Simon Maskrey QC speaks at CTC debate on sentencing photo by Selim KoryckiAt the CTC’s debate on sentencing in road cases, Simeon Maskrey Q.C.,  a Deputy High Court Judge and Recorder of the Crown Court, called for the burden of proof to be changed in road crime cases.   Where it has been established in court beyond reasonable doubt the driving at the time of the offence was dangerous or reckless, the defence should have to prove to the satisfaction of the judge or magistrate passing sentence that the driving wasn’t deliberately dangerous, unlike at the moment where the prosecution is forced to prove intent.

In conversation with me after the event, he also called for more innovatory options to be made available to judges & magistrates for sentencing in road crime cases. An example he gave was the option of banning someone until such time that they had undertaken a 2 week road danger course, which the offender would have to pay for themselves, in which they would have undertake study and training in road danger reduction.  I like the idea, even if the practicalities are a little fuzzy.  Maybe a component could be doing the CTUK trainers’ course, which lasts 4 days, and costs £400.

The debate was well-attended, with representatives of the Crown Prosecution Service & the Ministry of Justice present (at one point the CPS rep got up to try to directly refute Martin ‘Cycling Silk’ Porter’s accusation that the CPS routinely opt for charging drivers with careless driving instead of dangerous driving as the easier option).

The panel was impressive, including 2 senior legal academics, 2 Q.C.s and chaired by Kaya Burgess of The Times.   The debate was a little dry, with great focus on strictly legal issues which were slightly beyond the knowledge of this correspondent.  Cynthia Barlow M.B.E. of Roadpeace afterwards expressed some frustration that the voice of the victims of road crime was not adequately heard.

I was struck that the person on the panel with the most radical ideas was a senior member of the legal profession, Mr Maskrey. He came across as one very angry man, even if his proposals and propositions appeared to me to be soundly rooted in legal principle and not easily dismissed as merely the intemperate rantings of a pissed-off cyclist.  I think most people would agree with his statement, made early in on the debate, that if you have used a motor vehicle as a weapon, either with the intent to deliberately harm or else to intimidate another road user, you should not be allowed to retain the privilege of operating a motor vehicle on the public highway. (I have paraphrased his words, but this is essentially what he said.)

He also spoke of the importance of prosecuting for ‘minor’ driving offences, such as infringing into bike lanes, which, in his view, will inform the driving public that deterring such offences, whilst those offences may appear trivial, are part of society’s efforts to create a safe & welcoming environment for all road users.  He also stressed that, in his view, habitual dangerous behaviour by drivers, (overtaking on a blind corners was the example that he gave – but it could equally be applied speeding in residential areas) which may not always result in a collision whose outcome is catastrophic, should be treated by prosecuting and sentencing authorities as dangerous and criminal whether not the outcome is injury or death.

CTC has published their much more extensive synopsis of the debate, entitled “Sentencing Debate sparks call to email Justice Minister

If you followed the twitter row about Sustrans’ advice for female cyclists, you should read this.

Helen Blackman

For anyone who thinks my response to Sustrans was quite sweary, rest assured that the editing room floor is crunchy with discarded swear words. After years on Guardian Unlimited Talk I perhaps have a skewed view of what counts as swearing but after writing the first version I applied a simple editorial rule: my mum reads my blog. After a Twitter storm, Sustrans have removed the post and have given this response

So just why did I get so annoyed with them? According to some defenders the original advice, based on 2009 research, has been very useful for beginner cyclists, even if I may find it patronising (may I? Thank you, I’m glad I’ve got your permission to feel a particular way). It was also, according to a Tweet sent by @sustrans, written in part because ‘we also know many girls stop cycling to school between primary &…

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Buy a raffle ticket and support your local bicycle messengers!

London Courier Emergency Fund

When we started the fund 5 years ago, we had a few hundred pound collected from a couple of races after 2 of our courier mates suffered a bad crash on the same day. 

We got thinking of ways to raise more money so we would be able to sustain the fund and help out any riders who needed it in the future.  

Bought and worn by cycling enthusiasts all over the globe, the famous London LCEF cycling cap was our first bit of merchandise. A full range of LCEF goodies is now available and the LCEF cycling jerseys are coming soon.

Donations have also been a great help to the fund especially in those early days. More recently, after the passing of  Steffan Davies, a keen cyclist and familiar face in the courier scene, many of his friends have donated to the LCEF in his memory.


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