Friday 31 December 2010

Home Office Response

A Home Office official at the 'Direct Communications Unit' has diverted my letter addressed to Theresa May MP to the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that 'the matters raised are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice'.
All in a day's work I suppose to redirect a complaint on to somebody else, but is it not truely deeply shocking that an official at the Home Office does not appreciate that his/her department is responsible for the police service?
I have heard that other complaints involving the police have been misdirected in a similar way.
I shall be e mailing again asking that my letter be put before the Home Secretary.

"Dear Sirs,

I have received a letter dated 23rd December indicating that my letter of 22nd December (a copy of which is again attached) has been passed to the Ministry of Justice by an individual whose signature looks like 'M. Mioh'.
Kindly note that my letter was addressed to, and intended for, Theresa May MP, the Home Secretary and should not be redirected to the Ministry of Justice.
I find it disappointing that anybody working in the Home Office should think that the matters I raise in my letter about the police are the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. They are not.
I would be grateful for your early confimation that my letter has been passed to Mrs May.
Yours faithfully,
Martin Porter"

Wednesday 22 December 2010

An open letter to the Home Secretary

I have written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP.  If you live in her constituency she can be contacted at, otherwise it may be more appropriate to contact her at the home office 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
Home Secretary
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.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Porter"

Sunday 19 December 2010

Police Caution for Unprovoked Assault by Motorist on Cyclist (me!)

I have this evening received a telephone call from Thames Valley police informing me that a motorist who assaulted me and a friend last week is to be dealt with by way of a police caution.

Last Sunday (12th December) I was out on a club run. Towards the end of the ride I was with (and following) just one club mate heading back towards home. As we made a right turn off a main road, a BMW passed me on the inside cut between us and also turned right. I let him go, so I was rather behind as he then passed my companion. As he passed, he swerved into the kerb when alongside some 3 times forcing my companion to a stop. Apparently (and understandably) my companion banged on the side of the car, though I did not know it at the time.

I was though aware that, after I had passed my mate and before I reached the BMW, it stopped by the left side of the road and the driver got out, swore at my companion and, as I understand he subsequently admitted, pushed him before checking his vehicle for damage. While this was going on I stopped alongside his car with a view to turning into a side road on the right. As he returned to his car he came up to me shouted something abusive about cyclists and pushed me hard so that I fell into the other side of the road and into the path of an oncoming car. I fell onto my right elbow and hip and saw the oncoming car braking hard and stopping around 18 inches from me.

The driver of this car was good enough to stop and leave her details and the police confirmed to me that she had provided a statement indicating that she had seen the assault on me and had to brake hard to avoid hitting me.

The Thames Valley Police investigated including spending 2 ½ hours with me taking a very detailed statement. I showed them where my right elbow was skinned and informed them of the bruising to my right hip. They suggested I went to a doctor which I did the following day. It is clear he did not consider my injuries insignificant and referred me for a hip X-ray. I rang the police officer last Wednesday to tell him but as he was unavailable sent him an email.

I have kept quiet about this until now as I had thought it inevitable that a charge would follow.  I do though think it desirable to publicise it now that I know no prosecution will follow, although I know there are some who will (again) seek to exculpate the motorist on the grounds that I must be doing something to attract this hostility!

My understanding is that the driver, when interviewed by the police, admitted both assaults, said he had lost his temper, thought his car had been dented and claimed to have been provoked by my companion. I still call that a wholly unprovoked assault on me (even by the assailant’s own account), though the police and I had to agree to differ on that.

In law there is no real doubt that the assault amounted to one occasioning actual bodily harm, though I am told that under CPS guidelines it would be likely to be regarded as a ‘common’ assault. I was told it was not a serious enough matter to be referred to the CPS.

I must be out of touch with the practicalities of the criminal law as, I have to confess, it had never occurred to me that a caution would be thought a suitable disposal for an offence of unprovoked violence even assuming (as I must) that the offender has an unblemished record. I was also surprised that I was not informed of the possibility of a caution before it happened, so that I could make a representation about it.

Roadrage is dangerous and far too prevalent. Roadrage directed at vulnerable road users is especially dangerous. I regard it as a severely aggravating feature. Sadly ‘it’s just roadrage’ seems to be regarded too often as an exculpatory explanation. I do not think it very reassuring that someone is violent only in the vicinity of his car.

I am, not for the first time, disappointed in the level of protection that our criminal justice system provides to cyclists.

Before anyone mentions it, the CPS has a clear policy of taking over any private prosecution and discontinuing it if it relates to an offence where a caution has been given and accepted.

Update 20th December:  I have now written to the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police and await her response with interest.  My letter sets out the facts much as above and identifies all the officers involved.  I included the following paragraph on the public interest,
"Further there is a small, but significant, minority of motorists who express aggression towards cyclists and justify their aggression by reference to misunderstandings about road tax, safe cycling technique, use of cycle paths etc.  There is a clear public interest in protecting cyclists from this dangerous form of malevolence."
and the following on the views/injuries of the victim:
"Home Office Circular 16/2008 states, paragraph 20, that it is important to establish both the victim’s views in relation to the offence and the proposed method of disposal and the nature and extent of any harm and its significance to the victim."  Neither was established in my case.

Update 21st December:  A commendably prompt response from a Chief Inspector tells me this will be investigated.

Saturday 18 December 2010

More thoughts from a snowbound cyclist

Time for a new camera?

I have collected no useful footage from my helmet camera in the last few weeks because the battery life has deteriorated to just 17 minutes.  I need to decide whether to get a replacement.  There are arguments either way:
1.  Some of the publicity I am getting is not great.  My clerk has kindly been keeping an eye on it for me.  The other day he announced looking up from his screen, "It says here you are a brilliant also says down here you are a total prat".  I already have a thick skin and have learnt the hard way not to seek to defend myself on these open fora; it is never constructive.
2   Perhaps I have done my bit, made a point and can now revert to just shrugging off bad driving in the way I used to in the past.
3.  I may be adding to the perception that cycling is dangerous.  This is the one that concerns me the most.  It is perhaps worth pointing out that I cycle a lot of miles.  Judging by DoT statistics I ride 200 times further than the average male cyclist!  The statistic must include a lot of very low mileage cyclists (or even everybody who owns a bicycle), but it is reasonable to suppose that what I encounter occasionally may be encountered by a moderate level cyclist only once or twice in a riding lifetime.  [Afternote:  I ride about 1,000 miles a month and the 'average' male cyclist apparently only does 200km a year.]
1.  Some of the publicity is, I hope of assistance to cyclists generally.  Nothing I have done before has got me into such a range of newspapers, radio chat shows and even a local television news programme where the message is, I hope, getting across that there is some unacceptable driving out there which needs to be tackled more effectively than is the case at present.  On balance the postive feedback outweighs the negative stuff.
2.   After BBC London Radio had done with me, they interviewed DCI Nick Chalmers of the Met's Roadsafe.  I was impressed by him and, after a sceptical start reflecting some misunderstandings, I am now persuaded that it is well worth reporting bad driving using this online resource.  Mr Chalmers has made it very clear that the police find video footage very helpful.  A report to Roadsafe will not result in prosecution but will, where justified, lead to a warning letter which is a good deal better than nothing.  I accept that there cannot possibly be a prosecution for all the inadvertant bad driving that is out there.  Surrey Police have a very similar online reporting site.  So there is something constructive to do with the video footage other than just post it on youtube.
3.    A very major factor that explains the persitently low modal share of cycling as a means of transport is the fear of traffic.  This fear often overestimates the risk of cycling compared to other activities.  However it could never be described as irrational while poor (and even aggressive) driving around cyclists persists.  A new cyclist  could very readily be put off by such driving and revert to their own car.  I think on balance it is better to do what I can to address the bad driving at source rather than leave it to shock and surprise the new cyclist who takes to the streets.  I know of, and respect, the alternative school of thought which is to let motorists get on with their own thing and seek segregated infrastructure for cyclists.  However I jealously guard my right to use the roads (save motorways) which are ideally suited to fast efficient cycling, if only all motorists were willing to share.
4.    When something does get onto my film, I have sufficient legal knowlege, persistence and stubborness to push it further than others may.  If I can make a contribution to road safety above and beyond driving/cycling carefully myself, then I am very happy to devote time to doing so.  It is in my view a good cause.
5.    The cost of a replacement camera is such that I save it in just two days by taking the bike instead of the train to work.
Conclusion:  I have clicked the button ordering my new camera.  For those who have asked it is a veho muvi camera ordered on the web (many outlets) for about £45.  You will need a better SD card and mounts as well but I already have those from the old camera.

Where is all your footage of bad cycling?

One thing that is totally predictable where there is any discussion (particularly online) of what I have filmed, is that somebody will come on and complain about standards of cycling.  It is a reaction as reliable as any reflex; that cyclists have a total disregard for the law, ought to be taxed, insured, helmeted, day-glowed and so on.  Even DCI Chalmers, whom I have praised above, took time to encourage cyclists to broadcast video footage of poor cycling.
From a law enforcement perspective I can sympathise with this.  A policeman's obligation is to enforce the law, all laws.  That though is not my role; I am not an unpaid law enforcement officer and I can take the luxury of pursuing single-mindedly my interest in safety.  Were I to film a cyclist endangering anybody other than himself then I will post it, but I seldom witness and have never yet got film footage of this happening.
Cyclists break the law, of course they do - just as every other class of roaduser does, I see it every day and I do not condone it.  Nonetheless I am no more inclined to post up every occasion that a cyclist contravenes a red light than I am everytime a motorist contravenes a red light by passing an advance stop line.  Worse in my view is a cyclist in black unlit at night but that really doesn't film well.
I do not even bother with my pet irritation which is the cyclist who undertakes me when I am moving, typically when I am slowing for a red light.  Clearly not all cyclists are angels, I confronted one in Central London recently who had travelled for miles, undertaking me and then going through a red light and after I had overtaken him repeating the whole process again and again.  I eventually advised him for his own sake not to undertake moving vehicles (including me) and was rewarded with a string of obscenities.  But, and this finally is the point, however irritating this was, I knew he was there, could avoid him and he was not a danger to me or to anybody else save possibly himself.  This is a function of his weight, his speed and his size.  Besides it was a cold day and I was wearing a woolly hat with no camera mount.
I firmly believe that to get sidetracked from dealing with the faults of motorists by an idea that it is equally important or 'even-handed' to tackle the faults of cyclists is to severely trivialise the evils associated with poor motoring.  I find the relentless pursuit of the likes of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Jon Snow by tabloid reporters anxious to photograph the slightest appearance of a breach of the law deeply unappetising and I do not think I will be contributing to it.
Those most offended, or at least those with most reason to be offended, by law breaking cyclists are the many law abiding cyclists who feel they are being given a bad name.  I understand that too but, as I say, I am free to focus my efforts where I wish and I choose road safety.

Legal Update Winter 2010

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.

Monday 13 December 2010

Update on incident on 4th November

I am very grateful to the Metropolitan Police for reopening their investigations into an incident that involved me on 4th November near Hounslow.  To the extent that my technological abilites permit I will now remove posts relating to this and hopefully restore them once the investigation and any criminal proceedings are complete.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Imperial Winter Series Race 2

A good day for the first of the terrific Doug and Lucy Collins’ Imperial Racing Winter Series for this season. Dry with a temperature of +9°C and a light westerly wind (though it always seems a bit stronger at Hillingdon). The series was planned to kick off last Saturday but the ice and snow on the circuit made cancellation inevitable. We will be lucky if that is the only race to be lost to this icy winter.

I signed on a little apprehensively for I had somehow stepped up from 4th category to 3rd category since last winter. I need not have worried though; the speed was very similar, though there was some more tactical riding with bursts of energy interspersed with collective breathers while we waited to see what move would happen next.

Early on I discovered I was not in good enough form to keep up with the rider who keenly sprinted straight off the start or to get into any break. There were some early attempts, but I did not have the strength to go with them and no-one had the strength to stay away (maybe the ice hasn’t affected just my training, though I somehow suspect most others have a turbo in the garage). My club coach was watching, and he had once advised me to settle for an objective of staying near the front for as long as possible. It was therefore largely for his benefit that at 3 laps to go I was at the front; indeed with the sprint on everybody’s minds I had trouble getting off the front and then struggled with the inevitable acceleration in the last couple of laps.

I was at the back discussing with my old racing companion, James, how it might not be wise to compete the sprint, when the wisdom of that joint thought was borne out by a crash on the home straight. Bikes came down to the left of me and then immediately afterwards one to the right of me. I do hope they are all ok. I carried on to roll over the line just off the back of the bunch, which pretty much met my objective of the day.

25 miles in 1h02m. Average speed 24.2 mph. Top speed 30mph just before slowing for the crash.

Friday 10 December 2010


I am very grateful to Roadpeace, the charity that does so much invaluable work supporting those bereaved by road crashes, and works so hard to reduce the carnage on our roads, for this message of support.

"RoadPeace is in complete support of your efforts to get the police and CPS to take the case of a driver threatening to kill you seriously. Their reluctance to give it proper consideration is indicative of the wider problem we have on our roads where drivers believe that they can drive aggressively, dangerously and in a life-threatening manner, particularly around cyclists, with impunity. A message needs to be sent out to these road users that their dangerous behavior will not be tolerated by the law. The use of the car as a dangerous weapon is strangely tolerated, even more puzzling when it is responsible for over 6 deaths a day in the UK, and one every 27 seconds worldwide. The use of any other weapon/drug/military intervention causing such level of devastation would never be tolerated.

We have called in the past for the definition of dangerous and careless driving to be consistent with that used by DVLA examiners. We can only assume that the driver involved would have failed his test if he had driven like this. Let’s expect drivers to drive as they would on their test, and let’s have a policing and judicial approach that backs that up."

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

Sunday 5 December 2010

Reporter from Ascot News gets some interesting quotes

I note that in my local newspaper, the reporter Hannah Masters-Waage has got some interesting quotes from the Hounslow Police and CPS.

A spokeswoman from the Metropolitan Police said: “The matter was investigated by officers from Hounslow and discussed with the CPS and no further action will be taken as we have been advised by the CPS that there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.”

A CPS London spokesperson said: “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.”

So the CPS say that after 'a brief overview' they advised that there 'appeared to be insufficient evidence' but they will not undertake a full review until the police request it.  At the same time the police say that they will take no further action as the CPS have said there is insufficient evidence.  Meanwhile my correspondence with the CPS has gone unanswered and nobody is prepared to undertake a review because I have requested it.

I have tonight e mailed the police officer who originally investigated this case as follows:

"Dear PC       ,

The following has been reported in my local newspaper the Ascot News.

You will see that a CPS spokesman has told the reporter 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.”

If the spokesman is correct, then it is clear that the CPS will review their advice in the event that you ask them to do so. Naturally I have asked them to review their advice but have not, to date, received any response. Could I request you please therefore to ask the CPS to undertake a full review.

Also, since you do not have a statement from me, it may be helpful if you know what I say was said; a video with subtitles to indicate that can be viewed here
I note from today's Sunday Times that a police spokesman has described the use of cameras like mine as "tremendously beneficial", which is reassuring.

Thank you for your continued attention to this.
Martin Porter"

Saturday 4 December 2010

Crown Prosecution Service decisions – compare and contrast.

Just over a year ago, Dan Black was cycling home from work along a section of the Celtic Trail on the A48 in Chepstow when an elderly driver turned right into oncoming traffic and drove directly into him. 23-year-old Dan suffered appalling injuries and has been left paralysed from the chest down, as reported on CTC's stop SMIDSY site.  The CPS chose not to prosecute the driver due to it "not being in the public interest". The CPS have suggested that Dan was "poorly lit" despite his bike meeting legal standards for lighting and his wearing reflective clothing

In June 2008, Marie Vesco, a 19 year old from France who had recently settled in this country, was cycling on a dual carriageway in a group of around a dozen from London to Brighton. They reached a junction where the nearside lane of three became an exit slip road. To travel straight on the group had therefore to cross the nearside lane. This is what Ms Vesco was doing when she was fatally struck first by a car taking the exit and then by another car following close behind. The CPS decided not to prosecute.

In July 2008, Anthony Maynard, a 25 year old experienced cyclist was riding on the A4130 dual carriageway near Henley with a club-mate.  Both were struck by a van that had overtaken another vehicle and then pulled in to the nearside lane killing Mr Maynard and injuring his companion. No prosecution was brought apparently on the basis that the van driver had been dazzled by the sun and could not therefore see what was, or was not, in the road space that he was driving into at speed.

In 2006, the CPS decided to charge Daniel Cadden with inconsiderate cycling. His alleged offence related to his use of the road on his commute home through Telford where he was cycling at around 20mph. Initially the police stopped him for riding in the road position which is recommended by the cyclists’ bible ‘Cyclecraft’ and taught on bikeability cycle training courses; that is, he was cycling in a position well out from the nearside edge of the road.  A District Judge wrongly convicted Mr Cadden on the basis that it was inconsiderate to ride on the road rather than on a separate cycle path. The CPS chose, wrongly, to oppose Mr Cadden’s successful appeal against that absurd ruling.

Earlier this year the CPS chose to prosecute Jared Kelly on a charge of assaulting a taxi driver in London’s Oxford Street, following a ‘road rage’ type of incident, on the strength of evidence from the taxi driver that the Court decided was not reliable. The real risk of a miscarriage of justice was averted when the cyclist launched his own appeal in the Evening Standard for independent witnesses supporting his evidence that the taxi driver had tried to strangle him with his own scarf.

The CPS is of course capable of better and I have publicly acknowledged and praised them for that here.  (I got a much speedier response to that, than to my recent, correspondence with the CPS!)  However attitudes are patchy and, in my view, need to be challenged.

I appreciate that the decision in the case of the threat to kill directed against me is not as significant as those cited above. However the quality of CPS charging decisions, where cyclists are involved, is at best patchy. That is why I am not planning to quietly resign myself to the CPS decision made in my case. I have still received no word from either the Hounslow CPS or the District Prosecutor for West London. My hope is that they are taking their time to investigate this carefully.

As well as the many expressions of individual support that I have received I am grateful to the following relevant organisations for their support:
CTC (national organisation for cyclists)
Roadpeace (charity for road crash victims).
The Chairman of the Road Danger Reduction Forum has commented that:
The motorist was unaware that you were in the correct and safe position in the first instance of conflict, and motorists should be made aware of this by their organisations and in the training they get for taking a driving test.  Saying "I'll kill you" in a public place when you have a potentially dangerous piece of machinery which you are (mis)using in close proximity to a vulnerable human being is worse than when you don't have responsibility for such machinery. Incidents where people have been endangered should be prioritised both by the police and the CPS.

I will continue to keep you posted.