The government has refused to reveal how many convictions for the offence of causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving relate to cases in which a cyclist was charged with the offence, road.cc has learnt.
Government refuses to reveal how many furious driving convictions relate to cyclists
Motorists accounted for at least two of eight convictions in 2016 – but Ministry of Justice won’t provide a split by type of road user
In a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request, Cycling UK asked the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to break down the figures by type of road user.
However, while the MoJ admitted to the charity that it did have the information, it said it was unable to provide the split because it was contained in court records.
While Cycling UK plans to appeal the decision, that is likely to be a lengthy process, and comes at a time when the government is reviewing the law relating to dangerous or careless cycling
Earlier this month, Sky News reported that the number of cyclists convicted under the legislation, which falls under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, had doubled between 2015 and 2016.
Figures released in response to an FOI request by the broadcaster revealed that there had been eight convictions for the offence in 2016 compared to four the previous year.
In its article, Sky News repeated the call by Matthew Briggs, whose wife Kim was killed following a collision in London’s Old Street with cyclist Charlie Alliston, for the law to be reformed.
Alliston was cleared last year of manslaughter, but sentenced to 18 months’ detention in a young offenders’ institution after an Old Bailey jury convicted him of causing bodily injury through wanton and furious driving.
The case was widely reported on in the media, with much of the focus being on the fact that Alliston had been riding a fixed-wheel track bike which did not have a front brake and was therefore not legal for road use.
However, the rarity of such convictions, and the way they fluctuate from year to year – varying between four and 12 annually during the past decade – means it is impossible to determine any long-term statistical trend.
Secondly, there appears to be a fallacy in certain elements of the media that only cyclists are charged with the offence.
Besides cyclists, other classes of road users who can be prosecuted under the legislation include mobility scooter riders, golf cart users and even motorists.
Duncan Dollimore, head of advocacy and campaigns at Cycling UK, told road.cc that anyone reading the Sky News headline, which stated ‘Rise in cycling convictions under Victorian law’, would be “likely to conclude that convictions for wanton and furious driving relate to cyclists, when actually they refer to all road users.”
He continued: “It took only a quick internet search by Cycling UK to show that at least two out of the eight convictions for wanton and furious driving in 2016 involved car drivers.”
One of the convictions in 2016 related to skip firm owner Peter Bialek, aged 66, who was jailed for 18 months after he crashed his Mercedes into a marquee while drunk, injuring 21 people, three of them seriously.
At his trial at Winchester Crown Court, he admitted three charges of causing grevious bodily harm without intent and one of causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving.
He could not be charged under usual road traffic legislation because the incident took place on private land away from the public highway.
Earlier in 2016 , 73-year-old Irene Wilkinson, was given a three-month community order at Manchester Crown Court after she ran over and killed Dorothy Heath, aged 93, in the car park of the sheltered housing complex where they both lived.
Referring to Cycling UK’s FOI request to the MoJ, Dollimore said: “They admit they have that information but claim it’s exempt from disclosure as it is held in a court record.
“Presumably nobody has the time or wit to extract it from that record, put it in a table, and disclose it.
“Cycling UK will of course appeal to the Information Commissioner, but the MoJ’s apparent reluctance to clarify information which can be misinterpreted by the media and wider public is concerning.
“If the government, as they claim, wants its review into offences and cycle safety to be evidence led, they shouldn’t hide the figures.
“It’s hard enough for anyone to look carefully at the statistics that are available without have to dig around for the extra information that’s said to be exempt from disclosure,” he added.
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.