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Gwent Police confirm cyclist submitting close pass footage could face prosecution for swearing (+ video ... which includes swearing)

Force says behaviour of people sending in clips of bad driving is also reviewed and may result in action being taken

Gwent Police have confirmed to road.cc that road users, including cyclists, who submit video footage of bad driving to the force under its Operation Snap initiative may themselves face prosecution if their own behaviour, including the use of bad language, is deemed to warrant it.

You may remember our recent story about cyclist Nick Thompson, who regularly submits footage of close passes and other incidents to the force but was told that police were unable to act on incidents in which he could be heard swearing when drivers overtook him too closely.

As we reported last month, he contacted the Crown Prosecution Service to clarify the situation, and was told that “there is no general rule against prosecuting cases where victims or witnesses can be shown to have used bad language.”

That seemed to have clarified the issue for once and for all, but after submitting a further 17 videos to the force last weekend (including the one above), he received a phone call from a sergeant at Gwent Police who told him that due to bad language in some of his Operation Snap submissions, he was "committing public order offences," and that it brought his character into question.

Nick said that the sergeant told him that a victim of assault could be prosecuted for a public order offence if they were swearing when the assault happened, and also claimed that the officer told him he would be called in for interview with the intention of prosecuting him for a public order offence if he continued to submit videos in which swearing was audible.

Gwent Police denied the latter claim, saying that he wouldn’t be brought in for interview just from submitting footage, but instead was being reminded that he had committed public order offences, there is a chance his footage could be discounted by the CPS, and that he may be called in for interview if a complaint were made against him for using bad language.

Nick told us he had made a complaint to Gwent Police about the issue, and we also contacted the force to seek clarification of the situation.

In response, Teresa Ciano, partnership manager at GoSafe Wales, which runs Operation Snap, said: “GoSafe welcomes submission to Operation Snap from all road users and takes the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users seriously.

“Close passes of both cyclists and horse riders are dangerous and poses a risk to the safety of cyclists and horse riders.

“Every submitter, when completing the Operation Snap submission form, must declare that they have read the Operation Snap FAQ, which can be found on the GoSafe website.

“It clearly states as part of the FAQs: ‘Will my own driving or the way in which I captured the footage be scrutinised?’

Here is what the relevant part of the FAQs says:

You must be aware that when the police review the footage which you submit that they are duty bound to also review the manner of your driving and also the manner in which the footage was obtained.

For example, if you were exceeding the speed limit in order to catch up with an offending driver and then proceeded to film them with your mobile phone whilst driving, then the police will consider also taking proceedings against you.

“By confirming they have read the FAQs, the submitter has acknowledged they are aware that their behaviour on the road will also be reviewed,” Ms Ciano continued.

“The footage received by Mr. Thompson clearly demonstrates some close passing of vehicles. We have offered some words of advice to allow us to secure the best possible chance of prosecution.

“As police, we need to consider the offences in the whole and the effect of Mr. Thompson’s behaviour on those innocent road users not involved in any way,” she added.

“The advice issued about foul language is intended to allow us to prosecute offenders without having the case undermined if his behaviour is challenged in court.”

Gwent Police deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman also provided a response to our inquiry, saying: “We want all road users to feel safe when using them.

“Many of our officers and staff, including our senior leadership team, are keen cyclists outside of work and understand the risks posed to cyclists on the road.

“We work closely with GoSafe, also known as the Wales Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, and other partner agencies to ensure the safety of road users.

“The force often provides advice and tips to road users, and the wider public, about how to stay safe while on our roads and where to report concerns.

“Any offences identified on our roads will be investigated by officers.”

She added: “We’re also duty bound to make enquiries if a member of the public makes an official report to us about an incident on our roads, including those which may not relate directly to a motoring offence.”

Of course, it is understandable why the police may, to use one of the examples listed in the FAQs, prosecute a driver who has exceeded the speed limit to catch up with another motorist whom they believe has committed an offence (the other example is less clear-cut since, as established in the 2019 High Court case DPP v Barreto, filming at the wheel using a mobile phone is not currently an offence – although a motorist doing so could, presumably, face a charge of careless driving).

There’s no mention of swearing in the FAQs, although if a cyclist were referred for prosecution for using an expletive following a close pass, one might hope that common sense might prevail at the CPS – after all, having a couple of tonnes of metal brush past you at speed is a very unnerving experience.

Likewise, in the case of a driver in court following a close pass in which the cyclist could be heard to swear, prosecutors would hopefully be able to persuade the magistrates or jury, as the case may be, that such language from the victim in no way excuses the motorist’s previous action.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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77 comments

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Captain Badger | 2 years ago
1 like

I presume that Gwent Police also remind all other victims of any kind of assault that they will be prosecuted for bad language......

For what it's worth many of the submissions that I've made to Herts Police have contained bad language and insults (from me). Not once have Herts cautioned me in this way.

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Captain Badger replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
0 likes

Cabbages

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Mybike | 2 years ago
0 likes

F off it can be illigall to use a verb

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DaveSpokes | 2 years ago
2 likes

I am afraid this attitude from the Police is not new. In 1983 after I was knocked off my Motorcycle by a car driver not looking before pulling out on me the Police officers who interviewed me were more fussed about my effing and jeffing at the dopey driver than they were at the fact they nearly killed me. I remember remarking "sorry next time I must remember to say thank you when someone tries to kill me"......Two wheels equals 2nd class treatment I'm afraid.

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sparrowlegs | 2 years ago
17 likes

Fuck me. What a bunch of clear conviction dodging lazy waste of taxpayers money these twats are.

So by their definition, an innocent woman being raped or an innocent person being murdered but swearing while the act is happening could put the conviction in doubt because their character could be brought in to question?

People depend on these idiots doing their jobs properly. Confidence has never been so low in the police and it's things like this that are the reason.

Where do I sign to defund these fuckwits?

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bobinski | 2 years ago
21 likes

I am a criminal defence solicitor and this is, as many say, absolute rubbish. there is a world of difference in swearing at someone when in shock or fear at a close pass and, say, following them after swearing at them constantly.
I suggest a letter to the duty Inspector asking he or she to comment may be a good idea. 
 

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jaymack replied to bobinski | 2 years ago
10 likes

And from the prosecution side of things the likelihood of charges being authorised against the cyclist is as near to nothing as makes no odds. "A" assaults "B" during the course of being assaulted "B" shouts abuse & expletives at "A", no prosecutor's going to  press charges against "B" for a public order offence not least because it wouldn't be in the public interest to do so. Any assertion by an officer that the cyclist would face charges should result in a complaint. 

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Dave Dave replied to bobinski | 2 years ago
5 likes

Yup, complaint time. Needs to be taken all the way. They're using a gross misreading of the law to harass a victim of crime because they don't want to deal with it. Don't bother with the letter to the inspector, go straight to the independent complaints body.

In a way this is good news, the force in question has really crossed the line this time.

Intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the person who is harassed, alarmed or distressed is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—

(a)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or

(b)that his conduct was reasonable.

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wtjs replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
0 likes

Don't bother with the letter to the inspector, go straight to the independent complaints body

I don't think you can! Of course, it may be that these things are dependent on the attitude of the particular PCC, but it's my guess that most of them are after a quiet life and congenial meals out with the Chief Constable, so you're essentially dealing with another department of the police. They will make you go through the foot-dragging procedure with the (in Lancashire) intentionally impotent Professional Standards Department. This takes several months (again, in Lancashire) and returns a completely useless and stupid statement of what happened, which you knew when you started the complaint. You have to be in the 'complaints against the police' for the long haul. They aim to wear down the scum complainants. Then you can start on the PCC foot-dragging procedure. It is my expectation that this ends with something like 'we can't interfere with operational police decisions', which are of course the only things we're interested in. Keep going!

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skwarczek | 2 years ago
3 likes

Bloody hell Nick. You're having a hell of a time with the police lately. We'll have to go for a ride soon, i got front and rear cameras these days so god only knows what i'd end up recording riding with you again 

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Nick1020 replied to skwarczek | 2 years ago
3 likes
skwarczek wrote:

Bloody hell Nick. You're having a hell of a time with the police lately. We'll have to go for a ride soon, i got front and rear cameras these days so god only knows what i'd end up recording riding with you again 

Just make sure you have a lawyer on speed dial G 😁

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Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
11 likes

Gwent Police can go **** themselves, the st*&&%$ co#*&%** w@*&%s   

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wtjs replied to Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
2 likes

Gwent Police can go f**** themselves, the st*&&%$ co#*&%** w@*&%s 

A not unreasonable comment, given that it's clear that's what Gwent Police have in mind for annoying b*****d cyclist c***s.

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wtjs | 2 years ago
7 likes

The police, at least in Lancashire, are always looking for dodges which they can deploy to avoid doing anything about anything. You've seen them all on here: there must be 2 or 5, or whatever they think you haven't got, minutes of video before and after the incident or, they lie, it's not admissible evidence; there has to be confirmatory video from the offending vehicle; the cyclist must have braked or wobbled or the pass wasn't close enough; we can't possibly use video shown on social media because it has been rendered inadmissible etc. etc. Now we have the assertion someone swearing to himself is such a heinous offence against public order that nearly terminating a cyclist pales into insignificance. It's all complete bollocks which they just make up from their tortured psyches- they're just trying it on and you have to complain and then complain again. Just as in this case, they often try to intimidate the complainant with threats that he will be prosecuted. Unless you really have done something pretty bad (not these non-offences like swearing to yourself) just call the bluff- these people are not very bright and don't plan ahead very well. They're also not too good on the law because they routinely ignore the legislation supporting the Highway Code when cyclists are involved. I recall the Blackpool Traffic Sergeant threatening to prosecute me for not moving far enough to the left to allow the hapless driver to pass me conveniently in a normal width lane and forcing him to cross the double unbroken white lines in a dangerous position. He said he would have to examine the video to see whether I should be prosecuted. I urged him to do this, but I never heard from him again.

Remember, when the offenders are undoubtedly guilty the police are the hidden enemy!

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Dicklexic | 2 years ago
7 likes

It doesn't take long searching online to find numerous videos of Police officers swearing at potential crims when they are trying to arrest them. Telling them to "GET ON THE F#%*ING GROUND" and other similar instruction, very often at high volume. How is that acceptable, yet they may not proceed with a case if the victim of a close pass has sworn in an impulsive response to fearing for their life? Makes me wonder if some of the videos I have submitted over the years to South Wales Police have been ignored simply because I swore in them.    

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AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
2 likes

It seems to me on that either the video reviewer has a sensitive disposition or they have misinterpreted guidelines meant when someone is swearing and causes rage from the other user. Ie two cars almost have a collision and the one driver then swears at the other who then brake tests / leads to a confrontation. 

But I would release this to the press / MP as if someone doesn't swear when there life is put in danger, when can they. However if you have another video where you can show the life threatening and swearing but don't appear to breach road rules or etiquette it would be better because otherwise the points will be lost in "whatabouterism"

 

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carlosdsanchez | 2 years ago
15 likes

When I went to court as a witness in a close passing incident, the defence solicitor said that the pass couldn't have been to severe because I couldn't be heard swearing at the driver....

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Jenova20 | 2 years ago
1 like

In the video above the car passes dangerously close, then stops to allow the opposing vehicle (which has priority) through. Nick, the cyclist, then passes the vehicle and heads through, even though he didn't have priority, and should have given way.

I would not have submitted that footage in that position, since his own cycling would obviously have been called into question, regardless of the dangerous driving of others around him.

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jh2727 replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
0 likes
Jenova20 wrote:

In the video above the car passes dangerously close, then stops to allow the opposing vehicle (which has priority) through. Nick, the cyclist, then passes the vehicle and heads through, even though he didn't have priority, and should have given way.

I would not have submitted that footage in that position, since his own cycling would obviously have been called into question, regardless of the dangerous driving of others around him.

Let me fix that for you.  Motorists chooses to pass dangerously close, on the approach to a traffic calming feature - when it is plain to see that there is another motorist approaching said traffic calming feature who has priority. The motorists then aborts the unsafe overtake, but rather than dropping back behind the cyclist, they stop in the middle of the road blocking the oncoming motorist (difficult to be certain without a rear camera, but certainly looks like that).

The cyclist has two options at this point - proceed against the oncoming motorist who has already been forced to stop, or stop at the give way line, and wait whist the oncoming motorist forces the overtaking motorist to reverse.

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Captain Badger replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
0 likes
Jenova20 wrote:

In the video above the car passes dangerously close, then stops to allow the opposing vehicle (which has priority) through. Nick, the cyclist, then passes the vehicle and heads through, even though he didn't have priority, and should have given way.

 

The overtaking driver not only passed dangerously close, but in an utterly inappropriate place - eg the approach to a give way. They didn't stop, but pulled in pinching the rider to the kerb

It's not clear that the oncoming was actually oncoming. Their position suggests that they may have already pulled into the side as they read the situation and decided it was safer to let things develop before committing - if so wise move and good road reading.

Incidentally. Zebra crossing in the middle of a priority road calming thingy? WTF????

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muhasib | 2 years ago
4 likes

"We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write 'f***' on their airplanes because it's obscene !"

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Nick1020 | 2 years ago
17 likes
Quote:

Gwent Police denied the latter claim, saying that he wouldn’t be brought in for interview just from submitting footage, but instead was being reminded that he had committed public order offences, there is a chance his footage could be discounted by the CPS, and that he may be called in for interview if a complaint were made against him for using bad language.

So, if Gwent Police deny the claim. Does that mean Sergeant Austin didn't make the threat in a voicemail message and also in the subsequent conversation when I called him back, or are they suggesting I made it up?

If only I had the evidence to back up my claims. It's a good job I have a recording of both the voicemail message and phone call. There was a clear threat to bring me in for an interview with the intention to prosecute me.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Gwent Police as I made a complaint. However, after reading their response to Road.cc, I'm not expecting much.

Apparently the swearing still brings my character in question. If only Gwent Police were as concerned regarding my safety.

Thanks to Simon, Jack and Road.cc for posting the article 👍

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eburtthebike replied to Nick1020 | 2 years ago
5 likes
Nick1020 wrote:

If only I had the evidence to back up my claims. It's a good job I have a recording of both the voicemail message and phone call. There was a clear threat to bring me in for an interview with the intention to prosecute me.

I'm still waiting to hear back from Gwent Police as I made a complaint.

Wow!  You have the evidence and they still deny it?  Something going very wrong with that police force.  Have you approached the media?

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Nick1020 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
9 likes

I have composed an email to my local paper but haven't sent it as yet. The media have fuelled much of the anti-cycling vitriol in recent years, so I'm not sure if I will send it. You only have to read the comments to articles where cyclists have been injured or worse to gauge how some sections of the public regard people riding a bike.

I've also contacted my local MS.

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JN35000 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

Policeman caught telling lies, no surprise there...

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Captain Badger replied to JN35000 | 2 years ago
0 likes
JN35000 wrote:

Policeman caught telling lies, no surprise there...

But at least they don't swear, so they tell us....

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sensei | 2 years ago
5 likes

Let's pick this one apart.

 

- Police Sargeant uses an excuse to try and deter Nick Thompson submitting such a high volume of close pass videos, in order to prevent the Constabulary being swamped

- Deputy Chief Constable provides a statement to overrule Police Sargeant's feedback realising that the view would further erode trust in the police to protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists

 

The feedback from the Sargeant shows that there is lack of understanding of how scary a close pass can be and why a victim would be compelled to swear. As we all know already, there's still a long road ahead before all we feel safe and protected when riding on the roads.

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Captain Badger | 2 years ago
2 likes

Keen cyclists eh? then they'll know where to use their famous "police discretion"....

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Richard D | 2 years ago
5 likes

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that the best way for cyclists to see justice dispensed is to carry a baseball bat and dispense it ourselves.

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Captain Badger replied to Richard D | 2 years ago
6 likes
Richard D wrote:

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that the best way for cyclists to see justice dispensed is to carry a baseball bat and dispense it ourselves.

Just ensure the person you're beating up swears, then GPC will prosecute them as well....

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