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Report highlights CPS failings in tracking justice for cyclist deaths

"Gap in data collection" makes finding out how cyclist deaths are handled "impracticable"...

An investigation into the working of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has found that it's not possible to determine how the service's handling of cyclist deaths on the road compares with other traffic fatalities because of what the CTC describes as a "gap in data collection".

Stories of light sentences for drivers who kill cyclists are a source of concern and anger in the cycling community. In some cases, such as the death of Michael Mason in February 2014, friends and families of victims have been devastated by the seeming lack of thorough investigation and subsequent prosecution.

The Inspectorate for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Criminal Justice Inspectorates looked into the handling of traffic fatalities. Their report, Joint Inspection Of The Investigation And Prosecution Of Fatal Road Traffic Incidents found that it was "impracticable" to compare the handling of cyclist road deaths with those of other users.

The report says:

The number of fatalities suffered by the cycling community (especially in London) has attracted much media attention. It was hoped that this inspection might produce evidence about the way in which road deaths involving cyclists are treated compared with those affecting other road users. However the way in which the CPS registers its cases by the name of the defendant or suspect rather than the victim has made this impracticable. Neither does the CPS collect data that allows them to identify categories of road user either as offenders or casualties.

Cycle campaigning organisation CTC has been asking the Ministry of Justice to address this problem via its Road Justice campaign.

CTC's Rhia Weston told road.cc: "It’s great that the joint inspection highlighted it. From a conversation I had back in December with the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, we know that the MoJ is now looking into how to fix this."

The charity would like to see the collision data collected through the police's STATS 19 system and criminal justice data to be linked so that cases can be tracked as they progress through the justice system. That would make it possible to determine whether different characteristics of the defendant (e.g. a lorry driver) or the victim (e.g. a cyclist) have an impact on charging decisions, conviction rates and sentencing outcomes.

Weston said: "According to sentencing guidelines, the fact that a victim was a cyclist or pedestrian should aggravate a driver’s sentence, but we don’t know whether this is happening in practice because of the limited data available.

"The simple linking of data would show whether the justice system is doing its job of ensuring justice for victims, or whether the type of victim involved is inappropriately and unjustly swaying decision making. This is an issue that doesn’t only affect London, but the whole of the UK. What’s more, addressing this gap in data collection would improve our understanding of how all types of crime are handled, not just road crime."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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