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Consultation launched on death by dangerous cycling law

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Alice Sanderson, August 17, 2018

A 12-week consultation has been launched by the government on proposals to introduce a long-awaited law on death or serious injury by dangerous cycling.

What has brought this about?

In March the Department of Transport produced an independent review into current cycling laws. This review determined that cycling laws need to be brought in line with other driving offences, namely death by dangerous driving, as they are currently 'too lenient'.

The review, and the latest consultation, follow the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs, who was killed by a cyclist riding a bike with no brakes as she crossed a road in February 2016.

The cyclist, Charlie Alliston, was charged with the only option available, ‘wanton and furious driving’ - a law dating back to 1861, which was originally used for the prosecution of horse-drawn carriage drivers.

Alliston received 18 months in prison for Mrs Brigg’s death, but had the charge of death by dangerous cycling existed, he may have received a much lengthier sentence.

Kim Briggs’ widower Matthew has campaigned for a change in the law ever since. Speaking to Sky News, Mr Briggs said: ”Getting the law changed is a positive legacy from this. The government has treated me very well, and this seems to have moved very swiftly.

”What happened to Kim was rare, but it’s not unique and I don’t want another family to suffer a double whammy of grief and then go through this legal minefield.”

The Department of Transport says that the proposed legislation would ‘achieve consistency between cyclists and drivers and parity of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury’.

What does current law say?

Under the law as it currently stands, cyclists can be charged with the offence of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.

Alternatively, they could be charged under the Road Traffic Act 1988 with ‘dangerous or careless cycling’, which carries a maximum penalty of fines ranging from £1,000-£2,500.

In contrast, if someone was to be seriously injured due to the dangerous driving of a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ (e.g. a car or a lorry) then the maximum penalty is much higher at 14 years imprisonment.

Between 2011-2016 there were 2,491 recorded collisions between cyclists and pedestrians (where no other vehicle was involved). Of these, 546 resulted in serious injury and 20 were fatal.

Opposition

In response to the proposals, campaigners have accused the government of ‘tinkering around the edges’ of road safety. Cycling UK says that the government should ‘grasp the opportunity’ to provide a ‘full review of road traffic offences’ rather than zoning in on cyclists.

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, describes the current system as ‘something of a lottery’ when it comes to prosecuting and sentencing careless or dangerous drivers.

He added: ”If the Government is serious about addressing behaviour that puts others at risk on our roads, they should grasp the opportunity to do the job properly, rather than attempt to patch up an area of legislation that’s simply not working.”

However, Mr Briggs, the widower of Kim Briggs, says: “This public consultation is an important step towards updating the arcane laws that are currently being used to prosecute cycling offences.”

Spokesperson for First4Lawyers, Andrew Cullwick, agrees: “While we believe that road traffic offences as a whole need to be improved upon, it is great to see that the government are taking steps towards these improvements, starting with updating laws surrounding dangerous cycling. We hope that the consultation is a success, and that this success will also be used to improve the law around driving offences in the future.”

Further information

The consultation will close on 5th November 2018. Once responses have been considered, the government will announce how they intend to proceed within three months.

If you wish to take part in the consultation you can do so through their online form, or you can send responses to Pauline Morgan, Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR. Or email: CWISnewoffences@dft.gov.uk.