Cycling UK has written to City of London Magistrates’ Court expressing concerns about comments recently made by one of its Magistrates. Catherine Hobey-Hamsher saw fit to say “people don’t like cyclists” while passing sentence on a man charged with dangerous cycling and Cycling UK now believes she should withdraw from sitting on all cases involving cyclists.
Last week, Tanneguy Marie De Carne was fined for repeatedly failing to stop cycling for officers during a police chase across the City of London.
Passing sentence, Chair of the Bench, Catherine Hobey-Hamsher, said: "The offence was sustained in every possible way. A reasonable person would have stopped immediately. It is a silent danger, coming up behind people – they have no idea – and above all it diminishes the really rather low esteem cyclists already have. People do not like cyclists, and you are doing nothing to enhance their reputation."
De Carne jumped red lights, failed to stop for a police car and tried to evade the police officer while cycling through busy streets and along the pavement.
Writing in a blog post, Cycling UK legal expert Duncan Dollimore made it clear that he condemned his actions, but expressed concern about Hobey-Hamsher’s attitudes and what they might mean for future cases.
“He only has himself to blame for ending up before the court, but once he got there he was entitled to expect to be dealt with by a Magistrate concentrating on his behaviour, not one displaying prejudice to a particular road user group.”
Dollimore makes the point that anyone charged with a cycling-related traffic offence, or any cyclist who is the victim in a road rage prosecution involving a motorist, could legitimately ask themselves how impartial Hobey-Hamsher really is. “Imagine the furore if the Chair had instead said that people don't like Mancunians, motorists, Muslims or miners, who were all groups held in low esteem in some quarters.”
A recent Active People survey found that 9 per cent of people in England cycle at least once a week, and 15 per cent at least once per month. Dollimore questions why Hobey-Hamsher saw fit to refer to around 6.6 million people as one homogenous group.
“In their training Magistrates are constantly instructed that they must disqualify themselves from dealing with any cases where there may be an appearance of bias. The fact that they are not biased is irrelevant, it is the appearance that matters and Hobey-Hamsher and the Court should know this.
“That is why Cycling UK has written to the Court outlining our concerns regarding her comments, explaining why many people who cycle might question Hobey-Hamsher's impartiality in cycling-related cases, and asking them to confirm that she will now withdraw from sitting on any cases involving cyclists.”