A teenage cyclist who injured a pedestrian has been told by a judge that he will not face a jail term when he is sentenced next month, reports the Swindon Advertiser.
Robert Mobey, aged 18, pleaded guilty at Swindon Crown Court to causing bodily harm through wanton or furious driving contrary to section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which states:
Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.
Judge James Townsend told Mobey: “I’m not going to sentence you today because the court needs more information about you from the probation service.
“You’ll come back here on the 9th of September for sentence.
“I bear in mind your age, you’ve never been in trouble before, and the purpose of getting a probation report is to see whether there is community disposal for this case.
“You’re not going to go to prison for this, don’t worry,” the judge added.
The charge of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving is rarely brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, with road.cc aware of five such cases in the past five years.
In four of those cases, a pedestrian had died following a crash involving a bike rider, and in all four the cyclist was handed a prison sentence. In the other case, the pedestrian was seriously injured, and the cyclist was given a suspended jail sentence.
As well as cyclists, users of other forms of transport that are not deemed mechanically-propelled vehicles such as golf carts or mobility scooters may face prosecution under the 1861 Act if they injure or kill someone.
Cyclists can also be prosecuted for manslaughter, although in the last two cases in which that charge was brought, both were acquitted – although they were found guilty by juries of the lesser charge under the 1861 Act.
Despite the relative rarity of such cases in contrast to fatal road traffic collisions involving drivers of motor vehicles, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has pledged to introduce a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling, with riders who are convicted facing the same penalties as motorists found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
While many cycling campaigners agree that it is unsatisfactory to rely on legislation dating back more than a century and a half to prosecute cyclists who have injured or killed someone, they also maintain that reforming the law in this area is less of a priority when it comes to improving road safety, such as greater enforcement and tougher sentencing of drivers who break the law and put others at risk.
Speaking last week, Roger Geffen, head of policy at the charity Cycling UK, said: “We made it clear that we have no objection in principle to seeking greater parity between cycling and motoring offences.
“But the Government's proposed solution – namely to copy-and-paste the existing offence of ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ to create an equivalent cycling offence – was the wrong solution to a problem that only arises a couple or so times per decade.
“The right solution, by contrast, would involve tackling a much wider problem which causes terrible distress to hundreds of seriously injured or bereaved road crash victims every year.”
He continued: “Specifically, Cycling UK has long argued for new laws to clarify or revise the distinction between 'dangerous' and 'careless' road traffic offences, including their variants involving causing death, causing serious injury, driving under the influence, driving without a licence or insurance, or driving while disqualified.
“Road crash victims still regularly face the double injustice of absurdly lenient sentencing – try Googling ‘driver spared jail’, and you’ll see what I mean.
“This is often because the driving which caused their injuries or death has been dismissed by prosecutors or the courts as being merely ‘careless’, despite having caused ‘danger’ that surely ought to have been ‘obvious to a competent and careful driver’.
“Cycling UK has always been clear though that its desire to clarify the distinction between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving is NOT because we want to see more drivers locked up for causing death or serious injury – even though that is evidently what Shapps wants to happen to cyclists.
“On the contrary, we have long argued for less reliance on custodial sentences, and greater use of driving bans. Most (though not all) drivers who kill or maim through ‘dangerous’ driving are not dangerous people, who need to be locked up for public protection. A much fairer and more effective remedy is to ban them from driving for a suitable time-period, and only allow them to resume driving once they have passed an extended re-test.
“Long prison sentences, by contrast, should be reserved for those who have driven so obviously recklessly, or who have already flouted past driving bans, so that imposing (or re-imposing) a ban would NOT provide sufficient public protection,” 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.