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Victory claimed for harassment campaign by “mob of decent people” as helmet cam cyclist deletes Youtube and Twitter accounts

Deacon Thurston caught 12 drivers illegally using handheld mobiles in one day – and became the target of abusive and threatening tweets in apparently co-ordinated attack

An Edinburgh cyclist who earlier this week tweeted about how in one day he had filmed 12 drivers illegally using handheld mobile phones at the wheel has deleted his Twitter and YouTube accounts after being targeted with sustained abuse on social media – with some of those involved in the pile-on urging people in London to take similar action against helmet camera user CyclingMikey.

Using a handheld communications device while driving is punishable by a £200 fine and six penalty points, even if the vehicle is stationary, and many police forces welcome submissions of footage of motorists flouting the law so that action can be taken against them.

On Wednesday, we reported how one of those motorists filmed by cyclist Deacon Thurston had previously been spotted breaking the law by him using their phone while driving at the exact location where his latest footage had been captured.

> Cyclist catches 12 drivers using phones behind the wheel in an hour

However, he did not submit the footage to Police Scotland because of the time it would have taken to submit the dozen separate videos, with the force having scrapped plans last year to launch a dedicated portal that would have made it easier for people to upload footage to it.

Deacon Thurston 01

Thurston regularly posted videos of law-breaking drivers to his now-deleted social media channels, and also featured a number of times in the local press – making him a target for some Twitter users.

And according to a screengrab shared on Twitter by DalstonLTN of a tweet from one user of the social network, it was a co-ordinated attack on Thurston that led to him deleting his accounts.

“Today, a mob of ‘decent’ people harassed a cyclist for reporting a driver playing a game on his mobile phone,” wrote DalstonLTN, with the screengrabbed tweet applauding “a victory for decent people” in forcing Thurston off social media, and retweeting a post which read “Deacon Thurston is a grass – pass it on.”

One of the people replying to that screenshotted tweet wrote: “Gorgie and Lochend combined to take down @deaconthurston – it’s time for the London football brethren to unite and take down @MikeyCycling C’mon all Arsenal/Spurs/etc fans, you know what to do.”

That post was written by a Heart of Midlothian fan, with the club’s Tynecastle stadium located in the Gorgie district in the west of the Scottish capital, while cross-city rivals Hibernian’s ground lies next on Easter Road, next to the area of Lochend.

One cargo bike rider replying to DalstonLTN joked that trying to unite fans of the two North London football clubs might be wishful thinking, saying: “Fortunately, not even helmet camera cyclists are sufficient to get Arsenal and Spurs fans t o agree on anything. Unless the cammer in question supports Chelsea ofc..”

More seriously, a selection of comments made on social media about Thurston makes for uncomfortable reading, including extreme insults as well as threats of violence.

DalstonLTN pointed out that while Thurston had deleted his account, the ones that those comments were still active on the social network and asked Twitter Support: “When a thousand people insult, threaten with violence, wish harm, harass, encourage hate against someone reporting a driving offense, what is your process?

One Twitter user pointed out that the platform expressly prohibits posting the type of abuse directed at Thurston, and urged fellow users to report those engaging in it.

Another said: “If the videos themselves weren't enough, this reaction shows just how normalised this behaviour is.

“Does anyone really believe someone playing a [video] game in traffic is going to carefully put it away, and move off safely, once the car ahead moves?

On the same day as Thurston tweeted to say that he had filmed a dozen drivers using handheld mobile phones illegally, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox of Lincolnshire Police, the national lead for fatal collision investigation, tweeted his thanks to members of the public who submit such footage.

> How can road violence against cyclists be stopped? DCS Andy Cox on episode 7 of the Podcast

“We will never know how many lives have been saved, but in my opinion, this approach is certainly life-saving,” he wrote. “Police and the Public working together to reduce road danger.”

In response to one Twitter user who suggested that mobile phone use was only a factor in 0.02 per cent of the 1,870 road deaths in 2019, DCS Cox replied: “29 people lost their life in a crash due to phone distraction in 2018 (20 last year),” equivalent to 0.37 of those deaths.

“That’s many lives lost needlessly because of the criminal actions of those selfish drivers,” he added:

“Please do not down play this criminality or belittle the benefits of road crime reporting.”

And just today the senior police officer congratulated a Twitter user who said that they had stopped using a handheld mobile phone while driving thanks to the efforts of campaigners such as CyclingMikey.

> “Tired of road crime” – CyclingMikey on episode 16 of the Podcast

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