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OPINION

The criminal justice system "is not fit for purpose": a cyclist who was hit by a driver tells his story

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Wiltshire cyclist knocked off bike by driver 18 months ago recounts frustrating progression of case and shares his tips

Our story earlier this week about a motorist who escaped a driving ban despite hitting a cyclist after cutting a corner in his car prompted the victim, a road.cc reader, to get in touch to share his experience not only of the crash itself but also how the case progressed over the past 18 months, with him coming to the conclusion that the criminal justice system is “not fit for purpose.”

> Mechanic escapes driving ban after cutting corner straight into cyclist

Luckily the cyclist, who prefers to remain anonymous, suffered nothing worse than some cuts and bruising in the incident, although his bike needed to be replaced.

But much of his account, which follows, will be familiar to anyone who has found themselves the victim of a road traffic collision – from chasing up police to get them to refer the case for prosecution, through interminable waits to find out how the matter was progressing through a criminal justice system that is buckling under intense pressure, through to final resolution.

> Hit by a driver? The 9 vital steps cyclists should take next

He also shares some tips for anyone unlucky enough to be in a similar position. Here’s what he had to say.

I am the victim in this story, I was going to write to road.cc many times over the past year and half as events unfolded but I refrained from doing so, as things moved forwards, albeit slowly. As the whole issue is now complete, I think it’s worthwhile relaying everything that happened and what I think I did right and what I most definitely got wrong!

On 28 February 2021 at 0900, I cycled from my house in Chippenham, Wiltshire to meet up with a friend in Devizes. It was a clear bright sunny day and visibility was good, I made it less than half a mile from home before the ride was brought to a sudden halt.

I always cycle in bright/high viz clothing, the bike had pseudo random front and rear flashing lights and black 3M reflective tape on sections of the frame. I always wear a cycle helmet and the bike has mudguards with reflectors.

I approached the T-junction (north-facing) and stopped to give way to a car approaching from the west. I stopped approximately one foot to the left of the centre white line at the junction line.

Chippenham crash map

The vehicle coming from the left was not indicating right, but did turn into the junction on the wrong side of the road and drove directly into me. This much is clearly evident in the video.

Fortunately, the bike was a steel Genesis Equilibrium Disk, and the front wheel/forks took the brunt of the impact.

I was launched into the air and landed on the ground, I don’t think I made direct contact with the car, but I did end up with cuts and bruises, the only bit hurting at the time was aching side/ribs.

“My biggest mistake was not calling the police at the time”

The driver did stop fortunately (after colliding with me) and there were multiple witnesses (on foot).

The driver immediately admitted responsibility, with the standard ‘he did not see me’.

He did not offer to call ambulance or police, he did not know that the bike had a handlebar camera that recorded the collision, my biggest mistake was not calling the police myself at the time.

The driver only seemed interested in me telling them how much the damage was so they could pay me as it would be cheaper than the insurance excess.

I took the drivers details, took some details from one of the witnesses and walked half a mile home with the bent bike.

“You have just been hit by a car, you will go to A&E”

On entering the house, my wife asked me what had happened, and then rang 111. The NHS Direct nurse asked a few questions which resulted in me being told, “You have just been hit by a car, you will go to A&E within the next hour.”

My wife drove me to A&E, I thought the driver who hit me may be concerned about me, so I texted him to say I was on my way to A&E. His response was ‘Very wise, and don’t forget to tell me how much the damage to the bike is’ .

I spent a very long day being poked, prodded and scanned, fortunately they said I was ‘normal’ with bruised ribs.

On returning home I checked the video and checked the vehicle details on gov.uk and askmid.com [the Motor Insurers Database].

DVLA showed the vehicle as SORN and askMID showed the vehicle insured as a Proton Compact, it was a Nissan GTR, so I called Wiltshire Police.

The police came and took photographs of the bent bike, a copy of the video and a statement the very same day (28 February 2021).

One of the things I got very right was having bike insurance (with Laka), so I raised an online bike insurance claim.

Laka were amazing, all I needed to do was take the bike to a bike shop, get a written statement of defects, they then transferred the money to replace the bike and custom wheels, I literally had a new replacement bike within a month, they took the old bike as part of a scrap/salvage scheme.

Chasing the police

I had heard nothing from the police, so I contacted them via email and was informed that cases like this can take up to six months’ investigation before a decision to prosecute is made, they said they had until August. I thought it a bit strange as they had video and witnesses, but they know what they are doing …

At the end of July I still had heard nothing so I emailed the police again, I had a reasonably curt reply stating the case handler was on holiday and that they had until 23 August to decide if they would prosecute.

On 20 August I still had not been contacted, so I again contacted the police, they said they would call me.

The conversation went a little like this, “We would like to offer the driver an awareness course, would you be happy with this?”

I replied, have you seen the video, the answer was “No”, I said have a look at the video and bear in mind the diver showed no remorse and was only interested in me telling them how much the damage was so it would save their excess.

I also asked about the VED status and insurance level, the reply about VED surprised me, they said it was a DVLA matter and not police, they also said they checked on the insurance and it was adequately insured (I would have thought no VED meant no insurance).

They said they would re-review and call me back the following morning ... they didn’t.

I called the following afternoon, they said after reviewing the case it did warrant being sent to court, the case would be in October, I would not need to attend.

October came and went, and I heard nothing, so I contacted the police, the case had been adjourned to November.

Court date finally set

In November I received my very first proactive feedback, the driver had pleaded not guilty, and the case would go to Swindon Magistrates’ Court on 16 June 2022, I would need to attend.

At the beginning of June, I received my second pro-active feedback in nearly 1.5 years, the driver had changed his plea to guilty so I would not need to attend court, sentencing would be on 16 June 2022.

I was on a roll here, on the 16th I received a phone call from victim support detailing the sentence – four points, a fine, victim surcharge and £1,000 compensation. I never expected money, but never say no (I had no uninsured damages, Laka had replaced my 2014 Equilibrium Disk with a 2021 model, and my Hope 20Fives were replaced with Hunt wheels).

The following day I received a letter detailing the sentence and a BACS form which was filled and returned. Then radio silence, nothing …

On 1 August 2022 I sent an email to Poole Enforcement office enquiring if I needed to do anything else. The reply three days later said that the sentence had been overturned and to contact Swindon Magistrates’ Court for more information.

I emailed Swindon Magistrates’ Court … nothing.

Last Tuesday 9 August I received a phone call followed by a very informative email that informed me that magistrates are not entitled to award compensation for insured losses, as the driver was insured, he cannot be expected to pay compensation, it would be up to me to make a civil claim against him, I asked for some background info to be emailed, the headline of the response was:

Further to our conversation by phone today 9/8/22. I can confirm the following information as why the court removed the compensation made on the 16/6/22. Unfortunately, the court had no power to make the award of compensation therefore the court had to vary the original sentence and remove the compensation awarded.  The magistrates removed the compensation order on the 21/6/22 as the original order was unlawful and not enforceable.

Words of advice

So what have I learnt here is what I would like to pass on.

  • Always ride with a camera.
  • Always have your bike properly insured (new for old), it will get you a bike back quickly!
  • If you are hit by a car, get the police to the scene, and go to hospital in an ambulance, don’t do. the mere cat jump up, I am okay, you may not be.
  • Take as many photographs pf the scene at the time as possible in all directions.
  • Do not expect things to happen quickly.
  • If you are not insured you will need to make a civil case to cover your costs.
  • If you want to know what is going on you have to contact them …

All in all, I think we have a serious problem with diminishing driving standards in this country and a criminal justice system that is not fit for purpose.

This content has been added by a member of the road.cc staff

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41 comments

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Bill166 | 1 year ago
6 likes

I was hit by a car 5 weeks ago. Cycling in a straight line through a junction, middle of the road, 10 feet behind a van, an oncoming driver decided she could turn right after the van as there was an apparent gap. Slammed directly into my right side. Knocked unconscious immediately (first thing I remember after the impact was the voices of the paramedics), broken right leg, bike written off, still suffering from vertigo. Oh, and left thigh still swollen from bruising after top tube was driven into it.

The police tell me this was not "driving without due care and attention" because her view as she approached was blocked by the large vehicle in front of me. No point in taking it to court, they wouldn't secure a conviction. Apparently it's not a crime under English traffic law to drive straight through a vulnerable road user if your view of them was blocked until just before the manoeuvre. Whatever happened to "if you can't see properly, stop and look before turning?". Does this mean that in busy traffic with a mixture of vehicles we have no protection from the law?

I contacted CycleSOS with full details, waiting to see what happens next with them.

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brooksby replied to Bill166 | 1 year ago
1 like

Good luck.

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OldRidgeback replied to Bill166 | 1 year ago
4 likes

That's a horrendous experience. I've had a close call in a similar circumstance on my motorbike as it happens. Surely if a driver's view is obscured, they should proceed slowly and with caution?

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wtjs replied to Bill166 | 1 year ago
1 like

Does this mean that in busy traffic with a mixture of vehicles we have no protection from the law?

In almost all circumstances most of us have no protection from the law.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
2 likes

The other key takeway I've learnt from this is Magistrate's dont understand the law they are meant to be enforcing?  I wonder how many times this particular one has awarded unlawful compensation?  FFS no

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chrisonabike replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
2 likes

Reading the Secret Barrister would probably be an exercise in reinforcing your dismay and fustration then.  It definitely seems to be a system which is a moneysaver, goes forward in hope (not a bad starting point) but without much in the way of checks and balances.  The latter isn't a good look in a legal system.  "This is a voluntary post.  No previous experience needed; up to 5 days' training will be provided"!

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mdavidford replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
3 likes

It's no great surprise - being a magistrate requires no particular prior qualifications, and relies on an initial 3-5 days training, followed by 1-2 days a year. They're basically enthusiast volunteers, not legal professionals.

https://www.gov.uk/become-magistrate/can-you-be-a-magistrate

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OnYerBike replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago
2 likes

A related problem is that (much like local councilors) this means that Magistrates are always people with plenty of time/money on their hands (typically older, retired people) and who are inclined to use their free time to take on positions of power. They might genuinely think they are doing it as a service to the local community, but with their own very clear opinions of what is right and wrong.

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hawkinspeter replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like
Secret_squirrel wrote:

The other key takeway I've learnt from this is Magistrate's dont understand the law they are meant to be enforcing?  I wonder how many times this particular one has awarded unlawful compensation?  FFS no

Magistrates don't need a legal background - they're given appropriate training and advised on the technical details: https://www.gov.uk/become-magistrate/can-you-be-a-magistrate

I was chatting with a criminal defense lawyer at a firend's birthday party and he was suggesting to a few people that they should become magistrates as there's a shortage. It's basically about having a "good character" and being willing to give people/criminals a second chance. (The lawyer had recently been defending a man who'd flipped and attacked/killed his own wife with an axe)

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

(The lawyer had recently been defending a man who'd flipped and attacked/killed his own wife with an axe)

Was the sun in his eyes?

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

(The lawyer had recently been defending a man who'd flipped and attacked/killed his own wife with an axe)

Was the sun in his eyes?

For some unfathomable reason, those kinds of excuses aren't believed outside of road crime.

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richliv replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

No, they don't need a legal background but they need to be analytical and able to apply the law, with advice from court clerks and whatnot. Their job is to be proportionate and reflect the makeup of society and, while not perfect, there has been much effort over the last 15 years to reflect society better. They get initial training, as you say, but not around the body of the law, more about the process and role.

Disclaimer (you knew this was coming, right?) - wife is a magistrate albeit "on the bench" (reservist) right now, and she balanced sitting 14 days a year with a full time job and jointly raising a family. And she was not that unusual albeit lucky to have an understanding employer who could make some use of the legal experience too.

I think the magistrates themselves are not the problem - it is that the courts are so badly resourced like most of our public services. It's triage to determine bang for buck that causes the awful legal situation the OP describes. I totally sympathise.

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jaymack replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

This matter would probably have been dealt with by three lay Magistrates (quite literally the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker). They have maybe a couple of weeks training before being let loose on the public. They are being increasingly used instead of expensive, paid and legally qualified District Judges. Could you imagine going into hospital and the surgeon saying that they're a butcher by trade but not to worry they've done a couple of weeks training? The lay justices would have had a legal advisor but they were probably not told at the time that the victim had received an insurance payout which is the fault of the driver or the driver's advocate.

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mdavidford replied to jaymack | 1 year ago
2 likes
jaymack wrote:

quite literally the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker

No wonder there's a backlog of cases - I imagine every single candlestick maker in the country is booked up for decades to come.

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Awavey replied to jaymack | 1 year ago
2 likes

Tbf historically speaking butchers were used as surgeons back in the day, especially on ships or on battlefields they had the tools, skills and knew how to use them, and cut your hair too as barber/butcher surgeons

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OldRidgeback replied to jaymack | 1 year ago
2 likes

Just as an aside, surgeons historically were barbers. That's why barbers have red and white srtiped poles outside their establishments. Doctors would read instructions in Latin, which the ill-educated barbers/surgeons wouldn't understand in most instances. If anything went wrong it was the fault of the clumsy barber/surgeon. If an operation went well, it was due to the skill of the doctor in readin the correct text in Latin.

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jaymack replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
0 likes

Scilicet haec novi! 

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jaymack | 1 year ago
8 likes

This sad tale details not just a poor outcome for the victim, which is bad enough, but the impact of a decade plus of austerity. If the numbers of traffic Police are cut, if Courts are closed & staffing levels slashed, if the CPS's budget is decimated, if the DVLA is grossly underfunded this is what happens. The criminal courts are beyond crisis point, they are broken as is much in the public sector. Don't fall for the argument that only private investment can fix it (never forget the expensive shambles that was 'track & trace') and vote the present bunch of charlatans and chancers out of office at the earliest opportunity. RantyMcRantface will now go and lie down somewhere cool and dark...

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Seagull2 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Hi,  i read this yesterday, and it really doesn't inspire confidence in the policing system as a whole   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/11/senior-officer-pol...

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Secret_squirrel replied to Seagull2 | 1 year ago
0 likes
Seagull2 wrote:

Hi,  i read this yesterday, and it really doesn't inspire confidence in the policing system as a whole   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/11/senior-officer-pol...

Ahem - just saying....

 

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Seagull2 replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
0 likes

Is Secret_squirrel Dal Babu ??   Seagull2 ( not famous)   1 

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lukei1 | 1 year ago
0 likes

What I don't understand is that when I report to the Met, if I don't show up to court then my video evidence doesn't count. So why was that different here?

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espressodan | 1 year ago
1 like

This points to a far more concerning indication that the justice system is completely overwhelmed because it turns out this shit, and worse, is happening all the time and the police and courts just can't cope. Unfortunately they can't say that to policymakers ('good news, this bullshit encourages growth') so they just sweep it under the rug.

If they let it time out, it doesn't show on the stats... Like it never happened.

They've sent to message for decades that you'll pretty much get away with a rap on the knuckles for anything and now they're reaping the results in terms of the behaviour of the scum that society had created.

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Nikonitis | 1 year ago
4 likes

I found your story informative if not entirely surprising. None of us wants or needs to be exposed to the justice system, for whatever reason, but ironically, when thrown in at the deep end so to speak, the learning curve is steep. Thankyou for sharing your reasoned and thoughtful story. So often these stories are heavily biased and difficult to understand clearly through the noise of angry banter

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kt26 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Sounds like the standard police interaction unfortuanely, I've dealt with the oft fabled Surrey police on a few occasions and found a very dissappointing experience.

Couple of bits given insurance is being mentioned here:

- Having insurance on pricey items is always a good idea, but making a claim will push up your premiums. So if it is someone elses fault consider making a 3rd party claim for damages - having good legal advise on this is crucial

- If you have a personal accident policy - this is a likely a benefit policy not an indemnity policy. Meaning you don't need to prove you've suffered financial loss to claim, only that a covered event has occured (e.g. you broke your arm) and you can claim in addition to any indeminty claim you may be making against a 3rd party. There will be some exculsion on policy e.g. injuries sustained partaking in winter sports

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Seventyone replied to kt26 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Agree about all this. You might also want to inform the insurance company of the results of the court case so they can claim their costs off the driver, hitting his insurance premiums not yours

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nordog | 1 year ago
5 likes

If you had the air in your lung thumped out of you it's not so easy to move to any safety area and sort out witnesses and Police, try talking as you gasp for air & your feeling pain. Terrible, whether he saw this rider or not that driver should lose the car & licence for cutting off that junction, I see it happening here in Warminster at least twice a week on my travels. This rider is lucky to be alive and walking/riding. 

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IanMK | 1 year ago
8 likes

I've been saying for some time there's a fundamental flaw in the legal system and the way collisions are dealt with particularly by the Police. There are, I believe, 70,000 "accidents" a year resulting in an insurance claim (probably many more that aren't). Whilst I accept that some of these may be blameless and some may be on private land the majority are likely to be due to one of the parties involved being careless. The truth is that most of these will never be prosecuted as careless driving.

When this system is then asked to deal with vulnerable road users there's confusion. The attitude of the driver in this case is exactly the same response as he would have if he hit another car and I suspect that the police attitude is similar.

There has to be a political will to remove substandard drivers from the roads but in order to do this they need to improve the options particularly in rural communities and this isn't going to happen any time soon. I still think that the Police should be more aggresive in actioning poor driving but my "compromise" would be to limit the size of car / engine that anyone accruing more than 12 points can drive. (after serving a mandatory ban of course).

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andystow replied to IanMK | 1 year ago
9 likes
IanMK wrote:

I still think that the Police should be more aggresive in actioning poor driving but my "compromise" would be to limit the size of car / engine that anyone accruing more than 12 points can drive. (after serving a mandatory ban of course).

They can choose any colour they want, but only one choice of car.

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pockstone | 1 year ago
10 likes

+1 for always calling the police. I was side swiped by a driver pulling out of a junction, full lights, reflectors, hi-viz (why do we even bother???). Same deal, '...no need to go through the insurance, I'll settle up...let me know how much...' Of course all went quiet when he got the bill, probably thinking it would cost him £30.00 and a grovelling apology. Next time it's plod and the ambulance.

The only positive upshot was that taking it through solicitors meant a claim for minor personal injury, meaning I got a bigger payout, and his insurance will ( I hope) have gone through the roof.

Sorry to hear you had such a poor experience, but from recent news it seems it could have been even worse.

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