Friday, 10 December 2010

Letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions

9th December 2010

Keir Starmer QC
The Director of Public Prosecutions
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge

Dear Mr Starmer,

Threat to kill, Hounslow 04.11.10

On 4th November I reported a crime committed earlier that day on the A315 just west of Hounslow, when a motorist drew close alongside me on my bicycle and threatened to kill me. The context was that 10 minutes earlier he had been annoyed when I took sufficient road space, alongside a traffic island, that he had to wait until past the island before he could overtake me. The clear implication of the threat was clear; that if I ‘held him up’ again he would not wait behind but would run me down and kill me. It was a threat neither issued, nor taken, in jest.

My evidence about this incident would, I suggest, warrant some investigation on its own. However my account of the events (which has been clear and consistent from the initial report on the same day) is fully corroborated by video evidence from a camera mounted on my helmet. This records a long sequence of verbal abuse leading up to the incident and a clear admission immediately thereafter that the motorist concerned had indeed threatened to kill me. This admission (‘Did you just threaten to kill me?’ ‘Yeah, I did.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah’) is clearly recorded on the video as are the additional, and plainly abusive, words (‘you are a cocky cunt, mate’).

The film footage both with and without subtitles (which represent my evidence as to what was said) are attached on the enclosed DVD. These have of course been overtly edited by me so I also attach a longer stretch of around 10 minutes of unedited film which covers the incident.

The police officer assigned to investigate this case told me that he was considering issuing a fixed penalty notice to the suspect for a breach of section 5 of the Public Order Act (a lenient but inexpensive option). He then took advice from the CPS at Hounslow. The police officer has told me that he was advised, on 11th November, by Mr. Manjit Mahal that there was insufficient evidence ‘to pass the threshold test’ and that no action should be taken. The police officer concerned made it clear to me in an email of the same date that “the decision was not mine and was made by the CPS I shall not be investigating this matter”

I e mailed Mr Mahal on that same day, 11th November, asking him to review his decision or refer it to a Senior Crown Prosecutor.

Unfortunately two weeks later I had not had the courtesy even of an acknowledgment of this e-mail and I therefore wrote on 25th November to Mr Arwell Jones, the District Crown Prosecutor for West London. I regret to say that two weeks on I have not had any response of any kind to that letter either.

I know that you are keen that the CPS complies with Core Quality Standards which include standard 2, that the Service will make timely, effective and fair charging decisions in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and Standard 11 that the Service will deal promptly with complaints about its decisions. The Code for Crown Prosecutors provides at 3.2 that every case prosecutors receive from the police will be reviewed and prosecutors must ensure that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision as to how best to deal with the case.

A CPS spokesman is reported to have told a reporter on the Ascot News that:

“The police asked the CPS in Hounslow for early advice on whether an offence had been committed.
“Having a brief overview of the case the prosecutor advised the police that there appeared to be insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
“If the police ask us to undertake a full review of this material then we will do so, but this has not been requested since we provided our initial advice.”

I do not understand how this can be thought to comply with the code. Since the police did bring this case to the CPS, the prosecutor should not have issued the advice he did without, at least, the benefit of a statement from me and the result of questioning of the motorist. Because he issued this advice after ‘a brief overview’, the police are taking no further action. Mr Mahal’s advice is in any event erroneous. My evidence of a threat to kill is clear. The video both corroborates that, and also clearly records threatening and abusive words and behaviour, proving the lesser offence that the police officer was considering whether to pursue. I invite you to look at the videos and see that on any view:

1. In the initial sequence, the suspect is frustrated at not being able to pass me alongside a traffic island, sounds his horn and says something which is indistinct save for the clear words ‘fuck off’.

2. Nearly 10 minutes later he draws close alongside me but does not, for a period of some seconds, complete the overtake. It is reasonably clear that something is said by him to me.

3. As soon as I am out of immediate danger and the car is ahead of me, I repeat the words I have just heard to the camera ‘If I see that again I’ll fucking kill you.’ This is no less reliable than a contemporaneous written note of the words used.

4. Seconds thereafter I draw alongside him (he is stationery so again can not run me down) and he immediately abuses me verbally and confirms twice that he has just threatened to kill me.

An objective independent observer would find that to be firm corroboration that what I say occurred actually occurred. In respect of threatening and abusive words and behaviour the video alone, even without my recollection, clearly indicates a case to answer and a probability of conviction exceeding 50%.

Further there is, quite rightly, no provision in the Code for the police to ‘half bring’ a case to the attention of the CPS and then deciding not to undertake any investigation on the basis of ‘preliminary advice’. This suggests a joint inclination not to take the issuing of threats by a motorist against a cyclist seriously.

I ask you as the person ultimately responsible for the actions of the CPS to ensure that this (reported) offence is taken seriously and investigated. I appreciate you do not directly control the police, but in circumstances where they have ceased an investigation because of advice from your Service, I am sure they would reopen it at your suggestion. If not (and if it is really for the witnesses and victims of crime to see that justice is pursued) I would take it up with the Metropolitan Police.

At the moment I appear to be falling between two services each of which regards the other as having decided not to act upon my crime report.

May I finally urge you not to dismiss this letter as coming from an obsessed or deranged crank? I trust you will see it as reasonable to take this up with you, after I have failed to get any response from two more junior CPS employees. I have received the full support of countless individual cyclists and also from CTC (the national cycling body) and Roadpeace (a national charity for road crash victims) in the stand I am taking. I ask you to credit that there is a widespread view, which the handling of my case has done nothing to dispel, that aggression and poor driving endangering cyclists is not taken as seriously as it should be by your service.

I would be grateful for an early response even if it is to indicate that time is required to respond substantively.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Porter


  1. You are amazing. I can't believe the CPS. So glad you're being this tenacious - keep going!

  2. Martin,
    as Chair of the Bournemouth Cycling Forum you have my full support in your endeavours. I have come to the conclusion over the last few years that the Police's attitude to cycling is not just mislead but actively damaging to the promotion of cycling.
    The safety in numbers effect tells us that doubling the numbers of cyclists reduces the risk of being hit by a third. In my own town Police are currently 'cracking down' on 'dangerous' cyclists - i.e. those without lights. Even stating they consider this to be a danger to other road users!
    It's about time cyclists and pedestrians were prioritised and taken seriously as vulnerable road users.
    Keep up the good fight! I'm sure there are 100's out there who read of your battle but don't post. Thanks you from them all.

  3. An excellent letter and I continue to support this approach. Also I would like to recognise the views expressed by mikey2... who makes perfect sense with his concerns.