British Cycling policy adviser and Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman has issued a strongly-worded statement after a driver accused of killing a cyclist by careless driving was cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey on Thursday.
Gail Purcell, 58, of St Albans appeared at the Old Bailey after Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund had brought a private prosecution against her.
She was accused of causing death by dangerous driving after the Nissan Juke she was driving hit cyclist Michael Mason, 70, from behind. Mason suffered a severe brain injury and later died in hospital.
“We are disappointed and dismayed by the outcome of a case that further highlights that a review is needed of how the justice system responds to collisions on the road,” said Boardman.
“Everyone should be concerned about this matter – no matter how you travel – because bad driving can affect us all. The standards of what constitutes careless and dangerous driving need to be looked at very carefully to make sure cases of bad driving can be dealt with effectively.”
The CDF took up the case, in part using crowd-funded money from members of the public, after the Metropolitan Police decided against referring the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“In any other activity we would not sit back and accept that certain actions or mistakes will inevitably cause the death of others. The police and CPS need to look carefully at this case to consider how the process of investigation and prosecution can be improved.”
Mason’s family also expressed their concern and disappointment at the verdict. His daughter, Anna Tatton-Brown, said in a statement on Thursday: “It seems that failing to be aware of what’s in front of you while you’re driving is an acceptable mistake, not careless, and that no explanation for that failure is necessary.”
Boardman’s comments echo those of Cycling UK, with CDF spokesperson Duncan Dollimore saying after Purcell was acquitted: “Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.
“If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.”