Hertfordshire Police have apologised to a cyclist involved in a collision caused by a brake-checking motorist for ‘prematurely finalising the case’. The force said the motorist should have been questioned and that case officers had therefore been ‘given advice’ regarding collision investigation. However, the case cannot now be reopened unless new evidence comes to light.
On January 12, road.cc reader John was involved in an incident with the driver of a Ford Fusion on Melbourn Road, Royston, which we reported on here.
The video appears to show the driver clipping John while overtaking – knocking his car’s wing mirror back in the process – before sharply hitting the brakes in the middle of an empty roundabout. That second manoeuvre resulted in John riding into the back of the vehicle.
After viewing the footage, Hertfordshire Constabulary wrote to inform John, “the weight of evidence to prove that any offences have been committed is not sufficient for a prosecution to take place.”
That came following a whole saga attempting to report the incident in the first place, as detailed in our original article.
Dissatisfied with the decision, John made an official complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Explaining how officers decided to close the case, complaints investigator Kevin Bennett told John that the motorist had returned a notice confirming that he was driver of the car at the time and providing his account of what happened, “which does differ from yours.”
However, Bennett concludes that “there appear to be offences that should have been investigated further by way of interviewing the driver” – although he adds that a request for an interview would have been on a voluntary basis with no guarantee the driver would have participated.
Bennett continues: “All I am able to do is apologise on behalf of the Collisions Unit that they have not given you the level of service that you would have expected and I can assure you that all the Case Officers in the Collisions Unit have been given advice regarding collision investigation.
“As I have mentioned previously, as both parties have been informed that the case has been filed as ‘no further action’, the case is now officially closed and cannot be re-opened, however this does not prevent you taking out a private prosecution in a Civil Court where the burden of proof is set at a lower level as they work on the balance of probabilities, rather than beyond all reasonable doubt.”
Elsewhere in his response, Bennett seems to question some of John’s riding, including his decision to overtake a slower moving cyclist when the motorist was behind him.
“You are stating that the car was so close that the mirror hit you, whereas the driver of the Fusion has stated that as he sounded his horn as he passed you that you kicked the mirror in temper as he sounded his horn, causing damage to his car.
“It also raises the point that whilst approaching the slower moving cyclist and being aware that the Ford Fusion was close behind you, that it may have been advisable to have stayed back behind the slower cyclist until the Fusion has gone past you, therefore eliminating that hazard.
“That’s not to say I believe that you are at fault, it’s just that the evidence is inconclusive to prove one way beyond all reasonable doubt and sometimes it may be prudent to stay back and stay safe.”
Bennett also makes a reference to John looking down to clip back into his pedals after losing balance following the initial contact.
“It is clear from the footage that you were not expecting the Fusion to stop as there is no indication that you have attempted to swerve out of the way or brake and I note from your statement that you had been distracted as you were re-engaging your cleats into your pedals.
“Again, I am not suggesting that you were at fault, but merely pointing out that had you not been re-engaging your cleats that you may have been able to stop, which would also have been the case had you been travelling at a more appropriate distance behind the Fusion; a point that could be exposed by the defence if the matter was heard in court.”
John said he was “extremely disheartened” with several of Bennett’s conclusions.
“In parts it flat out contradicts the video,” he said. “For example the driver claims that he sounded his horn as he passed and that I kicked his wing mirror. The video clearly shows (you can see the shadow) that my response to the horn was to give a clear and unambiguous arm signal that I intended to complete my overtake of the slower cyclist.
“I was already overtaking when the horn was sounded, my exit from the roundabout was already taking into account that overtake and I’m moving about twice the speed of the other cyclist.
“Despite the clear and unambiguous video evidence, it appears that the driver’s account is given equal credence to what actually happened.”
Reflecting on the collision on the roundabout, John added: “The car was well ahead and pulling away when I glanced down as I was having trouble re-engaging my cleat and was caught out by the brake check. Frankly it was totally unexpected.
“I’ll know different in future, but in over 35 years of driving, motorcycling and cycling as an adult I HAVE NEVER had that manoeuvre performed on me before. It is incredibly dangerous and is considered by most police forces in the UK and abroad as a serious moving traffic offence.”