A driver caught on camera by Mike van Erp – better known on social media as CyclingMikey – texting and swiping through Tinder photos has escaped a driving ban after convincing magistrates that he would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’ if his driving licence were taken away. What’s more, while the driver was awaiting prosecution for that offence, van Erp caught him using his phone at the wheel again.
Van Erp, who appeared on the road.cc Podcast in January, filmed property developer Riaz Rattansi, aged 50, using his phone at the wheel of his Audi in a slow-moving queue of traffic in Hyde Park as he swiped through profiles on the dating app in June last year, as well as sending a text message.
The cyclist told the motorist: “You’ve just been caught out very badly – using your phone, looking through Tinder, swiping left on all the women,” and got an apology from the driver.
From the footage, he seemed aware that he had been caught breaking the law – although when charged with using a mobile phone while driving, he initially denied having committed the offence.
Appearing at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court in south west London last week, Rattansi was fined £284 and had his driving licence endorsed with six penalty points after pleading guilty.
Since he already had six points on his licence due to two previous convictions for speeding, Rattansi magistrates considered banning him from driving, but accepted his argument that he would suffer exceptional hardship if he lost his licence.
Speaking after the hearing in the above video, van Erp referenced Rattansi’s exceptional hardship defence and said “Rightly or wrongly … that’s not for me to decide.
“Clearly, when you’ve committed driving offences, you should experience some hardship, and the plan is that other people, innocent parties around you, don’t take the hardship from your offences.”
He continued: “I’m not going to give any details of his exceptional hardship, you know, that’s his personal details, but I will say I really felt quite sympathetic towards the driver.
“It turns out we’re a similar age, some of our life circumstances are similar – so I have quite a bit of sympathy for him, even though I don’t agree with his phone-driving behaviour.”
Van Erp added: “Why did I go stand in the gallery to observe the trial? Well, mostly out of respect to him … filming people committing offences has very real effects on their lives, and if I can’t face up to those effects and stand eye to eye and still think it’s the right thing, then I shouldn’t be doing this. It is painful, but I’m still convinced I’m doing the right thing.”
Towards the end of van Erp’s video, footage shot last November, while Rattansi was awaiting trial as a result of the earlier video, shows him using his mobile phone at the wheel again, this time on Bayswater Road close to Kensington Gardens.
In the description to the video, van Erp says: “I caught this guy twice. I'm not sure whether swiping through Tinder would count as interactive communication under the old mobile phone laws, but that sent message on iMessages was an absolute slam-dunk of an evidence catch.
“The second time I caught him he was holding the phone, and under today's laws that would likely be enough evidence for a prosecution, but it wasn't sufficient evidence in November 2021.”
In December, Cycling UK highlighted how one in five drivers who faced a ban under the so-called ‘totting-up’ procedure were allowed to keep their driving licence after pleading exceptional hardship and how in some cases, the motorist had gone on to be convicted of killing another road user, including cyclist Lee Martin and motorcyclist Louis McGovern, and urged that the loophole be closed through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently before Parliament.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said at the time: “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.
“It’s families such as Louis McGovern’s and Lee Martin’s 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,” he added.
Cycling UK has put in place an online action enabling people to write to their MPs to “encourage them to take action to help fix our failing traffic laws.”
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.