A jury at the Old Bailey has acquitted motorist Gail Purcell of causing the death of cyclist Michael Mason through dangerous driving. She stood trial after the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF) crowdsourced more than £75,000 to bring a private prosecution, in what is believed to be a legal first. Both Mr Mason's family and the CDF have urged the Metropolitan Police to review its investigation of the case.
Mr Mason, known as Mick, died in hospital shortly after his 70th birthday in March 2014, 19 days after he was hit from behind on London’s Regent Street by a car driven by Purcell, who told police afterwards that she had not seen him. He never regained consciousness.
The Cyclists’ Defence Fund, established in 2001 by national cyclists’ charity Cycling UK, raised funds to bring the private prosecution after the Metropolitan Police Service decided not to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service.
In a statement released after the verdict this afternoon, Mr Mason's daughter, Anna Tatton-Brown, said: “My family and I respect the decision the jury have reached, although we are obviously disappointed.
"It seems that failing to be aware of what’s in front of you while you’re driving is an acceptable mistake, not careless, and that no explanation for that failure is necessary.
“We do, however, draw some comfort from the fact that the evidence was finally put to a jury, something that should have happened long ago.
"It should not have taken the intervention of CDF, and the support of many members of the public, to bring this case to court.
"Given that the Judge accepted that there was a case which the jury had to consider, we would hope that the Police will now conduct a review into their investigation, their rush to blame the victim, their refusal to seek CPS advice, and consider what lessons might be learned.
“My family would once again like to express our sincere and grateful appreciation for all of the support we have received in our search for justice for my much-loved Dad.”
CDF spokesman Duncan Dollimore commented: “While we accept the jury’s decision, CDF are disappointed and concerned about the message this conveys to the general public regarding driving standards.
"Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.
“Notwithstanding the jury’s decision, we believe it was right to bring this case to court given the Metropolitan Police’s unwillingness to do so.
"We do question why the Police failed to obtain witness evidence from relevant eye-witnesses which the legal team instructed by CDF were able to secure. If they had done so they would have recognised, as the Judge did yesterday, that this was a case which rightly had to be put before a jury. We believe they should review their investigation practices involving vulnerable road users, and their engagement with the victims’ families.
“Both CDF and Mr Mason’s family would like to thank all those people who supported this prosecution. Although we can only be disappointed at the result, we hope that this case demonstrates why we need to look closely at how the justice system serves the victims of road collisions and their families, and whether the standards applied to decide what is, or is not, careless or dangerous driving are fit for purpose.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.