Saturday 3 March 2012

The Leveson Inquiry and the Police

Former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke told the Leveson Inquiry last week that one reason the Metropolitan Police had failed to act upon the evidence they had of telephone hacking in 2006 was that fighting terrorism was being given higher priority.

"..the minutiae of whether there was circumstantial evidence against journalist A, B or C is a minor consideration in comparison with the consideration of what poses a threat to the lives of the British public.  Invasions of privacy are odious, obviously.  They can be extraordinarily distressing and at times they can be illegal, but, to put it bluntly, they don't kill you."

That might well be right but one thought for the Metropolitan Police (and other forces) is that as a cycling member of the British public my life is threatened far more by bad, inconsiderate aggressive and hostile driving than it is by terrorists.  Quite rightly, we do not make excuses for terrorists; I am at a loss to understand why I have had so many communications with the police in which they appear willing to make excuses for motorists who threaten and endanger the lives of the British public.


  1. Because life endangering incidents on the road are random accidents, happenstances which are part of daily routine and utterly unavoidable? Such incidents are extraordinarily distressing, and at times illegal, but to put it bluntly, you're not dead so they didn't kill you.

    Unless they did, in which case oopsie, but oh LOOK! A TERRORIST!

  2. Pete: random accidents that just happen to occur when people choose to do things like speeding or drunk-driving or overtaking westbound into the setting sun or driving while tired or driving unroadworthy cars, or driving after being told by courts that their driving-style was "careless" or "dangerous". Totally unavoidable, right?

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  4. I think Peter Clarke was deliberately using dishonest (rehearsed) rhetoric to wriggle out of a difficult situation. His answer to Leveson was intended to convey nothing, explain nothing and mean nothing. So I don't think we need to trouble ourselves with its application to anything - least of all to cycling.

    There is no doubt that police action can reduce road casualties of all kinds. In general casualties are predictable and their frequencies and seriousness can therefore be reduced with intelligent action.

    So, Pete, I think your point is misplaced as well as wrong.

  5. I think Pete had his tongue firmly in his cheek.

    On 7/7/05, 57 people died and many more weere injured by the last significant terrorist incident to take place in the UK. Since that awful day, here have been more than 57 cyclists killed in London by HGVs alone. It typically takes TWO MONTHS for motor vehicles to kill more than 57 pedestrians and cyclists on the UK's roads.

    I would not wish to downplay terrorism, but don't you think that the time, money and legislative attention paid to road deaths - and there is really no such thing as an accident on the roads - all incidents are down to human error in one way or another, whether driver error, poor maintenance etc - is disproportionately small?

    1. One difference between terrorism and killer drivers is that the first group kills by intention; the other kills unintentionally. I am content that prevention, detection and prosecution of these two groups is different.

      But intention or otherwise is no excuse for allowing the more fatal cause to proceed with impunity.

    2. Thanks Paul - yes, I was being sarcastic (hence the LOOK! A TERRORIST! remark). It obviously didn't come across that way!

  6. I'm no lawyer but if, for example, the driver whose driving I describe here - - had killed me (which he easily could have) he would have claimed it was an accident. But it would have been a result of deliberately dangerous, over-aggressive driving. He wouldn't have set out to kill me - but he drove so dangerously round me that he can only have been careless as to whether that was the outcome. That's obviously criminal behaviour, in which the police should take far more interest.

    Terrorism clearly remains a particularly pernicious problem. It deserves more policing resources than would be required to stamp out a roads policing problem that killed similar numbers of deaths and injuries. But Cycling Lawyer is undoubtedly correct to note that it gets disproportionately little police time.

    Of the incidents mentioned in my blogpost above, the police showed little interest in the idiot at the start. When I wrote to the police about the person who deliberately threatened me, my wife and children because we were in an advance stop box, I wasn't afforded the courtesy of a reply. Who knows what the same motorist went on to do to some other unfortunate family?


    1. Had read your blog last night and agree that that driver following you in the one way street was looking to cause an " accident "!

      Policing is about priorities these days , and catching cyclists shooting Red Lights is so much easier than chasing a vehicle doing likewise ! Got to keep those statistics looking good !

      "Cities fit for Cycling " is getting a lot of peoples' POV into view , but are the Poli.s ready to make a difference ?

      Until the Authorities themselves suffer personal loss they will treat Cyclists as a %age below their radar or as the common White Van Man does : "Roadkill"!

  7. May have mentioned this before !

    20mph general urban speed limit would ensure that " Cycle Paths" are not needed in the short term BUT funding will have to be found as it is a choice " Cycle paths " or Cyclist safety in the future !

    Yellow painted road hazards , such as drain pipes and manholes , should also assist the following drivers to understand the cyclists' need to move to the centre of the road ! Better a few seconds lost than delayed by an accident or locked up for a variety of offences !

    Until the Police change their priorities and assist " Everyday Vulnerable Road Users of the Population " then the smallish element of inconsiderate & selfish drivers will continue to create mayhem and statistics !

    1. I cycled one night down Brixton Road next to a British Transport Police car. Motorists were coming into the advance stop areas, driving talking on their 'phones, breaking all kinds of road rules. I eventually concluded they were ignoring it all because they were interested only in crime on the railways or underground.

      Then a cyclist ran a red light, their blue lights lit up and they hared after him. I considered stopping and suggesting to the police that, while I disapproved of the red light jumping, I'd been puzzled by their ignoring all the other offences that had been going on. I guessed, however, that such an intervention was not going to be a quick route to happiness and left the pedalling miscreant to his fate.

      The incident illustrated neatly, however, the police's priorities.


    2. ^^^ Gobsmacked! Selective blindness on BTPs part there.