Police failures pre-charging

Driver of lorry which killed Eilidh Cairns fined £200 for defective eyesight (5/2/09)

The driver of the lorry which killed cyclist Eilidh Cairns has been fined £200 for defective eyesight, after prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence to press charges for either a “dangerous” or a “careless” driving offence. Driver Joao Lopes was also ordered to pay £150 costs and a £15 surcharge and received 3 points on his licence. He was allowed to resume driving, using glasses.

CTC's view: 

The inquest failed to establish how the collision occurred, and the driver’s guilty plea to a minor offence meant that there was no other opportunity for evidence to be heard. Nonetheless, it seems hard to believe that the only offence involved in this case was driving with uncorrected defective eyesight. A cyclist is not so hard to see that a person with sight only just below the required standard (and thus plausibly unaware of their sight defect) would therefore be unable to see a cyclist.

Dan Black seriously injured in Chepstow (2/12/09)

Last year, Dec 2nd 2009, Dan Black was run down on the ‘on-road’ section on a Sustrans route (Celtic Trail) A48 Chepstow.

CTC's view: 

Sadly, such decisions are nowhere near as uncommon as they should be, and this is not a ‘major change in police stance’. Decisions about whether or not to prosecute – and if so whether to prosecute for “dangerous” or merely “careless” driving – are often pretty arbitrary. To be fair, sometimes the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and courts do everything one could wish for, and injured cyclists can sometimes get all the justice they are rightly entitled to. But far too often the legal system badly lets down cyclists (or indeed pedestrians) who have already suffered injury on our roads, likewise the bereaved families of pedestrians and cyclists who have been killed.

The basic explanation for this is simply that road traffic policing and prosecution in Britain are badly under-resourced. The Home Office and many police forces view traffic policing as a low priority, because it isn’t about catching “real criminals”; indeed there is a minority of public opinion (whipped up by the media to look like the majority) who regard the prosecution of traffic offences as “persecuting the poor beleaguered motorist”. Never mind that such “otherwise law-abiding citizens” are causing enormous harm through their crimes. And unfortunately, this lax attitude to traffic law is not only a reflection of society’s complacent attitudes to bad driving, but it helps to reinforce it. If such crimes are merely “accidents” and “carelessness”, it leaves people thinking such offences can’t be so serious after all.

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