are somehow seen as less worthy of justice than deaths caused by careless / reckless behaviour in other aspects of life. It doesn't just apply to cyclists but other motorists and pedestrians.

Look up the case of the nurse Grace Adeleye in December. She was found guilty of "manslaughter by gross neglect" because she botched a circumcision.

Isn't there a case to take road deaths out of road laws and align them with the kind of charges brought above? For example, a crime of 'Causing death by reckless or careless behaviour' and be able to apply it to any kind of death, where it may be an appropriate charge?

I don't see the difference between causing someone's death by careless use of a knife, a gun, vs careless use of a car.

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [134 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 13:43

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seriously guys - its this fries your noodle then write to your MP about it!! It doesn't have to be war and peace, its doesn't even have to be in fancy 'MP speak', just get something down and send it to them.

www.writetothem.com
pop in your postcode and click on your MP, fill in the form and letter part and click send. You get an email confirmation, just click the linky and its done!!

Its free, its quick and its what they are there for.

I sent one on the 18th about this very story, written reply cam yesterday.

posted by mrchrispy [281 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 14:16

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Very sad when someone causes the death of another human being. I do not presume to know what circumstances caused the accident; but, the sentence for causing someones loss of life should be as severe as possible; and not just a derisory fine with a slap on the wrist.

The Law in the UK is becoming a joke; and a money making arsehole organisation of complete INJUSTICE.

posted by Mostyn [400 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 19:23

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Is anyone else a trifle bemused that principal sponsors of the 'British Cycling' campaign include Fiat and Sky (Both very keen on the Car Culture and very hostile about cycling)?

posted by Phytoramediant [23 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 20:25

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jncrockett wrote:
This makes me soo angry. My brother was killed in 2011 by an 85 year old man who shouldn't have been on the road in the first place. All he got was a 6 month suspended sentence and a 10 year driving ban (effectively got off with nothing), when is the British justice system going to take cyclists deaths seriously, because it is effectively manslaughter when careless driving is involved.

I am very sorry to hear about your brother. There are stacks of elderly drivers on the road who are dangerous, we all see them, but there are no channels to report these stubborn individuals to have there licence removed.(not last time I looked into it anyway). I am sympathetic to the desire to remain independent, but maybe that's a discussion about local transport provision. My parents have a neighbour who is 100 and still drives - who regularly drives off with the boot of his car open. My own neighbour is 87 and has hit my car three times while manoeuvring in the street - who knows what chaos these chaps could cause on the open roads. If anyone knows better and is aware of a procedure to get these drivers off the road I'd love to hear it.

posted by partsandlabour [32 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 21:06

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JnCrocket , please tell me where in the UK Road Rules , are there provisions , to allow a 95yo , to be allowed to relicence ? The Justice , passing sentence , must have been sleepwalking ! Talk about being unaware of reality !

Agree with Stumpy :
" Can i just point out that whilst i regularly go on record on this forum supporting the Police i cannot abide sloppy, poor and basically half hearted / incompetent efforts by forces to bring a person to justice".

Agree with Mr Chrispy , when ALL write , each time , the MPs , will eventually become cognicent , awake from their slumbers and ACT , if only from a need to diminish their mail : http://www.writetothem.com/

GBP 35 is the fine that cyclists pay for running a Stop Sign , so , is a " Student's Life " , so worthless ? Even the fuel for the Funeral Hearse , cost more than that !

Thank goodness i don't ride in Solihull !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [378 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 21:19

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A good idea, and one which I would definitely support.

posted by Bob McCall [14 posts]
23rd January 2013 - 22:26

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Nothing has changed in 45yrs since my moped was stolen. The two kids who took it were each fined £35.
In the same court, the same week, a driver of a car with "virtually useless" brakes knocked down and killed a man on a pedestrian crossing. He was fined £20.

Nothing changes. The law values property higher then human life.

Write to your MP and all you get is a standard reply from a list of stock bland replies.

Binky

posted by davebinks [123 posts]
24th January 2013 - 0:51

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ARGH - WTFk!!!! I agree with everyone's comments posted here - the law as it applies to cycling is an UTTER DISGRACE.

So sorry, JN, to hear about your brother. So very sad. Drivers are in charge of 2 tons of killing machine - against a crap or incompetent driver no cyclist has any sort of chance.

Drivers MUST take full responsibility for what they do when they get behind the wheel - and the law must exact full retribution when they fail in their duty to other road users.

Here was a chance to send out a proper signal to aberrant drivers - and the law failed us - yet again.

He should have been fined a minimum of £5000, banned from driving for at least 2 years, have to retake his test after that time and given a suspended sentence that if he ever caused damage, hurt, or death to any other cyclist at any other time he would receive a lifetime ban from driving and serve a prison sentence.

Sadly, nothing the law can do can bring Tom back. No amount of "sorries" or remorse, guilt or bad feeling can repair the damage the taxi driver has done. Not ever. The law has to make some sort of reparation for Tom's sake, for JN's brother's sake and for every cyclist that has died because of driver carelessness - or more likely - driver stupidity, wanton disregard and callous recklessness.

Christ, I've just been fined more for speeding!!! A big fat £95. Fair enough. But I didn't get close to wounding, scaring or killing anybody!!!!

For Christ's sake - let's get the Law to send out a signal that The Sun has to report that goes A LONG WAY to making the roads safer for people who simply can't afford to ride in taxis!!!! And who don't want to drive cars.

But of course you and I know that won't happen. Politicians, Government and the Law makers? A bunch of ball scratchers whose only useful action is to fill their pockets to the brim. People who only ever use their voting hand productively to wipe their own arses!

Tom's life should not be allowed to end here.

posted by comm88 [72 posts]
24th January 2013 - 11:12

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davebinks wrote:

Write to your MP and all you get is a standard reply from a list of stock bland replies.

This is my experience, I think he'd rather I didn't bother. Then again, he did claim £7k expenses for a Bang & Olufsen telly.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2942 posts]
24th January 2013 - 12:38

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If the CPS are not capable of bringing successful prosecutions (custodial sentences) against irresponsible drivers who kill, whether they meant to or not then surely there is a way of stopping them from driving again.
The sentences and fines handed out by judges are woefully inadequate and in most cases, insulting to the families of the victims.
Surely a 5, 10, 15 year or life ban on driving is a better deterrent than, at most a 3-6 month suspended sentence at the tax payers expense!
This can't carry on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted by Generalspenny80 [5 posts]
28th January 2013 - 14:42

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