Tuesday 18 October 2011

Eilidh Cairns - was the inquest into her death adequate?

BBC News has been reporting the Judicial Review proceedings heard today by Mr Justice Silber in the Administrative Court.  The legal action has been taken by the family of Eilidh Cairns against the Deputy Coroner of West London, Dr Shirley Radcliffe.  Dr Radcliffe was responsible for conducting the Inquest into the death of Eilidh who was killed by a lorry whilst she was cycling in Notting Hill in February 2009.
Counsel for the family is quoted as arguing that Dr Radcliffe failed to comply with her duties to "fully, fairly and fearlessly" investigate the facts of the death.  "There was a failure to consider the wider impact of Eilidh's death and the huge problem facing cyclists in London."
Counsel for the Deputy Coroner is quoted as arguing that the type of accident was "tragically common".and that there was no element of the accident which gave the coroner reason to think it "illustrated a systemic problem or that it might call for some specific response".
I confess that I find this response challenging; the fact that this type of accident is 'tragically common' may be thought to suggest that there is a systemic problem to which there could helpfully be 'some specific response'.
The death this month of fashion student Min Joo Lee in the motor-centric area of London around Kings Cross means that another Inquest will shortly be examining another death of a cyclist under a lorry.  Her death is the subject of an interesting article at The Guardian Bike Blog
An active participation in the prevention of future unnecessary deaths might be thought to be one of the strongest justifications there is for the coronial system of investigation that has come down to us from Medieval times.
I, for one, will be awaiting Silber J's Judgment with interest.

Friday 7 October 2011

Metropolitan Police Consultation

The Metropolitan Police Authority are consulting us on the priorities to set for the Metropolitan Police.  The closing date is 25th November.  I have responded indicating what I believe might be an appropriate priority for them.
I have written before about the Roadsafe London website of the Metropolitan Police.  I have reported many instances of bad driving to them and my hope is that they have written to at least some of the miscreants I have identified.  However they have clearly rewritten their webpage in order to clarify what their priorities are:

"Please tell us about people who:
  • Drive under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Drive with no insurance
  • Drive without a licence or whilst disqualified from driving
  • Using an un-roadworthy vehicle
We are also happy to hear about:
  • Drivers who race or excessively rev their cars close to homes.
  • Road layouts that you think may be dangerous or could be improved.
  • Criminals who deliberately cause crashes to defraud the insurance industry"
There is an old legal maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius which helpfully identifies that if you list a lot of things you want to be told about then it suggests that you may not be too interested in other things.  Equally if you list a lot of things that you are happy to hear about, it rather suggests you are not happy to hear about other things.  So where does bad driving around cyclists, use of mobile phones whilst driving, roadrage and the like fit into all this?  Possibly somewhere below the interests of the insurance industry and the peace and quiet of residential areas (not that those things do not have some importance, but they are not life and death).

I thought I had better look to the Metropolitan Police Cycle Taskforce in the hope that they were working hard to keep us cyclists safe from harm on the road.  Their priority appears to be very clearly on cycle theft (again important but not life and death) though they have set up a lorry in Trafalgar Square to show cyclists lorry blindspots (with an emphasis it seems on changing the behaviour of cyclists rather than that of lorries).  I could not see that there was a way of reporting bad driving to them.

Having hunted around a bit on the Metropolitan Police website, I thought I might make a contribution to what I thought might be prioritised more highly than at present.

Saturday 1 October 2011

What's that camera doing on your head (Part 2)?

It has been nearly 15 months since I last answered this question.  Since then I have filmed two incidents that have resulted in prosecutions in the Magistrates' Courts (neither yet concluded) and have some footage of a collision which could be useful in the event that liability for the damage becomes an issue.  The camera, modest as it is, has served a useful purpose.
Alas, I did not have my camera when I was assaulted on a Sunday club run but I read from The Dartford Messenger that as a consequence of helmet camera footage, the man who assaulted a cyclist in Bexley has been convicted and punished.  This follows the conviction of a motorist in Manchester of assaulting a cyclist and driving without due care as reported in The Manchester Evening News.  There is no doubt that neither criminal would have been brought to justice without helmet camera footage.  Incidently the Bexley case leads me to nominate for judicial hero of the year District Judge Roger Ede who commented that:
“Cyclists are very vulnerable and they feel exposed and feel threatened when a car comes too close to them.  Car drivers need to respect cyclists and understand that.”
 Using a camera does though court a degree of controversy, even amongst the odd fellow cyclist.  Some argue that those with cameras go out 'looking for trouble' or that they 'bring trouble on themselves', or that their expectation that the laws there to protect them be obeyed and enforced is insufferably self-righteousness.  Others claim that they avoid all trouble through their superior riding skills and calm state of mind.  I find it difficult to accept that any cyclist would look for trouble; there is simply too much at stake, and I am frankly astonished at how ready some people are to  blame cyclists for any dangerous driving or other aggression that takes place around them.  We surely want more people to take to cycling and they will, by definition, start off as inexperienced.  How many will persevere in the face of experiences like the following?

It is impossible to convey how intimidating this is without camera footage and I defy anybody to explain how this is the fault of anybody but the lorry driver's, or how calm acceptance on the part of the cyclist (that's me) of current conditions on the roads would have helped prevent this.
I do not see how it can be anything but good for all cyclists to have this standard of driving brought to the driver, his employer's and the police's attention.

UPDATE 19.01.12.  Since I wrote the above both the Magistrates' Court cases mentioned above have been concluded.  Scott Lomas was convicted of a Public Order Offence committed near Hounslow and charges were dropped against Christopher Bootle for (alleged) inconsiderate driving in Staines because on review of the file it was discovered that the necessary notice of intention to prosecute had not been served.