A motorist who used his car “as a weapon” as he aimed it at a cyclist then drove off after knocking the rider off his bike has received a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to dangerous driving.
The case, heard at York Crown Court, is one of a number in recent years in which motorists have been accused of using their vehicle as a weapon against more vulnerable road users.
Many cyclists will feel that the potential harm to the victim is not reflected in the charges brought by prosecutors, or the sentence imposed where the driver is found guilty.
The investigation, prosecution and review of cases where the victim is a vulnerable road user will be subject to a review in the new year, confirmed by the government last month in its response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report.
In the latest incident, prior to cyclist William Mak being struck by David Glen Atkin’s Nissan Micra, the motorist had undertaken a group of riders on the city’s Micklegate and cut across them, meaning they needed to brake sharply to avoid hitting his vehicle and crashing into each other, reports York Press.
Prosecuting counsel Helen Wheatley told the court that Atkin, aged 29, who had a previous conviction for careless driving and failure to stop after an accident, then stopped his vehicle inside an Advanced Stop Line at the junction of Micklegate and Rougier Street.
Mr Mak subsequently had a "heated argument" with Atkin when they halted at a red light at the junction of Micklegate and North Street.
The court heard that Mr Mak placed his arm inside Atkin’s car and, as he took it out, unintentionally made contact with a ten-year-old girl occupying the front passenger seat.
As the cyclist began riding off when the lights changed to green, Atkin moved left, knocking him off his bike, which was written off, and leaving him without full use of his hands for a number of days. Atkin then drove away.
Jeremy Durston, acting for Atkin, told the court: “He quite candidly accepts he lost his temper and in that momentary flash of temper he drove in the way he did. He is remorseful for what he has done.”
However, Recorder Tahir Khan QC told the accused: “If you commit offences such as this using your vehicle effectively as a weapon and cause someone to be knocked off their bicycle, it has got to be prison.”
Sentencing Atkin, the judge told him that he had suspended the 12-month prison sentence due to the defendant’s guilty plea, also imposing the condition that he be subject to supervision for 12 months, undertake 200 hours of unpaid work, and participate in a ten-session course designed to prevent repeat offending.
Atkin also received a one-year ban from driving and has been told to retake his driving test, and was ordered to pay the cyclist £300 in compensation.
In June this year, Alistair Burnell was given a three-month suspended sentence by Hull Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to attempted grevious bodily injury following a road rage incident in which he deliberately aimed his camper van at cyclist Alan Smith.
The judge in that case, Michael Mettyear, told the motorist: "You could have killed him and you would have been be going to prison for a some time.
"It was more through luck than judgment that he was not injured more seriously.”
In 2010, a Coventry motorist was convicted of murder at Warwick Crown Court after killing a cyclist he deliberately rammed with his vehicle. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The driver, Sean Fitzgerald, who was aged 36 at the time, chased after 42-year-old cyclist Paul Webb who had clipped his vehicle’s wing mirror.
Following sentencing, Detective Inspector Wendy Bailey, of West Midlands Police, commented: “Sean Fitzgerald was an arrogant man who persisted in trying to make it look like this was an accident.
“At no time during the proceedings did he show the slightest remorse for Mr Webb. He is now in his rightful place which in prison.”
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.