British Cycling is writing to Ken Clarke at the Ministry of Justice, Theresa May at the Home Office, and Justine Greening at the Department for Transport asking for a meeting to discuss a plan of action that will give cyclists confidence that the justice system is playing the role it should to support and protect them.
British Cycling's letter is supported by CTC, London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans, Roadpeace, MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Cycling Weekly magazine, and Brake, the road safety charity.
British Cycling wants the following action to be taken:
(a) A comprehensive review of the way that the police, coroners investigate these cases. Crash investigation processes vary from force to force and coroners’ evaluation of evidence is inconsistent across the country. Victim and their families frequently find they have little or no information on how the case is proceeding and what, if any, charges are being considered and why.
(b) Review of the CPS charging standards and legal guidance to properly deal with the seriousness of incidents where road users are killed or injured. It often appears that the CPS chooses to go for inappropriately lighter charges or no charge at all.
(c) A full examination of the offences available to the CPS. The offence of causing ‘death by careless driving’ came into effect four years ago and its effectiveness should now be reviewed, in conjunction with other related offences. We believe that the threshold for the more serious ' causing death by dangerous driving' offence may be too high which is contributing to a large proportion of cases being charged as 'causing death by careless driving.'
(d) A review of the sentencing guidelines to ensure they adequately reflect the consequences of the offence. Assault cases were reviewed and extensively revised by the Sentencing Council last year to enable the courts to take greater account of the harm suffered by the victim. We believe that harm caused to road users and the impact on their families should be specifically dealt with in a similar way. The new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’ which has been recently introduced provides an opportunity to review guidelines across the suite of offences.
British Cycling said it has twice made representations to the Lord Chief Justice, President of the Sentencing Council, on the issue of sentencing this year but to date has not received a response.
"It’s time for the government to engage with us on these important matters which are central to developing a safe environment that encourages people to cycle, said Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s Director of Policy and Legal Affairs.
"We are calling on anyone who is interested in cycling and wants safer roads, to support us. We will shortly put together a plan of action to mobilise our members and other supporters. As well as meeting the senior ministers responsible for policy in this area we’ll be meeting with other politicians, key departments, other cycling and road user groups, the CPS and ACPO. We’ll be working hard to get a debate in parliament and to secure concrete commitments on policy change."
The call for action comes a year after the death of Rob Jeffries who worked for British Cycling as a volunteer co-ordinator and was on a daylight training ride near his home in Dorset with a friend when he was hit from behind and killed. The 18 year old man driving the car, who had already been caught speeding since passing his test earlier that year, was given an 18 month ban, a re-test and 200 hours of community service.
"Rob's death and the handling of the case by the criminal justice system was a sad example, very close to home for us, of an issue that badly needs addressing," said Gibb.
"We believe that the sentences given out when people are hurt or killed frequently undermine confidence in the justice system and send the wrong message about how we as a society value life and the right of people to travel safely.
“These issues affect all road users. At British Cycling we believe passionately that a culture of mutual respect on the roads is in everyone's interest. An essential ingredient of that culture is a process to ensure that when things go tragically wrong and people have behaved irresponsibly they are dealt with in a manner which is right and fair to all those involved.”
CALLS OF SUPPORT
“CTC has long been concerned about the systemic inadequacies of the way the police, prosecutors and the courts respond to cases of bad driving where cyclists are killed or seriously injured. ‘Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” is no excuse, and our Stop SMIDSY campaign is calling for an end to the botched investigations or weak charging decisions which so often result in derisory sentences of a few hundred pounds. Specifically we need to ensure that prosecutors stop using “careless” driving charges where the driver caused obvious danger and which therefore ought to lead to “dangerous” convictions. We also want to see much greater use of driving bans as a form of sentencing, not least for public protection from drivers who are prone to dangerous lapses of attention.”
Roger Geffen, CTC’s Campaigns & Policy Director
“Too many families are left feeling betrayed by our justice system that appears to treat a road fatality as less serious than any other avoidable death. There needs to be transparent monitoring of the legal outcomes from every death or life changing injury. There needs to be an open system allowing victims' families the right to examine and challenge all the evidence.”
Ashok Sinha, London Cycling Campaign CEO
“As a British Cycling member I’m pleased to see them come together to campaign for changes that will make cycling safer. Dangerous driving puts cyclists at risk and needs to be taken much more seriously. I’m tabling Parliamentary Questions and doing all I can in Westminster to push for rigorous investigation of incidents in which dangerous driving puts cyclists at risk and the proper prosecution of the people responsible.”
Ian Austin MP, Co-chair of the All Party Cycling Group
“We know that many people would like to walk and cycle for their daily journeys, but feel that the roads in our communities are just not safe enough. Everyone should respect other people on our streets, no matter what form of transport they are using. We all deserve to be safe when getting around. “However, we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable road users, and it’s time our justice system reflected that fact.”
Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive of Sustrans
“It’s time the government made the justice system fairer for cyclists who are hurt or seriously injured on our roads. Urgent action is needed to support bike riders, to give us the confidence that we are being supported and protected by the law. We want safer roads. We want them now.”
Robert Garbutt, editor of Cycling Weekly
“In spite of the best efforts of the police, the CPS and the legal team at British Cycling there could be no justice for Rob. The present state of the law meant that his killer could never receive a sentence proportionate to the crime. Rob’s family all miss him a lot. We hope that his death can play some part in changing legislation for the better."
Will Jefferies (brother of Rob)
“We desperately need reform to charges and penalties for driving offences to deter reckless and risky driving and provide justice to families whose lives are turned upside down by drivers with a disregard for safety. We need to treat road crime as serious crime that wrecks lives and is harmful to society, to encourage more responsible road use and make our streets and communities safer places for everyone. In particular, families and children should be able to walk and cycle without fear from dangerous traffic offenders.”
Julie Townsend, Deputy Chief Executive of road safety charity Brake
“The law has to be seen to be fair. Far too often, in cases involving vulnerable road users, this does not seem to be the case. When a new offence is introduced such as causing death by careless driving, it’s right to review its effectiveness. Now is the time for such a review.”
Robert Gifford, Executive Director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety
“Our justice system continues to discriminate against road crash victims, especially vulnerable road users. It is not just the drivers that are the problem. The police, CPS, MOJ, courts and even Victim Support do not treat road crime as real crime. We have not been able to get the MOJ to even count the number of people killed and injured by law breaking drivers. To too many in the justice system, road deaths and injuries are collateral damage."
Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director of Roadpeace
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