The criminal justice system is failing vulnerable road users, says the CTC, after a driver was fined £625 and given five penalty points for deliberately driving at, and knocking over, a cyclist in Richmond Park, London.
The incident, which was ruled as ‘driving without due care and attention’, saw an altercation between Jon Weale from Kingston, Surrey, and the cyclist on 27 July 2013, which resulted in Weale ‘using his car as a weapon’.
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The charity said Weale should have been charged with dangerous driving or assault, which could have meant a jail term, while personal injury solicitor Paul Kitson, of Slater & Gordon, says he should have been charged with ABH.
CTC’s road safety campaigner, Rhia Weston, said: “The criminal justice system is failing cyclists and other vulnerable road users by treating bad drivers with such leniency, through both weak charging and weak sentencing.
“The driver in this case used his vehicle as a weapon, he should have been charged with dangerous driving or assault, not driving without due care and attention which implies that the victim was only inconvenienced, rather than endangered, by his driving. He would have faced a much tougher penalty – potentially a jail term – if he had been charged appropriately,” said Weston.
The Richmond and Twickenham Times reported the incident saw Weale pull up alongside the cyclist on 27 July 2013 and sound his horn. The car’s passenger shouted abuse at the cyclist, who apparently responded by swearing, before Weale drove at the cyclist, knocking him off his bike.
Following an appearance at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on 12th May, Weale received £100 fine for driving without due care and attention, a further £250 and costs of £250, with victim charges of £25. He received the five penalty points for failing to stop.
Paul Kitson said: “I think the motorist was lucky to be charged with careless driving. The correct charge ought to have been ABH if he consciously used his vehicle as a weapon.
He added: “I live very near to Richmond Park and cycle there most weekends. I am not surprised to read this report as there is often much tension between cyclists and motorists who use the park. Many cycle clubs, notably the London Dynamo use the park for training rides.”
“The 20 mph speed limit is often ignored by both motorists and cyclists. I have witnessed anti-social behaviour both from motorists and cyclists.
“On this occasion the motorist appears to have used his vehicle as a weapon which is highly dangerous and downright irresponsible. A fine with points on his licence is in my view a light sentence. A driving ban of six months would surely be more appropriate. The offending driver would then need to use alternative means of transport such as the bicycle,” he said.
The CTC’s statement comes ahead of its sentencing debate next Friday morning (June 13), where experts including criminal defence specialists, a deputy high court judge, and crown prosecution service policy advisor will meet to discuss sentencing for driving offences and provide suggestions to the Sentencing Council for revised sentencing guidelines. Questions can be tweeted on the day #CTCdebate.