Archive

Tag Archives: road justice

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

The CTC's Road Justice site has updated their post on the death of Julian Evans, who was killed in October 2012 whilst riding a bike in Suffolk, with details of the sentencing of Deborah Lumley-Holmes, who was found guilty of causing Mr Evans death by careless driving. Lumley-Holmes was found to have to have hit Mr Evans on a straight road in daylight.

Lumley-Holmes received a 6 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, 200 hours community service and was banned from driving for 12 months. As I said at the time when the offence of causing death by careless driving was put on the books, I have no interest in seeing drivers that have caused death in jail. However, I am very concerned that Lumley-Holmes has received only the statutory minimum driving ban allowable under the sentencing guidelines for causing death by careless driving.

And, by the way, without seeing more than the barest details of the incident, I am astonished that Lumley-Holmes' driving was NOT considered far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver in the view of the prosecutors, and therefore was not charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Failing to see another human being in daylight & inadvertently striking them with enough force to kill them is surely not the action of a careful & competent driver.

The sentence of Lumley-Holmes and comments by the judge in his sentencing, are remarkably similar to the case of Lee Cahill, who caused the death of Rob Jeffries, an outstanding man, coach, community leader and personal friend, who was hit from behind in daylight on a straight road by a car driven by Lee Cahill. Same expressions of remorse, same suggestions that the crash was caused by a momentary lapse and a slightly longer driving ban of 18 months.

Such incredibly, well, incredible to me, short driving bans outrage me, because of the implicit message contained. My interpretation is that not being able to drive is such an impediment that even after having completely failed in the most basic duty, that of respecting the safety of other people that are sharing a public space to the fullest extent possible, i.e. by negligence having caused the death of another person, that the offenders should nontheless continue to be permitted the right to operate heavy machinery in close proximity to other people. The message is that driving a motor vehicle is an absolute right, rather than a privilege available only to those people with enough money to be able to afford it.

 

“..these Superhighways are central to the cycling revolution I'm determined to bring about. No longer will pedal power have to dance and dodge around petrol power – on these routes the bicycle will dominate and that will be clear to all others using them. That should transform the experience of cycling – boosting safety and confidence of everyone using the routes and reinforcing my view that the bike is the best way to travel in this wonderful city of ours.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, 2009 on the launch of his Cycle Superhighways

ibikelondon has collected this and other quotes from Boris about the Cycle Superhighways, and also about the cyclist lorry problem. Read the whole post, and go along to the flash-ride tonight if you can.

I would counsel, always in the aftermath of a fatal collision, that the incident itself is not prejudged. Most sensible people were sickened by all the revolting innuendo about whether the cyclist in question was carrying shopping, whether she was wearing a helmet etc.

It is therefore wise to stick to the known facts. Women on bicycles are over-represented in fatal collisions with lorries in London. This is not a new trend. Lorries, usually construction lorries, (aka Heavy Goods Vehicles, and also called Large Goods Vehicles in the European Union), are involved of majority of collisions in which cyclists are killed. This is not a problem unique to London. In Berlin, an average of 10 cyclists are killed every year by lorries.

The junction at which the lorry (not a construction vehicle) collided with the cyclist is wide, and heavily traffic-ed, with high volumes of large goods vehicles. It has been the scene of many serious collisions, as the City of London's own map shows. I went along to a Critical Mass years ago in the mid 90s which went to the spot where a friend was killed, on the junction of Mansell Street and Aldgate High Street. This is about 20 metres from where the collision occured last Friday.

I know that there is a lot of talk about how the re-design of this junction is in hand. Don't think that just because the authorities say they are doing something about it that a little (or ideally, a lot) of encouragement from the public to get on with it won't go amiss. The only reason that the media now cover lorry deaths is because people spent time making a fuss, lighting candles and painting the roads.

 

 

This was forwarded to all the attendees by Jenny Jones’ office.

Findings from ‘Cyclists and the Law’ seminar, 22nd May 2013

 

Andrew Gilligan’s opening comments

  • It is not just cars but also motorcycles that often fail to stay out of ASLs. He would be in favour of signage warning of £50 fines for vehicles that encroach on ASLs.
  • Cyclists currently are prohibited from entering ASLs via any means other than the feeder lanes and can be prosecuted for doing so. This needs to be changed.
  • Red bicycles on crossings are not allowed whereas red pedestrians and red horses (in Hyde Park Corner junction) are permitted. Why not red bikes?
  • Mayor’s sentencing unit recently set up – monitoring sentences for those convicted of causing death to a cyclist by dangerous or careless driving is a ‘priority’
  • Cycle Task Force to be expanded by 25% – there will be an average of approx. 2 officers per borough
  • Commercial vehicle unit (8 officers) to monitor commercial vehicle safety

Kevin O’Sullivan’s opening comments

  • A big step forward would be for the injury caused to be mentioned in a criminal charge. This would communicate the seriousness of the collision and make the process not just a judgement on the driver’s driving but also on the injury they caused another person (and the impact on that person’s life).

Andrew Gilligan – main comments

  • Suggests we could learn from the Olympics re: restrictions on HGV movements during peak hours – the Games were delivered on time and with restrictions enforced well
  • Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable
  • Bad road design produces bad cyclist behaviour e.g. pavement cycling

Kevin O’Sullivan – main comments

  • Police officers are often reluctant to share CCTV footage after a collision, citing ‘insufficient resources’ as the reason. DCS Wilson agreed with this reasoning
  • ‘Death by careless driving’ is the routine charge in the event of a cyclist fatality
  • After a collision, police should as a matter of course check drivers’ ‘phones to see if they have been used shortly before the incident

Scott Wilson – main comments

  • Re: HGV driver who caused a cyclist’s death not being immediately arrested – this was because the police did not want to use up allowed questioning time before knowing the details of the incident

Darren Johnson AM – main comments

  • Current shift in engineering thinking is not being accompanied by shift in law
  • TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them

Ideas from the floor

  • Stricter penalties should exist for drivers (including police officers) who park their vehicles in cycle lanes. At the moment no penalties
  • Charges of ‘careless’ (introduced in 2008) instead of ‘dangerous’ driving are lessening burden of blame on drivers who have caused injury or death Since 2008, prosecutions for dangerous driving have nosedived. CPS need to look again at this distinction
  • Proximity used to feature in previous incarnations of the highway code but has been dropped. This remains in place on the continent
  • Restrict HGV movements during peak hours (it worked during Olympics)
  • A legally binding inspectorate is lacking (unlike rail or aviation accidents) – if one existed it could prosecute councils for bad junction design Gilligan pointed out this could discourage innovative thinking from junction engineers
  • Poor performance of cycle safety working group. Police do not enforce road traffic laws properly
  • ASLs to be treated the same as yellow box junctions. Kevin O’Sullivan pointed out that this would be best enforced using CCTV, as yellow boxes are enforced
  • Re: the police saying ‘we are not going to enforce 20mph limits’ – elected representatives make these decisions, not the police.
  • More one-way systems which are two-way for cyclists only
  • Junction outside Victoria Station (Palace Street and Victoria Street) lacks safety features such as ASLs. Police cars are often seen inside ASLs all over London. Accidents should be visible on a map like crimes are on the crime map. Signalling in the city also seems to be optional – why can’t this be enforced with CCTV?

Initial vote – 15 initiatives

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (82 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (79 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (53 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 4th (41 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 5th (40 votes)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 6th (35 votes)
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 7th (26 votes)
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 8th (22 votes)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (21 votes)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (21 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 10th (20 votes)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 10th (20 votes)
Combat pavement cycling 11th (11 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 11th (11 votes)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 12th (6 votes)

Follow-up Vote  (Audience ideas in red)

 

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (34 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (9 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (8 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 4th (6 votes)
Decriminalise ASLs and mandatory cycle lanes 5th (5 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 6th (4 votes)
Tie cycle education to parking permits/DVLA 7th (3 votes)
‘Careless’ driving should not be default CPS choice 7th (3 votes)
French rules on close proximity 7th (3 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 8th (2 votes)
All drivers automatically arrested in the event of a death or serious injury 8th (2 votes)
Mayor should refuse to fund boroughs until they sign up to HGV training contracts 8th (2 votes)
No more road building in London 8th (2 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 9th (1 vote)
Police to automatically look at CCTV and check mobile ‘phone records after collisions 9th (1 vote)
Focus on reducing number of potholes 9th (1 vote)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 9th (1 vote)
Larger road traffic unit 9th (1 vote)
Create a legal inspectorate similar to that which operates on the railways 9th (1 vote)
Police report form ‘accidents’ does not mention cyclists and should be changed 9th (1 vote)
Tougher rules on dirty vehicles – air pollution 9th (1 vote)
Speed limiters in London 9th (1 vote)
Bigger, clearer cycle signage 9th (1 Vote)
Trial covering repeater traffic lights (should result in better adherence to signals) 9th (1 vote)
Ban on HGVs during peak hours (Games model) 9th (1 vote)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 9th (1 vote)
Ban taxis from bus lanes 9th (1 vote)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (1 vote)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (1 vote)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 9th (1 vote)
Combat pavement cycling 0 votes
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 0 votes
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 0 votes

Ideas for ‘legislative wants shopping list’

  • ·         TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them
  • ·         Minimum proximity between drivers and cyclists – Gilligan commented that this was ‘interesting’
  • ·          All KSIs need to be more thoroughly investigated and that the police should be obliged to adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual – over a year has passed since Roadpeace, LCC and CTC got TfL and the Met to agree to their demands to publish an annual report on the legal outcomes of KSIs in London. Road death investigation unit overall do a good job but the same cannot be said for borough police
  • ·         What can be done to deter motorists from using mobiles whilst driving? Urgent action also needed to get drivers with 12 points off the roads. 8,000 drivers in the UK are still driving with 12 points on their licence
  • ·         TfL have control over the taxi fleet. Why not use this leverage to influence taxi drivers’ behaviour and oblige them to fit sensors? Or limit parking permits to those who have undergone appropriate training? Power over taxi drivers lies in taxation, duties to be paid or licensing arrangements. Behaviour can be changed in these ways, leaving criminal action as a last resort

Update:

Jenny Jones’ office sent out the following emali:

We’ve realised that the ‘Cyclists and the Law – Summary of Findings’ report which you recently received contains a factual error.

 Specifically, the comment ‘Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable’ was incorrectly attributed to Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan. This comment was in fact made by a member of the audience and not Mr. Gilligan who has emphasised that he does not have any position on stricter liability.