A driver who deliberately drove at a cyclist after a “red mist” descended on him when the rider banged on his vehicle during a close pass has escaped jail and a driving ban after pleading guilty to common assault.
Judge Jonathan Bennett, sitting at Derby Crown Court, handed Curtis Stanway a three-month prison sentence, suspended for one year.
He decided not to impose a driving ban on the 30 year old because it would lead to Stanway losing his job, reports the Derby Telegraph.
Stanway, from Sinfin on the outskirts of Derby, was driving his Audi on the A6 near Belper on 31 May 2020 with his partner and their three children as passengers when he made a close pass on the cyclist.
Phillip Plant, prosecuting, said that in response the cyclist “slapped” the side of the car. Stanway gave him a V-sign, then pulled into a lay-by, with the rider following him.
“The cyclist took his phone out to take a photograph in order to make a complaint about the manner of his driving and the defendant drove his car forward striking the victim and his bike and then drove out of the lay-by,” said Mr Plant.
“The effect was to knock the victim to the ground and he suffered grazes to his shoulder, knees, arms and legs.
“[The victim] rode home and both he and the defendant contacted the police with the defendant saying it was the rider who had damaged his car.
“He was interviewed and largely said it was the cyclist who was the aggressor.”
Stanway was at first charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm but pleaded guilty at trial to the less serious charge of common assault.
Sentencing him, the judge said: “This is a road-rage incident and normally road rage people go to custody. I just don't know what came over you.
“You had your partner and three young children in the car with you, there was a close shave with a cyclist and rather than just leaving the matter you pulled into a lay-by and the red mist came down.”
Stanway was also ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay costs of £1,200 and a £128 victim surcharge.
The so-called “exceptional hardship” loophole allows people convicted of a motoring offence to continue driving if magistrates or a judge can be persuaded they would lose their job, among other things, if they were banned from driving.
Last month, a Parliamentary question from Labour peer and road safety campaigner Lord Berkeley found that from 2011-20, there had been 83,581 cases of motorists escaping a ban after pleading mitigating circumstances – equating to more than one in five of the total who amass 12-plus points each year being allowed by the courts to continue to drive.
He said: “Exempting one in five drivers is wrong. It should be one in five hundred.
“At present, anyone who can afford a loophole lawyer can join the 85,000 drivers who get off.
“A better alternative would be for drivers to think of the consequences before they break the law.”
A report published by Cycling UK has highlighted cases in which vulnerable road users were killed by motorists who had earlier managed to avoid being disqualified from driving after claiming that they would face “exceptional hardship” if they were banned.
The charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said: “We’ve got courts treating inconvenience as exceptional hardship and a legal loophole that costs lives is making a mockery of the supposedly automatic totting up ban.
“We’ve no assessment of risks when magistrates make these decisions to allow someone to carry on driving, but they are accepting bland assertions that losing a licence will cause them difficulties.”
He added that it is bereaved families “who really suffer exceptional hardship when the courts put the retention of someone’s licence to drive above road safety, allowing irresponsible people to carry on driving until they cause further harm or death on the roads.”
Cycling UK has created an online action enabling people to write to their MPs to “encourage them to take action to help fix our failing traffic laws.”
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.