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Motorist avoids jail for deliberately ramming cyclist who questioned close pass

"This incident felt like a hate attack on me. I feel hate towards cyclists is getting worse. We are people too."...

A driver who deliberately rammed a cyclist following an argument about a close pass has been given a suspended sentence for dangerous driving and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the incident seeing the victim flung into the air and left with whiplash after complaining to the motorist about an earlier overtake, telling her he had it on camera and later striking her wing mirror after she again drove too close to him.

Sarah Torgerson was sentenced on Friday at Leicester Crown Court, Leicestershire Live reports, and was told by recorder Justin Wigoder that she had "effectively ruined" the cyclist's life and the "very serious offence" would carry the "right sentence [... of] three to four years in prison", but due to mitigating factors she instead received a two-year sentence suspended for two years.

The victim thought he had broken his spine, such was the collision force, and described the incident as "like a hate attack" against cyclists, explaining that his bike worth £8,000 is unusable due to the damage and he "almost had a panic attack" when he tried to ride again post-recovery.

The incident happened on 2 February 2022, the man cycling south on Loughborough Road in Birstall when he was overtaken by two vehicles, the second being driven by 40-year-old Torgerson who close passed him.

As the traffic stopped he caught up with the driver and objected to the close overtake, telling her that he had a camera running and had filmed the incident.

In response, the driver stuck a finger up at the cyclist and both parties continued on their way. Moments later, at the Red Hill Roundabout, the driver stopped her Ford Focus very close to the cyclist who "reached out and banged down on her wing mirror".

Torgerson then rammed into the cyclist, launching him into the air and causing a heavy impact to his spine as he landed on the kerb and hit his head on the road. The driver, who it is reported has a previous conviction for dangerous driving from 2007, admitted ramming the cyclist when she phoned Leicestershire Police from the scene.

The man suffered whiplash and bruising, his bike written off and a watch worth more than £700 smashed. He also reported having to cancel a cycling trip to Mallorca.

In a statement heard in court, read out by prosecutor Eunice Gedzah, the cyclist said the incident had ruined his life and felt like a "hate attack" on him for being a cyclist.

"This incident felt like a hate attack on me. I feel hate towards cyclists is getting worse. We are people too," he said. "Since this incident, when I last went out on my bike I almost had a panic attack. I'm even a lot more nervous in a car, even when my wife's driving me. I'm not normally a nervous person. It's the fact she deliberately drove into me."

Torgerson's legal representation, Michelle Harding, said the cyclist had hit the vehicle's wing mirror "with some force because he felt she was too close to him" and argued the subsequent attack was partly explained by her client's mental health struggles.

"She turned her wheel into him and knocked him off his bike," Ms Harding admitted. "Her condition is not an excuse but goes some way to explaining why she may have behaved as she did."

Having heard the evidence, Mr Wigoder concluded "it's that serious" that under normal circumstances a motorist who acted as Torgerson did should expect to be sent to prison for three to four years as "cyclists are vulnerable and it's the court's first duty to protect them".

However, he decided Torgerson should not be sent "straight to prison" due to mitigating factors, including her mental health history, the fact she has two young children, and a doctor's opinion that she suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder that might cause "outbursts".

"I'm not going to send you straight to prison," Mr Wigoder said. "But what you did was to drive your car deliberately at a vulnerable cyclist. He thought he had a broken spine and, as you heard, you have effectively ruined his life. The one thing he really enjoyed was cycling, both to work and socially, and he can't do that now.

"This was a very serious offence indeed. I think the right sentence is three to four years in prison — it's that serious. Cyclists are vulnerable and it's the court's first duty to protect them."

Torgerson's two-year sentence is suspended for two years and she will be required to spend 30 days working with probation services. She was also banned from driving for two years and must take an extended retest in order to reclaim her licence.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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75 comments

Avatar
Muzza | 8 months ago
1 like

Perhaps we can look at this from the driver's perspective. Yes she passed too close to a cyclist, but that is an easy mistake to make. Then the cyclist aggressively chased and approached her and struck her car's mirror. Any driver would feel intimidated and probably angry.

Aggressive tactics by cyclists hurt the rest of us cyclists. Antagonising other road users will not make them behave better: just the opposite! The cyclist in question is wondering why drivers increasingly hate cyclists. His behaviour is the answer.
I am writing this as a cyclist who is also a driver. I have seen a rapid deterioration in cyclist behaviour in recent years. Please let's behave better and keep the moral high ground. Please - no more threats of video footage being sent to police. It just fosters hate and makes it dangerous for the rest of us cyclists.

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andystow replied to Muzza | 8 months ago
5 likes

Each paragraph is bullshit.

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grOg replied to andystow | 8 months ago
1 like

Nope; the cyclist engaged in road rage, which provoked the reaction from the driver; the last thing I do when cycle commuting is antagonise someone driving a vehicle that could turn me into mush..

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Rendel Harris replied to Muzza | 8 months ago
8 likes

Muzza wrote:

Perhaps we can look at this from the driver's perspective. Yes she passed too close to a cyclist, but that is an easy mistake to make. Then the cyclist aggressively chased and approached her and struck her car's mirror.

Unfortunately the video seems to be unavailable but by simply reading the text you can see that what you have said here is untrue. The cyclist did not "aggressively chase" the driver, he carried on his ride and when he caught up with her told her that he had her on film. He then cycled on, she chose to follow after him and stop her car very close to him, which is when he hit her mirror (note no damage of any sort claimed). She then drove her car into him. She made a physical attack on the rider for which, as the judge admitted, she should have been sent to prison for three or four years, and you're trying to defend her because the cyclist tapped her wing mirror when she actively sought out confrontation? Unbelievable.

The rest of your post, effectively saying don't antagonise the bullies because they will then bully you, is beneath contempt.

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joe9090 replied to Muzza | 8 months ago
0 likes

hey Ashley Neal, why have you chosen Muzza as your cowardly troll account name?

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Paul J | 8 months ago
10 likes

I hope the cyclist takes a civil case against the driver and gets a very large payout. Sadly, it will be her insurance - and hence most of society indirectly - who pays it rather than her. Though, at least her own insurance premiums should rise a good bit more, following a /second/ conviction for motoring offences. One would hope to a level that it takes her off the road for good, but who knows.

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Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
2 likes

As a vulnerable road user, generally it is best not to pick on something that can kill you quite easily...

He had the footage, and presumably the moral high ground until they stopped and he banged the car.

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
8 likes

Of course that's pragmatic, especially as drivers in the UK aren't trained, tested and licenced.

Ah - I forgot, it's not a licence to operate dangerous machinery in a public space, it's a one-off right of passage. And if you break the conditions you'll rightly be told "do this again, and we'll be forced to tell you not to do it again!"

As you were!

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Bungle_52 replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
5 likes

I agree to a large extent. I don't confront drivers any more and I've stopped hitting wing mirrors, I just submit the footage. In an ideal world this should be enough but the response from the police is so patchy and inconsistent that submitting footage is no guarantee of action and in many cases the driver "gets away with it" and may not even realise they have done anything wrong.

Under these circumstances it is at least understandable that some cyclists feel the need to make their feelings known to the driver. If only the police would be more proactive and consistent with submiited footage it would not be necessary.

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ChrisB200SX replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
9 likes

Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

As a vulnerable road user, generally it is best not to pick on something that can kill you quite easily...

He had the footage, and presumably the moral high ground until they stopped and he banged the car.

You are quite right, the appropriate repsonse to her two vehicular assualts would have been to drag her out of her car and then use it to launch her into the air and cause her very serious injuries.

If she has previous for Dangerous Driving why the hell has she not been sent to prison?? She's proved she should not be allowed to drive so instead of a serious ban (and prison!) the judge has just given her a short ban and used the reason she should not be driving as an excuse. Lunacy.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to ChrisB200SX | 8 months ago
2 likes

ChrisB200SX wrote:

 

You are quite right, the appropriate repsonse to her two vehicular assualts would have been to drag her out of her car and then use it to launch her into the air and cause her very serious injuries.

If she has previous for Dangerous Driving why the hell has she not been sent to prison?? She's proved she should not be allowed to drive so instead of a serious ban (and prison!) the judge has just given her a short ban and used the reason she should not be driving as an excuse. Lunacy.

What a crazy response. They were stopped, then she turned into him - it couldn't have been at much speed. Not that it's appropriate but still quite different to ramming someone at 30mph

And I'm not saying she shouldn't go to prison. But then could he have been done for criminal damage for hitting the wing mirror. 

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
4 likes

Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

They were stopped, then she turned into him ...

Witchcraft to boot!

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leedorney | 8 months ago
7 likes

Sarah Torgerson is CLASS BITCH of huge proportions...so the way she acted basically means all drivers are mental cases and will avoid prison??

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46 and two | 8 months ago
3 likes

What the heck is wrong with people? I mean come on. She should be banned from driving for 5 years and then have to pay for at least 20 lessons and pay for and pass the driving tests again.

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iandusud replied to 46 and two | 8 months ago
16 likes

No, she should never be allowed to drive again. This a second conviction for dangerous driving. I find this aspect of the sentencing worse than the lack of custodial sentence, which is bad enough. 

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cbrndc | 8 months ago
18 likes

The Judge said, "I think the right sentence is three to four years in prison — it's that serious" but she didn't get that sentence. Am I missing something?

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BalladOfStruth | 8 months ago
45 likes

Quote:

However, he decided Torgerson should not be sent "straight to prison" due to mitigating factors, including her mental health history, the fact she has two young children, and a doctor's opinion that she suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder that might cause "outbursts".

Someone explain this to me. How can having mental health issues that render you fundamentally unsuitable for the responsibility of driving, knowing that, and yet continuing to drive regardless be used as a mitigating factor? She's had a doctor suggest that her mental health issues mean that she can't suffer the smallest conflict/disagreement without resorting to attempted murder, and she's using that as a defence?

Surely the fact that she continued to drive while in that mental state should increase the severity of the offence? That's like running someone over and trying to use "I was drunk" as a mitigating factor.

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adamrice replied to BalladOfStruth | 8 months ago
2 likes

Because there is literally no other way for a person to get around. Barring her from driving a car would be an immense hardship.

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andystow replied to adamrice | 8 months ago
16 likes

adamrice wrote:

Because there is literally no other way for a person to get around. Barring her from driving a car would be an immense hardship.

She deserves an immense hardship. But more importantly, the rest of us deserve to have her not driving.

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chrisonabike replied to adamrice | 8 months ago
12 likes

adamrice wrote:

Because there is literally no other way for a person to get around. Barring her from driving a car would be an immense hardship.

Indeed - but the poor judge was clearly in a complete muddle.  He didn't want to affect her children and wanted her to interact with the probation services.  But he's banned her from driving for two years.  Surely it is literally impossible for her to keep her children alive for that long or get to her probation appointments without using her car?

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BalladOfStruth replied to adamrice | 8 months ago
9 likes

adamrice wrote:

Because there is literally no other way for a person to get around.

He says on a website literally dedicated to one of the many other ways of getting around.

adamrice wrote:

Barring her from driving a car would be an immense hardship.

No, an "immense hardship" would be having your father/husband/son killed by a petulant child who can't even suffer a rebuke over a dangerous pass without flying off the handle and resorting to using their car as a weapon.

Driving is a privilege, not a right - a privilege that should absolutely be withdrawn if someone demonstrates they are not responsible enough to drive safely around other members of the public. Especially if it's the second time they're demonstrating that:

Quote:

The driver, who it is reported has a previous conviction for dangerous driving from 2007, admitted ramming the cyclist when she phoned Leicestershire Police from the scene.

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Inthedark1 replied to BalladOfStruth | 8 months ago
5 likes

Wouldn't it be nice if she could have been condemned to five years hard graft on a bicycle. Judges need this in their sentencing arsenal! 🙂 Perhaps she'd think twice about ramming people.

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adamrice replied to BalladOfStruth | 8 months ago
5 likes

Clearly there is no sarcasm so obvious that some people won't read it as being in ernest.

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hawkinspeter replied to adamrice | 8 months ago
2 likes

adamrice wrote:

Clearly there is no sarcasm so obvious that some people won't read it as being in ernest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law

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adamrice replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
0 likes

Touché.

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Steve K replied to adamrice | 8 months ago
6 likes

adamrice wrote:

Because there is literally no other way for a person to get around. Barring her from driving a car would be an immense hardship.

I'm assuming this is sarcasm.

Please tell me this is sarcasm.

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Muzza replied to Steve K | 8 months ago
0 likes

You don't live in the real world if you think this.

I love cycling but 99% of my journeys could not be made in any way other than by car. And that is a fact for the vast majority of people.
Don't demonise drivers. It is just what we all do to get on with our lives.

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TempleOrion replied to Muzza | 8 months ago
1 like

"And that is a fact for the vast majority of people".

It's not a fact just because you baselessly assert something with zero evidence cited.

"Don't demonise drivers."

What, not even deranged psychopathic ones?

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Inthedark1 replied to BalladOfStruth | 8 months ago
1 like

You are right. This is a logical and well reasoned argument. I think the Judge's sentence should be reviewed if possible.

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bigshape | 8 months ago
13 likes

i ride this route on my commute most days. there is a safer route along a canal path, but unfortunately when there has been a lot of rain the path becomes flooded leaving this road as the only option.
i've had quite a few close passes on this road as well.

sadly there was a cyclist  fatality on the same roundabout last week also.
https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/local-news/cyclist-killed-fatal-...

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