Michael Mason's family "let down at every stage" by Met Police
The family of Michael Mason, the 70 year old cyclist killed in a crash on Regent Street in 2014, have had further distress as reports from the Police that the driver would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have been retracted.
24 hours before an anniversary remembrance vigil for Mr Mason the police press office reported that the case would go to the CPS. At the vigil organised by Stop Killing Cyclists Mr Mason's daughter Anna Tatton-Brown spoke movingly of his life. At that time everyone hoped that there could be a prosecution. Those hopes have now been dashed by the latest information from the Police.
Today Anna told us how distressed they now are:
"At every stage now we have been let down by the Met police; from an insultingly soft interview of the driver, to the original decision not to prosecute despite the convincing evidence of their own expert, to this shilly shallying over whether or not to refer the case to the CPS.
"The Met allowed us to hold a vigil on the anniversary of my father's death thinking that we had had some small victory and that justice might yet be done.
"That now appears to be totally wrong. None of this has been communicated to us first but played out in the media. I have heard nothing from my so-called family liaison officer since November. This is no way to treat anyone, let alone a family dealing with the recent traumatic death of a loved one.
"Now, to add insult to injury, they seem to blame my dad, with his lack of high viz and helmet, for his own death , rather than the woman who drove into him (who the police describe rather subjectively as a 'Careful and cautious driver'). It is a travesty of justice. What are the Met playing at here?"
On 25 February 2014 Mr Mason was hit from behind, by a car driven by Gale Purcell in Regent Street. He was immediately in front of the driver's seat yet Ms Purcell stated at the inquest that she was "totally unaware of the cyclist" before her car sent him crashing into the road. Mr Mason died in hospital 17 days later.
Ms Purcell has not been prosecuted for any driving offence. The police never referred her case to the Crown Prosecution Service. That led to a formal complaint from Mr. Mason's family about the Police inaction.
On Friday the Evening Standard reported that Michael's family had won a review of the decision not to prosecute. This week the police revised the information sent from their press office, removing the assurance that the matter had been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.
On 12th March the police press office sent the an email suggesting success, Evening Standard reporter @RossLydall posted it to twitter. This week the notice was re-issued with the last 11 words deleted. In effect the Police have refused the family's plea for a prosecution for careless driving.
In a letter to the family's lawyer, Martin Porter, the police have apologised for the fact that the information was reported to the press before he had been informed about the outcome of the formal complaint. They don't appear to have apologised for the fact that the first report was incorrect, raising hopes then dashing them.
No hi-vis or helmet
In the report on the investigation into Mr Mason's death the police make strong references to the fact that Mr Mason was not wearing a hi-vis jacket nor a helmet. Neither of these are required for cycling in London. The police appear to have made value judgements about the effectiveness of hi-vis and helmets without allowing the evidence to be examined and tested in court.
There is little definitive research on the effectiveness of hi-vis jackets in well lit urban environments. In the CCTV video of Mr Mason riding on Regent street before the crash he is immediately recognisable as a cyclist. There are bright lights on the front and back of his bike, his dark shape stands out starkly against the bright backround of one of the best lit streets in London.
Whether or not Mr Mason was wearing a helmet might conceivably have made a difference to the outcome of his injuries. On the rare occaisons when the effectiveness of helmets have been examined in courts, they have not been proven to prevent death. In this case the medical evidence of the type of injury suffered by the 70 year old Mr Mason has not been examined in court. Helmets offer little or no protection against some internal brain injuries which often feature in this type of trauma.
If the police view was that a helmet would have prevented Mr Mason's death then they may have had doubts about a charge of "causing death by careless driving". The medical outcome of the crash is not a factor in determining whether the standard of driving was dangerous, careless or of an acceptable standard.
The police summary of the evidence points out that there are contradictory witness statements and that there is no CCTV coverage of the actual collision or the few seconds before that. The summary concludes "There is no evidence available to say that Ms Purcell did a deliberate act or did anything that was negligent in relation her driving to cause this collision"
London Cycling Campaign has met with the officers concerned with this case. LCC Campaigns Officer Charlie Lloyd commented, "We made the point that in our view carelessness while driving or riding on the road is a crime and that a collision is sufficient evidence of carelessness.
"The police maintain that because they lack witness or CCTV evidence of the actual collision they cannot say whether or not Mr Mason was riding in a careless way. Our view is that the law requires a duty of care by all road users. In this case it is hard to understand that a driver who did not see a cyclist immediately in front of her before hitting him was driving in an acceptable way."