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Killer cyclists face tougher jail terms under a crackdown proposed by the transport minister.
Grant Shapps wants to close an ‘archaic’ legal hole, meaning riders who kill pedestrians could face up to two years in prison.
Mr Shapps wants reckless cyclists to be treated the same as reckless motorists, and ‘a selfish minority’ will attack aggressive drivers. He said an overhaul was needed to “impress cyclists with the real damage they can do when speed is combined with lack of care”.
Under his proposal, a new law on causing death from dangerous cycling would be included in the forthcoming Transport Act, to be tabled before parliament in the fall.
Grieving relatives of victims of murderous cyclists have “waited too long for this straightforward measure,” he told The Mail+.
In February 2016, Kim Briggs was killed by reckless cyclist Charlie Alliston (pictured) after sustaining “catastrophic injuries” when he struck her while crossing OId Street in east London.
Kim Briggs was killed when she was hit by a bicycle in 2016
Campaigners have called for cyclists to be treated the same as drivers since mother of two Kim Briggs, 44, was killed crossing a road in east London in February 2016. She was hit by Charlie Alliston, then 18, who was illegally riding a fixed-wheel bicycle with no front brakes at 18 mph.
He was given only 18 months in prison because there was no law to charge him with the equivalent of causing death by dangerous driving.
Prosecutors had to rely on the Offenses Against The Person Act 1861, which was intended to cover horse-drawn carriage offenses, to secure a conviction for causing bodily harm by “driving intentionally or furiously.” Motorists, on the other hand, can be sentenced to life imprisonment for causing death through dangerous driving.
Mr Shapps said the current “archaic law” means prosecutions of murderous cyclists must rely on “a legal relic from the horse-drawn era or invoke manslaughter, a draconian option.”
He added: ‘We need the bicycle equivalent of death from dangerous riding to close a gap in the law and show cyclists the real damage they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care.
‘For example, there are traffic lights to regulate all traffic. But a selfish minority of cyclists seem to believe that they are somehow immune to red light.
“We must take firm action against this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this simple measure.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he wants to close an ‘archaic’ legal loophole, meaning reckless cyclists who kill pedestrians could only face up to two years in prison
Shapps lashes out at ‘a selfish minority’ of aggressive riders, saying the overhaul is needed to ‘impress cyclists with the real damage they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care’
He added: ‘As we enter an era of prolonged mass cycling, a good thing through and through, we need to make clear to cyclists – too often the victims of careless or reckless driving themselves – that the obligation to first place for each road equally applies. user.
“There can be no exceptions.”
Mr Shapps may no longer be transport minister when the new prime minister, announced on September 5, reshuffles the cabinet.
But it is clear that he will urge any successor to go ahead with the proposal. The change would also depend on the new prime minister backing it.
Matthew, the husband of Ms Briggs, who has campaigned for the change, said the review would reduce the suffering of the victims’ families. He added: ‘Nothing will ever take away the sadness and immense pain that comes with a tragedy such as a road accident.
“But right now, when they’re trying to prosecute, the law is so archaic and that only adds to your grief because you want simplicity, clarity and efficiency in the process.” It’s not just about the punishment – there certainly has to be an equivalent in the punishment available to judge whether it’s a car, truck or bike that killed someone. The mode of transport shouldn’t matter.’
In 2019, 470 pedestrians died on the country’s roads. This dropped to 346 in 2020 during the pandemic. Only a handful of cases in recent years were bicycles, but Mr Shapps even said ‘one life’ [lost] is too much’.
Charlie Alliston punched Kim Briggs while cycling in East London – he was jailed for 18 months
Prominent road traffic attorney Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, said the manslaughter legislation was not aimed at prosecuting road deaths caused by cyclists and that juries would likely find people not guilty, reinforcing the need for new laws.
He said: ‘I have been asking the government to do this for a long time. There must be equality between all road users – motorists, cyclists, e-scooter users.
‘How perverse is it that there is currently no speed limit for cyclists? You can have a 20mph limit, but many fit cyclists can go faster than that – but there’s nothing to stop or deter them.
‘There is also no limit for driving under the influence for cyclists. The law regarding motorists is moving fast, but the law regarding cyclists remains in the Middle Ages.’
In January, Mr Shapps’ department announced controversial changes to the highway code, giving cyclists priority over motorists.
This means that motorists must give way to cyclists at intersections. Cyclists are also encouraged to ride in the middle of the road on certain roads to be more visible.
Groups of cyclists must pedal two side by side under the changes, with overtaking motorists having to keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between the car and the nearest bicycle.
The teenage biker who killed a mother of two
In a second case, Peter McCombie, 72, died of head injuries after being hit by cyclist Ermir Loka (pictured before the incident), 23, as he was walking home from work in East London in July 2020.
The mother of two, Kim Briggs, was shot and killed by 18-year-old cyclist Charlie Alliston in East London in 2016.
Alliston, who hit Mrs Briggs, 44, when crossing a road, was given just 18 months in prison because there was no legal equivalent of death by dangerous driving for cyclists.
Her campaigning husband Matthew said he had received support from politicians for a change in the law, but added: ‘I think Covid and Brexit have got in the way of everything and I’m so glad Grant Shapps tackled this.
“This is a gap in the law that needs to be closed. The more people cycle, these things will happen, and in a modern civilized society there should be laws to deal with everything.”
In a second case, Peter McCombie, 72, died of head injuries after being hit by cyclist Ermir Loka, 23, as he was walking home from work in East London in July 2020.
CCTV footage shows Mr McCombie stopped at a central island in the road, waiting for a green pedestrian light. Another cyclist narrowly avoided him before Loka ran a red light and hit him.
After the crash, Loka, an Albanian who had entered the country illegally, drove away. He was found not guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison for inflicting bodily harm by ‘driving intentionally or furiously’.
A third incident involved retired teacher Jane Stone, who was left for dead after being hit by cyclist Stewart McGinn, 29.
The 79-year-old was hit by McGinn while waiting to cross a road near her home in Monmouth, South Wales.
Instead of stopping, he got back on his bike and rode off. Ms Stone died of serious head injuries in hospital after the crash on June 7. McGinn was sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to “driving intentionally or furiously.”