The vast majority of cyclists in the UK will tell you that the courts are exceedingly lenient towards drivers who endanger, or even injure or kill cyclists. Even when convicted, drivers regularly plead “exceptional hardship” and are therefore permitted to keep driving.
At this stage, it’s easy to get angry at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and accuse them of failing to do their job. In a way, you would be right, but not for the reasons you may imagine.
The CPS is absolutely overstretched, and under-resourced. This means that is is normal for prosecutors to see a case docket for the very first time when they walk into the court room. Yes, that means they’re often woefully ill-prepared, and as a result, it’s inevitable that some guilty drivers walk away completely free.
I cannot suddenly provide CPS with the resources it needs – remember, an under-resourced justice system simply serves the interests of the law-breakers – and even if we all co-operated, CPS will remain as stretched as it is.
I remember what my driving was like, before I returned to cycling and learned first-hand how terrifying close passes can be. To my shame, I admit I’ve given at least some cyclists close passes all those years ago. Like the vast majority of people, I simply had no idea.
Prosecutors in CPS are no different, and unless they themselves are cyclists, they would be equally unaware of how bad driving can be.
If our starting point is an open acknowledgement that CPS staff, through no fault of their own, are underprepared, and add to that the fact that – like most people – prosecutors may themselves have a car-centric view of the world, the fact that courts are so lenient towards drivers shouldn’t be any surprise.
We can change that!
Imagine if every prosecutor is provided with ready-made arguments, to counter the usual excuses drivers used, and are provided with facts, figures, evidence ready-to-hand. Imagine if they’re supplied references to previous cases they can refer the court to.
This can reasonably easily be done by an organisation with the reach and respect that Cycling UK has, and I am asking you to contact your local branch of Cycling UK to get behind this. Together, though we cannot do anything about CPS being overstretched, we can give them some tools to help them do their job more effectively.
Will you help? Please email a link to this post to your local Cycling UK branch, or to their central office. Oh, and while you’re there, please consider becoming a member, if you haven’t done so already. Membership offers a great many advantages, and I remain very happy that I’m a member.