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CTC slams lenient punishment for careless driving

Cycle campaigning charity CTC has strongly criticised Preston magistrates after they handed down a £55 fine to motorist who caused a crash that left a cyclist with a broken leg, fractured elbow and soft tissue damage.

The driver, 49-year-old Thomas McAteer, from Grimsargh, near Preston, admitted a charge of careless driving, according to the Lancashire Evening Post. On November 14 last year, McAteer hit the cyclist – who is not named in the reports – on D’Urton Lane, Preston.

The court heard that McAteer had intended to turn left at the junction with Haighton Green Lane, but failed to give way. He hit the rider who was travelling ahead on the road.

Prosecutors said, “The cyclist was knocked off his bike and sustained a broken femur, a fractured elbow and soft tissue damage to his back.

“He also spent a number of weeks in hospital due to the seriousness of his injuries.”

The road was dry and the weather described as “fine”.

McAteer was ordered to pay a £55 fine, £43 costs and a victim surcharge of £20. He was also handed three penalty points.

Rhia Weston, of the CTC, said the decision was “ridiculous” and the rider could sue for compensation in a civil case.

“Unfortunately I’m not surprised,” she said. “This is extremely common and one of the reasons why we set up our Road Justice Campaign.

“Why was the guy charged with careless driving? It should be dangerous driving.

“He is putting another person’s life in danger.”

The average fine for careless driving in 2011 was £138. The maximum punishment magistrates can give is a £5,000 fine and nine penalty points.

Weston said, “When you compare what he got to what he could have got, it’s absolutely absurd. £55 is laughable. It is ridiculous for the amount of damage he has caused.”

The CTC’s Road Justice Campaign aims to fix the justice system by pressuring the police, the prosecution services, the courts and the law itself to improve the handling of bad driving and bad drivers.

Why are sentences lenient?

These cases are depressingly common. The CTC’s campaigns director Roger Geffen puts the problem down to a combination of factors including the fuzzy boundary between careless and dangerous driving; the reluctance of juries to convict for dangerous driving; and the resulting unwillingness of the Crown Prosecution Service to try and bring a charge of dangerous driving.

Writing about the Mary Bowers and Sam Harding cases last year, Geffen said, “In neither case can one simply blame the police or Crown Prosecution Service for the failed outcomes. In the Mary Bowers case, the CPS did bring a dangerous driving prosecution, only to have it rejected by a jury, i.e. by ordinary members of the public. Similarly in the Sam Harding case, the CPS didn’t really have the option of bringing a dangerous (or even a careless) driving prosecution, given that a jury would almost certainly have been persuaded that opening a car door doesn’t count as driving.”

Sam Harding was killed after Kenan Aydogdu opened his car door into the cyclist’s path, causing Sam to fall into the path of a following bus. Aydogdu’s car had tinted windows that reduced visibility to 17% of normal levels. He was acquitted of manslaughter.

“It’s true that [the CPS] could have prosecuted Aydogdu with offences relating to the tinted window or with opening a car door when it was unsafe to do so - but neither offence would have attracted more than a small penalty at most,” said Geffen.

“The Mary Bowers raises much wider issues. CTC has long been concerned that the law, and the CPS’s prosecution policies, fail to distinguish clearly between “dangerous” and “careless” driving. Faced with a fuzzy boundary between the two – and with the thought “there but for the grace of God” also in the back of their minds – it often seems that jurors opt for the more lenient offence, in order to spare the driver what they feel might be an unjustly harsh prison sentence.”

The CTC continues to campaign for more approriate sentences for drivers who kill and injure cyclists and pedestrians. The recent Audrey Fyfe case demonstrates that there is strong public feeling that sentences are often too light.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

45 comments

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STATO [497 posts] 3 years ago
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"CTC has long been concerned that the law, and the CPS’s prosecution policies, fail to distinguish clearly between “dangerous” and “careless” driving."

Isnt dangerous driving doing so in a way as to be clearly endangering other road users, i.e. excessive speed in built up areas. vs careless driving, not quite looking properly.

Both can 'be' dangerous but one is done so with wanton disregard for others (and i suppose this is where the argument is).

The problem is, plenty of people in life are careless and society (as a whole) wont stand for normal people being put in prison for being a bit dim and useless.

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therevokid [940 posts] 3 years ago
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what a surprise ... NOT  14

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mrmo [2070 posts] 3 years ago
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i refer you to the other article where a cyclist assaulted a driver.

If the CPS doesn't get this sorted i dread to think what the outcome might be.

The legal system does not protect vulnerable road users!!!

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 3 years ago
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Until the government sort this out and ensure drivers are held accountable they can bang on about getting people to take up riding bikes all they want, it's just politicians bullshit!

Makes me mad as hell, if you want to murder someone wait till they're riding a bike then run 'em over with your car. You can claim you need your licence to keep your job.
A much better punishment would a 5 - 10 year driving ban, tell the motorist to get a bike and see they like being threatened every day by loonatic drivers, so called professional drivers are the worst of the lot; closely followed by BMW drivers. .............Grrrrrrrrrrrr!  19 14

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kie7077 [874 posts] 3 years ago
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Judges shouldn't be allowed to smoke crack before handing out sentances  14

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 3 years ago
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If I walked down a street pionting a gun at passersby while idly playingwith the trigger the legal system would take a very dim view of such careless behaviour. However, if I careless run a cyclist over while playing with the radio.......... apaerently that's alright then, honest mistake and all that!

Just promise not to do it again. I don't see a difference between being killed with gun or killed with a car, your still dead! Due to someones wreckless behaviour.  7

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cidermart [489 posts] 3 years ago
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Oh no poor old Thomas has to pay a total of £118 that’s terrible shall we have a whip round or get the bug eyed twonk Bongo to write a charity song for him? To save all of this in future why not just let them off and that way they don’t have to go to court and waste the taxpayers money.

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northstar [1108 posts] 3 years ago
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banzicyclist2 wrote:

Until the government sort this out and ensure drivers are held accountable they can bang on about getting people to take up riding bikes all they want, it's just politicians bullshit!

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Bez [592 posts] 3 years ago
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It's the age of austerity and I think it's time for some money saving tips.

£55 for this, and £35 for the taxi driver who killed a teenager a few months back.

If people would just stop hogging the middle lane, they'd save the £100 fine for that and be able to spend the money on killing one person and maiming another - and still have £10 left to put towards a parking fine.

Think before you piss your hard-earned money away on pointless things like using the wrong lane - spend it on doing some proper damage instead.

It's expensive being a motorist, you know. As soon as you buy a car you're pretty much destitute and have to live on crusts and wear horsehair shirts. With only a little bit of thought you can make the few quid you've got left to pay your motoring fines go that bit further.

So remember, when you're looking into your empty wallet wondering how you'll be able to afford to drive another mile without the hassle of thinking about what's going on around you, you can get far better value for money by running down cyclists than you can by irritating motorists.

As the government campaign itself says: "Think!" Think what you can do with what you spend on fines. They're a tax, after all. And if you're going to get taxed, get your money's worth!

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ScotchPoth (not verified) [368 posts] 3 years ago
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Yet another case of leniency,what a suprise
The fact is the government,the judiciary are in the pockets of the motoring and oil lobbies and multi nationals
In their bent logic they believe giving justice to cyclists will result in a decline in motoring use as drivers will be reticent to act like the arrogant untouchable scum they are

Also they believe cyclists have no place on the road anyway,its the British disease of roads being for motorized vehicles,this attitude is entrenched in society from top to bottom so is it any suprised this state sanctioned leniency in sentencing is dished out by the courts despite the aggravating circumstances?
But if it were that Tory scum Andrew Mitchell or Bozo Johnson seriously injured im sure the courts would be more accomodating in jailing the motorist

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 3 years ago
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Where does the money for the fine go? Is this into the governments coffers? If so, I don't really care about the size of the fine. The damages the cyclist will get from suing him in the civil case should be sizeable....there is some doubling up on the court costs, but the evidence in the criminal case should make it cut and dried, and the dummy gets lumbered with the court costs.

I think the issue of the sentence/what the charge is in cases is more pressing where there is a death as a result of dangerous, or careless driving because the civil case should provide compensation. This of course hits us all in the pockets if the insurance company has to pay out though.

It would be useful, for the benefit of balance to hear back what the cyclist received as a result of his civil case and whether he pursues this option (if not, why not).

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giles [24 posts] 3 years ago
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It costs around £260 per day to keep someone in hospital (I am sure there will be other figures quoted, just using what seems to be quoted regularly on the web) So the "number of weeks" lets say 2 on the conservative side, would have cost the taxpayer £3640, why not fine the driver at least the cost of the hospital stay?

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zymurgic [4 posts] 3 years ago
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Assault on the cyclist causing grievous bodily harm with a heavy weapon? If the driver didn't happen to be driving a car, but instead pounced on the cyclist with a simliar sized weapon, would the CPS treat it differently?

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antonio [1122 posts] 3 years ago
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My blood's on the boil again. I believe there is something seriously wrong in the CPS, I think it was last year an employee was prosecuted for manipulating cases saying there was not sufficient evidence to proceed. When glaring cases like the above are unjustified conclusions then it really is time for a root and branch clearout at the CPS.

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Bez [592 posts] 3 years ago
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"I don't really care about the size of the fine."

You don't care that failing to move out of the middle lane attracts a £100 fine and 6 points, whereas seriously injuring someone through negligence attracts almost exactly half of that?

You don't care about what that says about your worth on the road? That your getting home in one piece is considered half as valuable as someone not having to move out two lanes to pass another car?

If so then fine, but I'm pretty fucked off about it.

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Whirlio [14 posts] 3 years ago
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Quite a few of us have been clobbered by cars turning left into our paths, it's not a nice feeling to be flying through the air over a bonnet with oncoming traffic in the corner of your eye. I've had it myself and was actually berated by a screaming driver who was concerned about his grill being scratched.

However, not every driver is the same. I suppose the fine / 3 points would sound normal if the driver had clipped a car instead of the poor cyclist - as was quoted above, its actually a simple case of not giving way, ie SMIDSY. He wasn't malicious, wasn't speeding, wasn't drunk, had insurance / tax / MOT... so it's treated as an accident.

It does seem a bit objectionable that, for instance, I received triple the fine for driving 86mph on a 50mph stretch of 3-lane motorway with light traffic at 2:25am in good night time conditions(M8 coming into Glasgow) without causing any accidents. (At least I wasn't in the middle lane eh?). But then I was deliberately breaking the law, rather than this guy who was just careless... you can see where it comes from.

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paulfrank [94 posts] 3 years ago
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Just a message for the judge "What the FUCK were you thinking?" a bit blunt I know but just completely flabbergasted.

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gazza_d [459 posts] 3 years ago
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"this guy who was just careless" - managed to break multiple bones in another human's body and hospitalise him for several weeks, and be off the bike and probably work for a lot longer.

The driver pulled out of a side road without stopping or looking. That's not careless, that is negligent pure and simple.

Would you say that if it was one of your close family that was seriously injured by someone being so negligent?

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Argos74 [391 posts] 3 years ago
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giles wrote:

lets say 2 on the conservative side, would have cost the taxpayer £3640, why not fine the driver at least the cost of the hospital stay?

The driver may well be facing a hefty increase in his next renewal premium, even if he has protected NCD, if he is offered insurance at all. His insurer will certainly be facing a substantial (large five figures, very possibly low six figures) civil claim in respect of personal injury, loss of earnings, possible costs of adapting the claimant's home if the injuries are likely to be permanent or long standing, and so on.

The Newcastle office of the DWP (the Compensation Recovery Unit) would also be chasing up medical costs and social security benefits payable as a result of the accident from the insurer of the at fault driver (link).

So while the quantum of the judicial result is ridonkulous, the principle of fault has been clearly established and the claimant will eventually be put right, well, right-ish anyway. Even if we end up paying for the driver's carelessness (ahem) through higher premiums.

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solkanofastera [24 posts] 3 years ago
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Magistrate was probably a car dealer in his/her day job, about time this country started electing its judiciary rather than rewarding membership in the chamber of commerce.

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jasecd [389 posts] 3 years ago
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The law and its enforcement are clearly flawed - it's time to make drivers automatically liable when they cause injury to vulnerable road users. Only then will cyclists and pedestrians be treated properly.

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kiwiglider [23 posts] 3 years ago
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Send the judge out on a bike in rush hour and see if his perspective changes. No confidence in the criminal just system. If the law won't protect us, who will?

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vbvb [588 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

Cycle campaigning charity CTC has strongly criticised Preston magistrates after they handed down a £55 fine

Isn't the story really "No-one notices as Driver only gets £55 fine"? I'm just not sure we're achieving what we want to with the current campaigning. I mean, strong criticism isn't really strong if the only readers of it are cyclists. Sorry to sound defeatist.

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IanW1968 [269 posts] 3 years ago
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As predicted above, the law isn't working for cyclist so given the opportunity I will resolve incidents on the spot.

Not ideal, but evidence and my personal experience suggests its the only way to get any kind of recourse.

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Krazyfrenchkanuck [12 posts] 3 years ago
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 13 What amazes me is that lenient sentences for such cases is a worldwide phenomenon!

I live in Canada and it is the same b....s...
Its also the same in USA.

The sentence should be proportional to the harm done and such that, it has a dissuasive effect on other drivers.

But, imagine if the victim had been someone with a high visibility profile, you can bet the outcome would have been totally different.

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Bez [592 posts] 3 years ago
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Whirlio wrote:

...its actually a simple case of not giving way, ie SMIDSY. He wasn't malicious, wasn't speeding, wasn't drunk, had insurance / tax / MOT... so it's treated as an accident ...this guy who was just careless... you can see where it comes from.

So it's ok to be insufficiently competent to operate a ton or so of machinery that can do 70mph or more, provided you're not actively trying to kill and injure people?

It's really damned simple to not hit people on bikes or on horseback or on foot. You just have to give them space and assume they might make a mistake (hey, like people on bikes need to do with HGVs). It's so easy it makes you want to scream. It just takes a little bit of patience and consideration for others, which some people just seem not to have.

Excusing it as "just careless" trivialises what is outright negligence and/or incompetence in operating a potentially lethal machine. The purpose of licensing the use of vehicle use is, in theory, to ensure that people are competent enough to do it without injuring and killing others, and - even though the licensing system falls pretty short there - the law really should back that up by at least forcing short bans and extended retests for anyone who causes injury.

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kitkat [348 posts] 3 years ago
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Argos74 wrote:
giles wrote:

lets say 2 on the conservative side, would have cost the taxpayer £3640, why not fine the driver at least the cost of the hospital stay?

The driver may well be facing a hefty increase in his next renewal premium, even if he has protected NCD, if he is offered insurance at all. His insurer will certainly be facing a substantial (large five figures, very possibly low six figures) civil claim in respect of personal injury, loss of earnings, possible costs of adapting the claimant's home if the injuries are likely to be permanent or long standing, and so on.

The Newcastle office of the DWP (the Compensation Recovery Unit) would also be chasing up medical costs and social security benefits payable as a result of the accident from the insurer of the at fault driver (link).

So while the quantum of the judicial result is ridonkulous, the principle of fault has been clearly established and the claimant will eventually be put right, well, right-ish anyway. Even if we end up paying for the driver's carelessness (ahem) through higher premiums.

This is all well and good but it's punishment by proxy.
When people are 'careless' and cause injury to another person then they need to be held to account fully.

As a person (cyclist, motorist, etc..) you have a responsibility to the people around you. If you fail in that responsibility through carelessness, ignorance, vindictivness etc then you should be held to account, with sentencing factoring in the impact on the victim(s).

This type of sentencing is a joke. What do we need to do to force a change/review in the guidelines?

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SideBurn [890 posts] 3 years ago
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He turned left out of a junction and hit a cyclist riding ahead? So he crashed into the back of a cyclist? That is an interesting one....

But did he stop at the time? Did he provide assistance to the injured party? The potential mitigating factors have been missed. It says he pleaded guilty, this would normally mean a reduced sentence. OK so £55 is a piss take, but the effect of the injuries can be mitigated by compensation.
If he had driven off or denied the offence that could mean the rider could have died, not received compensation and as we have seen with the ridiculous 'blacked out windows incident' mentioned above he could have been found innocent!!

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jollygoodvelo [1410 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm surprised that the driver even went to court. At the moment it looks like the guy who hit me will be offered a Driver Alertness Course: it's a police decision whether to prosecute or not.

Apparently the courts don't actually have the power to insist on driver training, all they can do is hand out (stupidly insignificant) fines and points.

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middlering [57 posts] 3 years ago
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“In neither case can one simply blame the police or Crown Prosecution Service for the failed outcomes. In the Mary Bowers case, the CPS did bring a dangerous driving prosecution, only to have it rejected by a jury, i.e. by ordinary members of the public. Similarly in the Sam Harding case, the CPS didn’t really have the option of bringing a dangerous (or even a careless) driving prosecution, given that a jury would almost certainly have been persuaded that opening a car door doesn’t count as driving.”

If we accept this rationale, doesn't it show the judges across the country to be the most committed anti-bike/pro-car campaigners? What else could explain handing out paltry £55 fines when maximum allowed even under careless driving convictions is £5000?

A few multi-thousand fine for careless driving against the cyclists, and even the worst sighted drivers will suddenly start seeing cyclists as big as a lorry!

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