I have written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP. If you live in her constituency she can be contacted at email@example.com, otherwise it may be more appropriate to contact her at the home office firstname.lastname@example.org if you have your own views. I would rather she did not think I was an isolated malcontent.
"22nd December 2010
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
2 Marsham Street
Dear Mrs May,
Treatment of offences affecting cyclists
I am a keen cyclist and secretary of a cycling club, Thames Velo, which is based in your constituency. In the last couple of months I have had two interactions with the police after I reported circumstances in which I had been, in the first case, threatened and, in the second case, actually assaulted by a motorist.
I write, not to detail my individual cases (though I would be very happy to furnish details if you wish) but because my experiences chime with those of a large number of cyclists who find that the commission of criminal offences which endanger or intimidate them are not taken sufficiently seriously by the prosecuting authorities, the first stage of which obviously is the police.
Relevant Home Office guidance has been issued to Chief Constables in the past. Specifically, in relation to cautions, Home Office Circular 30/2005 addressed to Chief Constables and copied to Crown Prosecutors refers to a gravity factors matrix and also requires that the victim’s views about the offence and the nature and extent of harm are taken into account.
My understanding is that the gravity factors matrix does include the vulnerability of the victim as a specific aggravating feature.
My experience in the case of the assault on me was that existing Home Office Guidance was not complied with before a simple caution was administered. In the case of the threat I have had to battle against a total lack of enthusiasm on the part of the police and the CPS to take my complaint seriously.
When cases get to Court there are sentencing guidelines which indicate that harm to a vulnerable road user is an aggravating feature but there is a problem in that too few cases where cyclists are harmed or threatened are taken to Court.
On a practical level could I ask your department please to consider issuing clear guidance to Chief Constables and to Crown Prosecutors that the endangering of vulnerable road users is a specific aggravating feature in the commission of a criminal offence?
At the moment the Government correctly encourages more active lifestyles. An increase in the level of cycling is obviously of direct interest to both the Department of Health and Department of Transport and relieves public expenditure from both those departments. Unfortunately there are a small minority of motorists who resist with aggression what they see as an invasion into ‘their’ road space and justify their malevolence towards cyclists with misunderstandings about ‘road tax’, safe cycling techniques, use of cycle paths, condemnation of all cyclists as ‘lawless’, and other misconceptions. Mass cycling will never become a reality while so many people are afraid of cycling on the roads because of inconsiderate, and even hostile, motor traffic.
May I suggest to you that it is a completely false economy, and wholly unjustified, to ‘go soft’ on motorists whose conduct tips over into criminality that endangers or threatens those using a form of transport that the Government is seeking to encourage?
I am not suggesting that a ‘soft’ policy has been directed from the top; rather it has emerged from the bottom and now needs to be tackled from the top.
I would be very happy to meet with you or your officials in your constituency or in Westminster (perhaps with representatives of relevant cycling organisations) to explain further the concerns which I know are now shared by a very large section of the cycling community.