New figures suggest that while cycling deaths have seen an increase from 2013 to 2014, the number of drivers found guilty of 'causing death' offences in England and Wales has dropped by 11 per cent.
CTC reports how according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice, 315 drivers were convicted of 'causing death' driving offences last year - an 11 per cent drop compared to the 355 convictions for such offences in 2013. Official figures for road death have not yet been released, but Great Britain as a whole saw a one per cent increase in the year to September 2014 over the corresponding 12-month period a year earlier (1,730 fatalities compared with 1,711).
While acknowledging that this does not necessarily point to greater leniency, CTC is nevertheless concerned that prosecutions and convictions for fatal driving offences are down despite an increase in the number of fatalities. The organisation believes the figures may indicate that roads policing is bearing the brunt of cuts to overall police numbers.
CTC's campaigns and policy information co-ordinator, Cherry Allan, writes:
“CTC believes that police failings are linked to the severe cuts that the service has suffered over recent years. Traffic police levels in England and Wales fell by 37% from 2002/3-2013/14, from almost 7,000 uniformed officers down to just 4,356. During this time, total policing levels fluctuated a little from year to year, but not nearly to this degree: police officers in March 2014 numbered about 3.5% less than in 2003.”
“Adequate resources help make sure that police investigations are thorough enough to gather sufficient evidence to refer cases to the CPS, and for the CPS to pursue them.”
CTC believes that some bad drivers are treated leniently due to occasional failings of police, prosecutors and the courts.
Earlier this week, the organisation reacted strongly to the news that a Merseyside police officer has been given a written warning for deciding not to prosecute a man who hit a cyclist while driving on the wrong side of the road. Following the death of the cyclist, Daniel Ayers, a review of the evidence eventually led to a 10-month jail sentence. Road safety campaigner, Rhia Favero, framed the original decision as ‘accusing a victim for their own death’.
In February 2014, CTC’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund said the Metropolitan Police’s decision not to refer a case in which a cyclist was hit by a driver from behind was a clear breach of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines. Michael Mason died of his injuries, but no prosecution was brought against the driver.
CTC’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund is currently appealing for funds to pay for a private prosecution in the latter case and it is also investigating two further cases – one a very serious injury and one a fatality – where either the police or the CPS declined to prosecute on what CTC describe as ‘apparently spurious grounds’.