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Former detective who repeatedly punched cyclist in road rage attack escapes jail on appeal

Court hears that incident in March left victim too fearful to cycle on the road

A retired police detective inspector who repeatedly punched a cyclist in a road rage incident has escaped jail after appealing his conviction for common assault by magistrates. The victim, meanwhile, has said that the incident last March has left him too afraid to cycle on the road.

David Beckett, aged 63, who spent three decades serving with South Yorkshire Police, spent six days in jail after being found guilty at Sheffield Magistrates' Court and was released on bail after appealing his conviction, reports the Yorkshire Post.

That conviction was upheld at Sheffield Crown Court, but while Judge Peter Kelson said that a custodial sentence would have been “entirely appropriate,” the period that Beckett had already spent in prison “must have had a very profound effect upon a man of good character.”

Instead, he was ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid community work and told to pay prosecution costs of £1,035. The judge also imposed a restraining order on him not to contact the victim, 60-year-old Frank Cunliffe, or any other witnesses to the incident.

The court heard how prior to the incident, Beckett had been tailgaiting other cars then cut up Mr Cunliffe, who was riding a new bike that had cost him £2,500.

The cyclist gestured at Beckett, who stopped his vehicle and got out and confronted Mr Cunliffe, who had also stopped, striking him a number of times on his head, shoulders and torso.

The judge said that it was “clearly an act of road rage” and that he ad the two magistrates sitting at the appeal hearing considered the incident “a very serious crime.”

He went on: “You took that corner so sharply you inconvenienced him badly, it was a dangerous manoeuvre. That was the reason for what happened next.”

The “good character” to which the judge referred was at odds with some of the comments he made when sentencing Beckett, whom he said had failed to display a “shred of remorse,” adding that it was obvious he had difficulty controlling his anger.

“The only person who doesn’t see it is you,” he maintained. “You think the whole world is against you.”

Reports stated that Beckett possessed an “aggressive and provocative” character and that he had problems not being the person in control of a situation.

“It is that sort of disquiet we have seen from start to finish at various points in these proceedings,” the judge added.

Earlier, prosecutor Michael Jowett had told the court that Mr Cunliffe had been admitted to hospital following the incident and started suffering headaches once he had returned home.

A dentist discovered two months later that his jaw had been displaced during the incident, causing his teeth to be misaligned.

In a victim statement read out at the hearing, Mr Cunliffe said he now confined his bike riding to a machine at home, adding, “I no longer get any enjoyment from cycling.”

Beckett continues to protest his innocence, stating after the hearing: “There has been a miscarriage of justice and I will be pursuing it through the European Court.”

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.

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