Cyclists demonstrate against CPS and driver apathy

photo The driver of the lorry that killed a cyclist in Greenwich in May 2009 has never come forward

Around 30 London cyclists, including representatives from LCC, assembled and then handed in a statement of protest (see below) at the Crown Prosecution Service, 50 Ludgate Hill, London, on Friday 3 July 2009.

The protestors were objecting to the lax treatment of motorists who kill vulnerable road users.

Charlie Lloyd, LCC cycling development officer, said at the protest, "It's essential that drivers involved in fatal crashes are made to account for their actions fully in court. Too often  families are left with no understanding of how the victim died or why drivers escape prosecution.

"Causing death by careless driving is a new offence which should be used in every case. All road users must be made aware of their duty of care to avoid causing death or injury."
The 3rd July was the first anniversary of the death of Berkshire cyclist Anthony Maynard, who was run over from behind in 2008 by a van driver who claimed in his defence that he didn't see Anthony. Another cyclist was seriously injured in the incident.

Reading Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute the driver, prompting Reading Cycling Club, of which the two cyclists were members, to organise a demonstration outside Reading CPS on the anniversary of the collision.

The London protest was to show solidarity with the Reading cyclists and to highlight the importance.

Demonstration statement

We are cyclists of London, gathered here this afternoon, in a quiet protest and short vigil in memory of all our fellow cyclists killed by the drivers of vehicles; several more during this year already.

In particular we think of Eilidh Cairns, 30, who was killed at Notting Hill Gate by a tipper lorry driver on 5th February this year, and of Anthony Maynard, 25, who was killed north of Henley by a van driver exactly a year ago.

We make our protest here at the London Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), to remind Ms Dru Sharpling, Chief Crown Prosecutor, of the decision of her colleagues at Reading CPS, when last year they inappropriately, remissly, and to our minds unforgivably, ordered that the van driver who struck Anthony (and his companion) from behind would not face charges. We do not hold Anthony’s life so cheap.

You, the CPS at London, will shortly be reviewing the case of Eilidh Cairns who was also hit from behind on a one-way straight road.
Our protest is on behalf of all cyclists.

Across Europe, motorists are presumed to be at fault in motorist-cyclist collisions. In the UK, even faced with prime evidence of a dead body, a driver does not have to prove his innocence. Instead, the CPS decides whether charges can successfully be brought against the motorist, and can then choose to drop a case entirely.

In Anthony’s case (and as is claimed in Eilidh’s case, and in the cases of many others) the van driver’s defence that he simply didn't see the cyclists was accepted by the CPS as an adequate accounting for the death of a highly principled and well-loved citizen in the prime of his life.

In a time when the nation as a whole is encouraged to exercise, and use forms of transport other than the car, and when climate change is seen as a real threat, cyclists need to feel that they have the full and equal protection of the law when on public roads, and not a law apparently interpreted (or simply set aside) to the maximum advantage of the driver, no matter how culpably careless.

The CPS was in dereliction of its duty last year. We fervently hope that it will adopt a different perspective, starting with the forthcoming case of Eilidh. Allowing drivers to kill with complete impunity just will not do, and does not meet the nation’s needs and priorities.

We append a quotation from Christopher G Thompson, District Crown Prosecutor (Oxford Rural) in a letter sent by him to one of the Reading Cycling Club committee who had written deploring this failure to prosecute (dated 16 March 2009):

“The fact that no prosecution has followed in this case does not in any way mean or suggest that drivers may drive carelessly around cyclists or that cyclists will not be afforded the protection of the law where appropriate.”

In what must have been a considered letter, the phrase affording cyclists the protection of the law “where appropriate” is chilling: NO! We demand the protection of the law. Full stop.