The Cycling Lawyer gives evidence to road enforcement committee

Martin Porter (a London-based cyclist blogging as thecyclingsilk who also happens to be a real lawyer, rather than someone who just spends an unhealthy amount of time Googling UK legislation like your humble editor here) has published today the written evidence he gave to the Commons Transport Select Committee on Road Traffic Law Enforcement. Or lack of enforcement, more to the point.

You can read the full thing here, and you should, as it paints a damning portrait of the Criminal Prosecution Service and a couple of southern-English police forces. I’ve picked some highlights below.

More energy is directed by enforcement agencies into providing the false appearance of action and making excuses for inaction than into prosecuting offenders.

Bad driving around cyclists is what makes many fearful of riding on the road. Close passes, cutting up, mobile telephone use, speeding, tailgating and other bad driving behaviour all contribute to a subjective feeling that cycling is a hazardous activity. Near misses put cyclists off ever taking, or returning, to the roads.

Some police forces, like Surrey, now have a policy of not prosecuting bad drivers unless injury or damage has resulted.

The Metropolitan Police actively discourage reports of bad driving by making it a requirement that reports can only be made in person at one of their dwindling number of manned police stations where a long queue is inevitable. A web based reporting system, ‘Roadsafe’, was set up by the Metropolitan Police, which initially invited complaints of bad driving based upon video evidence. Despite hundreds, probably thousands, of well evidenced reports of bad driving backed by video evidence, no prosecutions have resulted…. Roadsafe is a site designed to deflect cyclists with evidence on film from making a formal report.

Lack of resources is used as an excuse for inaction. In no other area of criminal law would a lack of resources be mentioned as an excuse. This betrays an underlying conviction that dangerous and careless driving are less important, and deserve a lower priority than ‘proper’ crime.

Often, a completely untenable view of the law is taken [by the police] which is so bizarre that either it is held without troubling to take elementary legal advice or it is not genuinely held but intended to bamboozle the complainant.

The full piece is backed up with statements from various police forces and case studies.

Martin ends with three recommendations:

  1. Police forces and the CPS should start treating driving offences which “harm, endanger or threaten cyclists or pedestrians” seriously, treating each case on its merits rather than applying blanket policies. Such offences should be made easier to report, and feedback should be given faster.
  2. Central government should ensure action 1 is being followed by all relevant agencies.
  3. Until action 1 and 2 are in place, it should be more straightforward for victims of driving offences to bring about private prosecutions. These are effectively blocked at present as only the police can obtain driver details from registration plate information, and forces rarely tell victims that they won’t be proceeding with a case before the 14-day private prosecution window has passed.

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