A cyclist who was filmed knocking over a four-year-old girl in Belgium on Christmas Day has been ordered to pay a symbolic €1 in damages claimed by the child’s family, with a judge also suspending sentencing for one year.
Footage of the incident, which happened close to the popular tourist destination of the Baraque Michel inn near Liege, went viral on social media after it was posted by the child’s father.
It showed the rider apparently sticking out his left knee to push the girl, named Neïa, out of the way after he came round a bend on a snow-covered path and found the child and her mother in his way.
The 61-year-old cyclist, who lives locally, handed himself into police after they launched an appeal and spent a night in the cells.
With the public prosecutor pressing charges of intentional assault and battery to a minor, the cyclist could have faced up to a year in jail.
But handing down its decision today, the court in Verviers, while agreeing that the footage showed that the cyclist had been riding too fast and there was insufficient space to overtake safely, stopped short of imposing an immediate custodial sentence, reports Le Soir.
In its decision, the court said that “the cyclist [had] dealt, by lack of foresight or precaution, an involuntary blow, without intention to attack the person of others, to Neïa.”
It added that “the defendant should have taken into account the climatic conditions (snow and frost) and the presence of many people including children, on this holiday, to adapt his speed and his conduct.”
In deciding to suspend the pronouncement of the sentence for a year, the court took into account factors including the relative seriousness of the case, the defendant’s character and lack of previous convictions, plus the time he spent in custody.
At an earlier hearing on 3 February, the cyclist said that he had not caused the child to fall on purpose.
“When I left my home and set off, there was hardly anyone there,” he explained. “It was only on this portion, of about 1 kilometre, near the Baraque Michel, that there were a lot of pedestrians.
“I braked, I adapted my speed and I activated my 120 decibel horn. As I passed the little girl, I felt my rear wheel slipping. To avoid the fall I rebalanced myself by doing a knee movement. I felt that I had touched the little girl but I did not immediately realise that she had fallen.”
The girl’s father, who had been filming, did see, however. “The father grabbed me by the shoulders and yelled,” the cyclist said.
“I apologised by telling him I had not seen her. Since she was threatening me, I went on my way when I saw that the little girl had got up and was not injured,” he added.
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.