Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer believes there is a “very strong case” for change in the way the cases involving the death of a cyclist are currently handled by the law. The former head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) believes decisions to prosecute cases in which a cyclist has been killed in a road traffic incident should be made by the CPS and not the police.
Sir Keir Starmer, who is now Labour MP for Holborn & St Pancras, called for the change on BBC 2's Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning in a report that highlighted the failings of the criminal justice system in cases involving cyclists.
“I think there’s a very strong case for saying, where there’s a death involved, if it’s serious enough to have had a criminal investigation then it really should go off to the CPS for the final decision.”
The report, which you can watch here, was presented by BBC journalist Anna Tatton-Brown.
Her father, Michael Mason, died in March last year from injuries he had sustained around a fortnight earlier when a car struck him while he was riding his bike in Central London.
On the anniversary of his death, police told a journalist that the driver involved would be prosecute, only to change their decision four days later, something described as “impossibly callous” by Martin Porter QC, who represented Mr Mason’s family at the inquest into his death.
The BBC report highlighted the shortcomings of the criminal justice system in cases where cyclists have been killed, with another case examined being that of Richard Jordan, who died in November 2011.
Kent Police’s handling of that case was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which found a number of shortcomings in the investigation.
The BBC also spoke to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, Suzette Davenport, who is also lead on roads policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
She admitted she would not cycle in central London, saying: "I wouldn't do that, because it's too busy, there are too many risks.”
According to Mr Porter, who blogs as the Cycling Silk, that attitude is all too prevalent among police officers and explains in part why some cyclists and their families feel ill-served by the justice system.
“They're looking at cycling as a dangerous activity,” he explained. “Their emphasis then, and the emphasis of some coroners, is upon whether a cyclist is wearing a crash helmet or high visibility equipment, rather than on whether the people driving in the vicinity of vulnerable road users like cyclists are taking the appropriate amount of care not to collide with them."
The families of both Mr Mason and Mr Jordan have been supported by the Cyclists’ Defence Fund.
In Mr Mason’s case, his family plan to bring a private prosecution against the driver involved and the CDF has raised almost £30,000 to help pay for it.
In an update last month on Just Giving, it said: “We are sorry that we have been unable to provide an update on the progress of the case until now. We want to reiterate how immensely grateful we are for the support shown so far for Mick and his family.
“Unfortunately, we cannot go into great detail about the case at this stage, but we can say that the preparation for the prosecution is moving apace and heading into the final phases.
“We will update you again soon when we have more information. We are sorry that we cannot give out more details and hope you understand that this is because we do not want to jeopardise the case in any way.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.