A Partner at one of Essex’s leading law firms has said that policymakers should avoid making knee-jerk changes following calls for the offence of death by dangerous driving to be extended to cyclists.
The calls followed a recent, widely-publicised case, in which prosecutors relied on charges of manslaughter and wanton and furious driving to secure a conviction against cyclist, Charlie Alliston, who killed a pedestrian whilst riding a track bike on the road without a front brake. The cyclist was ultimately acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of wanton and furious driving.
Jeremy Sirrell, a Partner at Palmers Solicitors, which has offices in Basildon, Rayleigh, Thurrock and South Woodham Ferrers, said the existing law has developed without consideration of pedal cyclists and so it may not be appropriate to extend it in this way.
He said: “The law on dangerous driving has evolved entirely without consideration of the pedal cyclist and is a very serious offence, reflecting the potential harm that a motor vehicle driven dangerously can do.
“Although there are tragic cases in which pedal cyclists kill people – pedestrians – they are rare. They are rare because a pedal cycle simply is not remotely in the same category as even the smallest motor vehicle.”
Nevertheless, he was of the view that the law should take into account the potential danger of badly ridden pedal cycles.
“Even so, it is clear that a pedal cycle ridden dangerously can cause serious injury or even death and it would be perverse to allow the rider to escape the consequences of his or her action just because they were on a pushbike instead of a motorbike,” he added.
According to Jeremy, there would be a number of implications if cyclists were to be charged with such an offence.
He said: “The Crown would have needed to prove the offence of dangerous driving in accordance with the more modern law of driving practices and in accordance with current case law, making a prosecution much easier to judge in terms of evidence needed, the likelihood of success and likely penalties. It would become a mainstream case, rather than a super rare outlier.”
He added that this would not necessarily lead to a longer sentence, as any sentencing guidelines would be likely to take account of the fact that it was a pedal cycle, rather than a motor vehicle.