Yes, I am snowbound, the Winter Series is again cancelled and I still do not posses a turbotrainer so I will crack on with a legal update instead:
On 1st November the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by cyclist, Carl Betts, against his sentence of 30 months imprisonment for inflicting grevious bodily harm on a youth who had taunted him. The facts, taken from the Judgment of Mr Justice Hedley, were as follows:
"The events develop really in the early hours of the morning of 26th November 2009. The complainant was aged 17 and was part of a group of young people in a park and there was much laughing and general noise and so on going on. The appellant, who was some 5 years older, at 22, passed this group on his bicycle. There was directed at him quite unnecessary abuse and foul language. Wiser heads would simply have ridden on. But the appellant decided to stop and confront this group about their behaviour and he got off, returned to the group and there was an altercation. The appellant then delivered two punches to the head of the complainant, the effect of which was to put him on the ground.
As he struck the ground it appears that the complainant suffered a further and, as it turns out, extremely serious brain injury."
The Court commented that there was simply no reason at all for the violence to be offered. It is all particularly distressing as it is all so unnecessary. Against that, Betts pleaded guilty and, through the prosecutions's acceptance that this was not the more serious offence of causing GBH with intent, it was accepted that he had not intended the consequences of his actions.
Nonetheless the Judge was held to have been entitled to pass a severe sentence to reflect the gravity of the injury which had occurred and, as a matter of general public policy, if you punch somebody to the head, you should take the consequences however unintended or even unexpected.
It appears that the only reason for the original abuse and foul language was that Betts was on a bicycle and perhaps the main lesson for cyclists is that in the face of such abuse they should ride off if they can. There may also be parallels to be drawn where the cyclist is the victim, rather than the perpetrator, of violence.
On 18th November, Dennis Putz, the killer of the cyclist, Catriona Patel, was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment following his conviction of causing her death by dangerous driving. He ran down Ms Patel driving a Thames Materials skip lorry in South London in June 2009. Mr Putz was using a handheld mobile 'phone at the time of the collision and was also still above the legal drink drive limit after a binge the night before. Putz had a long long history of convictions demonstrating a contemptuous disregard for the laws intended to make the roads safer. His Honour Judge Chapple gave him a lifetime driving ban (a very rare example of this power being exercised).
Questions must arise as to whether Putz's employers, Thames Materials, knew or ought to have known that they were sending lorries driven by such a dangerous menace onto the public roads. These questions only intensified when on 7th December a Japanese businessman in a taxi on the A4 heading into London was killed when a Thames Materials HGV travelling in the opposite direction apparently lost control. Thames Materials has been reported to state that, "We are very sorry about both cases. We are working very closely with police to try to understand what happened. It has been very hard for us as a company." The last sentence has not succeeded in eliciting any great sympathy from this quarter.
Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 is intended to protect persons not at work from the activities of those at work where risks to health and safety may arise from the manner of the carrying out of the employer's activities (I paraphrase). Enforcement is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive. In the past the Executive have made it clear that road traffic is not one of its priorities. HGVs kill a disproportionate number of cyclists, especially in London, so arguably this should move up the list.
Thames Materials may be an obvious place to start, but this gives me an opportunity to name and shame Fowler Welch, Oil Salvage Limited and Sunlight Textile Services, none of which have taken the slightest interest when I have drawn to their attention poor driving by their HGV drivers around cyclists. Lorry drivers have an enormous responsibility, and to be fair most of them drive very well. It seems reasonable to expect, in the interests of road safety, companies running fleets of lorries to ensure they employ only the most responsible careful and well trained drivers.