Published: 1 March 2012
Report: Eddie Allen
Road Safety Home
In its ongoing action on cycling safety and driver sentencing, British Cycling has written to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, requesting that sentences for drivers causing death or injury to cyclists should reflect the severity of the offence and the impact on victims and their families.
In the letter, which was also sent to Sentencing Council members, Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s Policy and Legal Affairs Director asserted that “all too frequently the sentences handed down in cases where cyclists are killed and injured on the road send the wrong message about how we as a society value human life and the rights of people to safely cycle in an environment of mutual respect.”
British Cycling’s appeal to the Lord Chief Justice continued by citing the case of Rob Jefferies, former British Cycling employee, who was killed on 26 May 2011 by an inexperienced 18 year old driver who had already been caught speeding. The driver was disqualified from driving for 18 months, ordered to retake his driving test and sentenced to 200 hours of community service. The lenient sentence caused a widespread outcry amongst British Cycling members and the wider cycling community, leading British Cycling to call for a review of the guidelines in order that “sentences are proportionate to the offence and the consequences.”
Gibbs’ letter continued, suggesting that “light sentences handed out to drivers causing death and serious injury undermines confidence in the justice system and contribute to a lack of mutual respect on our roads”; a mutual respect that British Cycling and its members see as underpinning progress on cycling safety, promotion and awareness.
British Cycling’s letter to the Sentencing Council went on to highlight recent changes in guidance on sentencing in assault cases, which recommended that sentences should take far greater account of the impact on the victim and suggested that similar guidance should also be applied in cases of causing death or injury by dangerous driving.
The petition to the Sentencing Council concluded by highlighting the need to change attitudes towards vulnerable road users through changes in sentencing and other measures; “British Cycling is concerned that all too often crashes between cars and cyclists were wrongly considered ‘accidents’ when they were the result of human decisions. Restoring confidence in road safety, in particular the way that the justice system treats the deaths of vulnerable road users, is vital to support the growth of sustainable modes of transport such as cycling.”
British Cycling will keep members informed of the response from the Sentencing Council and further progress on driver sentencing.