The scales of justice
Are the scales of justice still balanced?

The Michael Mason case - why, what happened, and where now?

A private prosecution ended in the driver's acquittal, but why did Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund bring the case, what was the evidence, and where do we go with Road Justice campaigning from here? It's a long read, but Duncan Dollimore answers those questions here.

A three year journey from Regent Street to the Old Bailey

Last week Gail Purcell was acquitted at the Old Bailey of causing the death by careless driving of 70 year-old teacher Michael Mason. On 25 February 2014 Michael, known as Mick to his friends, was cycling along London’s Regent Street when he was hit from behind by the Nissan Juke driven by Ms Purcell. He sustained fatal injuries, never recovered consciousness, and passed away in hospital 19 days later.

Unusually, this case was not prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They didn’t refuse to prosecute, they were just never asked to consider doing so as the Metropolitan Police wouldn’t refer the file to them or ask for advice.There was a trial at the Old Bailey because Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF) stepped forward to pursue a private prosecution in lieu of any action by a public prosecutor.

I was in court throughout the trial last week, have been involved in this case for much of the last year, and have had numerous conversations with Mick’s family, particularly his daughter Anna Tatton-Brown. Accordingly, in light of the not guilty verdict, I should perhaps explain why CDF chose to pursue this case, why it was right to do so, what the jury heard last week, and the changes that Cycling UK believe are now needed. As you might guess, this will be a long read.

The well-lit street

I will start with the issues which were not in dispute. The collision occurred at around 6.23pm. Mick was cycling north on Regent Street. It was night time, but we know from CCTV footage that both his lights were working. His bike was fitted with the required reflectors and was road legal. He was wearing dark clothing, and his lack of hi-viz or reflective clothing was something the police believed was significant.

The street lights were on and the road was illuminated by lighting from the retail business along both sides of a well-lit street. Ms Purcell was also travelling north along Regent Street. She can’t say what happened, because she never saw Mick.

She didn’t see him as she drove along Regent Street, with the gap narrowing between her car and Mick’s bicycle. She didn’t see him when she hit him, in what the experts described as a linear collision (i.e: the bicycle was directly in front of the car rather than at an angle), which caused damage to the front right hand side of Ms Purcell’s car. She still didn’t see him when a large dent was caused to the right hand corner of her bonnet, in front of her driving position, which the collision experts did not believe was caused by Mick’s bicycle, leaving only one alternative.

A bag of potatoes

“I just didn’t see him”, was Ms Purcell’s response in a roadside police interview under caution. Eighteen days later in a further interview, she explained that she heard an impact to the right of her car, but she “didn’t know if it was a pedestrian or if something had come from the sky, a bag of potatoes”. Ms Purcell repeated that she just didn’t see a cyclist at any time.

Last week, Ms Purcell’s evidence in court reflected what she had said in her original police interview: “I don’t understand what happened”. Mick’s family would probably say the same thing. Unfortunately, we can’t ask Mick what happened, Ms Purcell just can’t explain it, and the CCTV evidence doesn’t tell us what happened in the final seconds before the collision.

CCTV from further south on Regent Street allowed the collision experts to calculate that Mick was cycling at an average speed between 10 and 12 mph, to a point 28 metres prior to the blood stains on the road which marked where he landed post collision. Ms Purcell was estimated to be driving at 25 mph, with a margin of error in the calculations of 2-3 mph either way.

Failure to look or failure to see?

What we do know is that Mick moved across to the outside lane as he passed a bus stop on the inside lane, and that he was in the outside lane when Ms Purcell’s car hit him from behind. The question was, why didn’t she see him, and was that failure to do so careless?

In the absence of CCTV showing what happened in the seconds prior to the collision, and Ms Purcell’s inability to assist, the court heard evidence last week from 11 witnesses, all of them pedestrians on Regent Street at the time of the collision.

Here we move from undisputed facts to accounts which differ. Understandably, most of these witnesses were going about their business and reacted to the sound of the collision. Nobody had a clear view of both bicycle and car in those fatal last seconds, and it has to be acknowledged that there were inconsistencies between the evidence of people who witnessed a brief traumatic event.

In the air and visible to some, but not to the driver

There were however some common themes. Seven of the witnesses gave evidence about seeing Mick in the air after the impact, arguably significant given that Ms Purcell didn’t.

One witness described the collision occurring more towards the driver’s side of the car, and that Mick went “over the windscreen then bounced off that side of the car”. A second said he saw Mick being hit by the car and “going up in the air and backwards – up the car, over the wing mirror, into the road”. Describing it as a substantial impact, he added that Mick was “thrown up into the air, catapulted across the bonnet, and subsequently died”.

Unused material and 'irrelevant' witnesses

The police had witness statements from these two witnesses when they refused, despite a formal request from Mick’s family, to refer the case to CPS for review. Four witnesses, however, gave evidence last week who CDF’s lawyers Edmonds Marshall McMahon located and obtained statements from. The police had their contact details, as they were in the police unused material schedule which CDF received shortly before the trial, but the police seemingly decided they had nothing relevant to say.

In evidence last week, one of the apparently irrelevant four described Mick’s bicycle sliding over the front bumper on the right side of the car, and Mick falling to the front right of the car, landing towards the island in the middle of the road. Another described “two things flying through the air – I was fairly certain one of the objects was a person”. A third said she “saw the man flying through the road”, and that “the man became airborne”. These were witnesses identified from unused material the police did not intend to rely on, unearthed by CDF’s diligent lawyers.

But Ms Purcell saw nothing in front of her, nothing on or over her bonnet, and nothing flying through the air. She did, however, know that there had been some event, as in her evidence she described hearing a loud crash or bang, and in interview, the "bag of potatoes" which came from the sky. So, one of the questions last week was what Ms Purcell did following the collision?

Time taken to stop

In their evidence, six of the witnesses made reference either to Ms Purcell continuing after the collision, an initial impression that this was a hit and run, or that she was not intending to stop. She did stop, but you might think that her reaction to the event would be something to consider when examining her awareness of her surroundings, and whether or not she had been or was distracted.

One of the four witnesses the police considered irrelevant gave evidence that Ms Purcell’s car continued up Regent Street, that he ran up the street after the car which was stopped at the lights, and “stood in front of the car and held out my hand and asked the driver to stop and pull over – I indicated which way to turn the wheel to help her park the car”.

He said that his first impression had been that she was leaving the scene, which was why he subsequently took a photograph of the number plate. Remember, the police didn’t think he was a relevant witness.

Other witnesses referred variously to the car moving on, thinking initially it may have been a hit and run, and the car pulling up at or through the lights, suggesting a somewhat delayed reaction to the thing which she heard but did not see, but which caused a dent in her car bonnet.

Was speed a factor?

When trying to fathom why Ms Purcell failed to see Mick, an obvious question was whether her speed was appropriate for the traffic conditions. Whilst it was not alleged that she was exceeding the speed limit at the time of the collision, the limit is just that, a limit not a target, and a number of witnesses who provided statements to the police also gave evidence last week about whether Ms Purcell’s speed was appropriate.

Asked about Ms Purcell’s car’s speed one said, “it was above 20 yes, it was travelling relatively fast for coming up to traffic lights”.

Another that she “saw a car that was going particularly fast – it appeared to be going fast in comparison with the other cars on the road”. The witness had been planning to cross the road to McDonalds, but, confirming that “the vehicle was definitely travelling fast”, said that as she watched the car she “made the decision not to cross the road because I would have been run over if I did”. A third witness added that “the vehicle was moving, I believe it was roughly 30 mph”.

There to be seen

As well as the witnesses who were on Regent Street, the court also heard evidence last week from two collision investigators, one of whom (now retired) conducted the original police collision investigation, PC Brian Gamble.

I will come to his evidence shortly, but it is interesting first to recall what he said in his written report, which the police had when they declined to seek CPS advice and closed the case, namely that, “In my opinion, if Ms Purcell had looked through her windscreen ahead of her vehicle, then a view of Mr Mason on his pedal cycle in the road was available to her”. Put bluntly, Gamble’s report suggested that Mick was there to be seen. Tragically, he wasn’t, but why?

Helmet, hi-viz and the visible car behind you

The police’s answer to that question is demonstrated within the investigating officer’s report in response to a complaint submitted by Martin Porter QC on behalf of Mick’s family, seeking a review of the decision not to refer the case to the CPS for charging advice. That report states that the rationale for not seeking charging advice included that:

1.       Mr Mason was wearing dark clothing, the collision having taken place during the hours of darkness;

2.       Mr Mason was not wearing a cycle helmet, the cause of death being head injury;

3.       Whilst there was always debate as to whether Mr Mason was there to be seem, there was no argument as to Ms Purcell’s vehicle being visible;

4.       CCTV corroborated how busy the area in general was, with both motorists and pedestrians;

5.       Mr Mason was displaying lights on his bike, but these lights could have easily be lost to a driver’s sight in a busy London road in the dark where there are numerous other lights displayed.

Disgraceful victim blaming

My view, and I know Mick's family agree, is that the police explanations outlined above amounted to disgraceful victim blaming, in respect of which a police force with an illustrious history and reputation such as the Metropolitan Police should be ashamed.

Ignore for today the arguments regarding the merits of helmets, because the absence of a helmet is in any event irrelevant to Ms Purcell’s standard of driving.

As to the other excuses, it seemed that the police view was well, you know, it’s a busy road, a driver can’t be expected to see every other road user, even if they do have lights. If the silly cyclist chooses to cycle at rush hour without hi-viz what do they expect? And anyway, if he’d looked behind, he should have seen Ms Purcell’s car – it was there to be seen as she approached him from behind.

Ignoring guidance - because we can

CPS guidance indicates that charging decisions in fatal road collision cases should be referred to the CPS and be made by a senior crown prosecutor. The police in this case refused to do so, despite repeated requests, so CDF, after consulting with Mick’s family, sought legal advice about and subsequently commenced a private prosecution of Ms Purcell.

That took us to the Old Bailey last week. You will remember what the other witnesses said, but let’s get back to PC Gamble.

The five second rule

How long does it take you to react when you’re driving?

The car in front brakes suddenly. The pedestrian walks into the road without looking. How quickly do you react if you are paying attention?

Imagine you are driving along a well-lit city road in the evening. It could be London, Manchester or any other city, with shops and other retail outlets emitting lighting. There are streetlights and other vehicle lights. It’s night time, but is it right to say it’s dark?

You’re driving at around 25 mph and something happens further down the road. It might be a drunk stumbling into the street, a car pulling out and stalling, or even a bag of potatoes falling from the sky onto someone’s bonnet. You have to react. Now count from zero to five seconds. That’s how long Gamble says it might take you to react and then take avoiding action.

It appears you can ignore all that stuff in the Highway Code about stopping distances; Gamble says anything up to five seconds to do something to avoid the child who runs into the road is fine.

His evidence was that reaction times when driving, for most people, are between one to two seconds, but that’s in daylight, and it “could be three to four seconds at night time”. On top of that, it’s not just about reacting, you then need to take avoiding action, and that could add another second. So, Gamble’s time to react and take avoiding action is anything up to five seconds. This hadn't been in his original written expert witness report: he simply added it verbally in court.

Additionally, according to Gamble, the lack of reflective clothing “could affect reaction times”, and in any event, when considering hazards, “the cycle is smaller than a car, so you have to take into account that the hazard is smaller”.

Didn't see or don't recall

But let’s get back to why Ms Purcell did not see Mick, because she didn’t claim she saw him but had no time to react; she said she never saw him at any time pre- or post-collision. Gamble had an answer for that. You see, “although she said she didn’t see him, it’s possible she didn’t recall seeing him. It’s possible that she braked but had no recollection”.

That’s despite Gamble’s earlier evidence that he found no evidence of any evasive action or emergency braking by Ms Purcell.

If you are screaming whilst reading this, saying that drivers need to be aware of what’s around them, you need to reflect on Gamble’s evidence concerning potential hazards, and the driver’s perspective. As Gamble explained, “from a driving point of view, you’ve got to take in a number of potential hazards. With such a large amount to process it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to miss a potential hazard, and the cyclist presents a smaller hazard”.

Blasé about smaller hazards

But if she drives this route daily, surely Ms Purcell should have been aware that cyclists are likely to be on Regent Street?

Wait, Gamble says that if you drive the same busy route regularly “you can get blasé about it without realising. We can go along a route we are used to, they should be aware and probably are aware, and unless something is right in front of you, you might not react to it”.

If being blasé means being indifferent to something, then you might wonder whether being indifferent to other road users whilst driving suggests a lack of care, which is careless. Not according to Gamble. There’s lots for a driver to see, cyclists are small, we all get blasé, and it’s understandable that we don’t see anything that’s not right in front of us. Even then, we might have seen it but just can’t recollect doing so. If we do see it, count to five; we’ve got that long to do something.

A case to answer

Notwithstanding the evidence Gamble gave, and the ultimate not guilty verdict, I believe CDF was right to bring this case, a decision vindicated by the Judge on the third day of the trial.

Following the conclusion of the prosecution evidence, the defence lawyers made an application to dismiss the case on the basis that there was no case to answer: in other words, there was insufficient evidence upon which a jury could properly convict. That application is made to a Judge in the absence of the jury, so they don’t know that it’s been made if the Judge rejects the defence application, which is exactly what the Judge did.

The implication of this is that the Judge accepted that this case was properly brought to court, and that it was right that a jury heard the evidence and reached a verdict. What the police have failed to recognise is how badly that reflects on their decision not even to refer the case to the CPS for advice. Who knows, the CPS might just have suggested the police take statements from the witnesses CDF’s lawyers managed to find.

Nobody prosecutes a case or commences litigation expecting to lose, but the outcome of such cases is never guaranteed. Sometimes it is necessary for campaign groups to grasp the nettle and champion a cause. The only alternative in this case would have been to roll over and accept some appalling victim blaming by the police, an irrational and flawed decision not to refer the case to the CPS, and a failure to put a case before a court which the Judge accepted required a jury decision.

CDF was right to prosecute

Last week was quite an emotional week in my life, and I did not even know Mick. His daughter Anna sat in court throughout the case, listening to evidence regarding blood stains, her father flying through the air, and yet again, his dark clothing. Her dignity throughout this case has been truly humbling.

Despite the outcome, Anna and her family believe that bringing a private prosecution was the right decision. I just wish the police would reflect on why it was necessary for a charity to do this, and the assumptions which influenced their refusal to seek CPS advice. There is currently no indication that they will do so.

The feeling is that cyclists are both vulnerable on the road, and then vulnerable in the judicial system...many feel that there is a huge blind spot in the justice system with regard to cyclists."

Nigel Wynn, Cycling Weekly news reporter

Success and failure

There is a Winston Churchill quote that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”, and that is the approach Cycling UK, CDF, other campaign groups, campaigners and anyone who just feels strongly about this case, need to adopt.

There are many problems that need to be addressed which are revealed by this case, and this article is long enough already without me outlining those in detail today. Amongst them however, I would suggest that there are three key issues which must be included in our future Road Justice campaigning, namely that:

1.       The current guidance regarding referral of fatal road collision cases to CPS for charging decisions needs to become a requirement, a rule which police forces can’t simply ignore as they did in this case;

2.       Collision investigation standards are urgently needed, with accreditation and increased transparency as called for by RoadPeace through their collision investigation campaign.

3.       The current classification of careless and dangerous driving offences, how driving standards are assessed, and charging standards, are simply not fit for purpose. They must be changed, with the standard of driving required being more objectively determined. Currently, the law requires jurors to consider whether another driver’s standard of driving fell "below", or "far below" the standard which they believe would be expected of "a careful and competent driver", whatever that standard might be. One person might well think they’re a careful and competent driver as they overtake a cyclist whilst speeding, leaving a 30 cm gap. I would disagree, so our perspectives on what falls "below the competent and careful driver" test will be irreconcilable. We are asking jurors to apply a standard that few understand, and which is far too subjective.

There will be more to follow on where we go with Road Justice campaigning very soon, and we will contacting other campaign groups next week to co-ordinate support and action.

Some of our wider concerns as demonstrated in this case, are well summed up by journalist Nigel Wynn, who covered this case for Cycling Weekly. Commenting to Cycling UK after the trial's conclusion Nigel said: “The feeling is that cyclists are both vulnerable on the road, and then vulnerable in the judicial system...many feel that there is a huge blind spot in the justice system with regard to cyclists.“ I agree, and our goal is to fix this.  

Keep cycling and carry on campaigning

For now, thanks for bearing with me and reading this lengthy article, and huge thanks to all of you who supported CDF’s work on the Mick Mason case. Cycling UK, CDF and Mick’s family are immensely grateful for your support and encouragement.

Keep cycling and carry on campaigning.

DuncanDollimore

Comments

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Was it not possible to shoot

David47's picture

Was it not possible to shoot a video to illustrate how visible a cyclist wearing the type of clothing worn by Mr Mason would have been. It might well have set a useful trend for future police investigations.
It would also have been informative if the same excercise had been repeated with a cyclist in hi viz clothing to compare the difference.

I don't agree that the CDF

bikeman12's picture

I don't agree that the CDF was right to bring a private prosecution. The CDF should have directed it's resources to bring sustained pressure on the Met to refer the case to the CPS and then on the CPS to prosecute. By bringing about a private prosecution the CDF allowed the Met to relinquish it's responsibility and put the onus on themselves to prove their case.

The article explains that Mr Mason effectively invited this unfortunate event with the Met asserting that Mr Mason was somehow entirely responsible for the repercussions brought upon himself because of his not wearing highviz clothing should definitely have been challenged. Does this now mean also that drivers are not responsible if they mow down pedestrians and children also not in highviz cothing.

The so called 'expert witness' explains at length why Ms Purcell might not recall seeing him. In my experience you don't recall events when they are uneventful, such as a routine drive to work and not recalling part of the journey ie your mind is wandering - this is lack of recall doesn't occur when your car hits something unless you are badly injured or you chose to 'forget'.

It is my view that Ms Purcell concocted the story that she never saw Mr Mason as a line of defence and that she took no action immediately after the event to somehow explain the real facts that a) she didn't observe him because she wasn't looking/paying attention (ie driving without due care) and b) she attempted to continue her journey until stopped because she thought she could get away with her actions.

This article doesn't fully explain the arguments made by CDF's barrister, perhaps you can add them. In their absence I have to question your barrister's competency.

The CDF shouldn't be letting this one go yet.

Duncan, Many thanks for this

burtthebike's picture

Duncan,

Many thanks for this comprehensive report, and I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for you to sit through that court case, let alone Mr Mason's relatives.

There are any number of questions about this case, most of which you have addressed, but I wonder why PC Gamble is in his job? Any policeman who jumps to quite so many unfounded conclusions hardly seems competent to me.

Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing what further action will be taken. Whatever it is, I believe the support for change is overwhelming, demonstrated by the amount raised for this case.

As you say, the case should

thinkbike's picture

As you say, the case should have been referred to CPS. If it wasn't of course then there may be grounds for complaint against the police. Was one made and what was the resolution?
You refer to the evidence of opinion given by the officer. Accident Investigation Officers are allowed to give their opinions as expert witnesses. Was the officer an AIO?

IMHO this case is pretty straightforward:
A collision occurs in circumstances where the driver has been so inattentive as to fail to notice another road user who was in front of them legitimately using the road with the flow of traffic in a position that he was entitled to be in. It was dark and he was complying with the law with regard to visibility. The cyclist did not back in to the car or dart across in front of the car in an erratic or unpredictable manner.
I cannot understand why such heavy weather has been made of it, nor what justification there was for not taking it to CPS at the very least. If it had gone to CPS, I find it hard to think that CPS would not have considered it a fairly straightforward case for prosecution and a hearing, unless there is stuff that is not clear from the report.
Having got it to court around the system, why was it thrown out? Did the court explain their attitude to it in any way? Ignorance is famously no defence in law. Being unaware or not remembering what happened is surely indicative of a lack of "care and attention" in itself.

I agree, thank you for your

MalcolmMargolis's picture

I agree, thank you for your excellent report.
Why do you think, in view of all this, that the jury very quickly decided on a not guilty verdict?
Do you think it would it have made any difference to the verdict if we had a law of presumed liability as in some other countries?

"Why do you think, in view of

burtthebike's picture

"Why do you think, in view of all this, that the jury very quickly decided on a not guilty verdict?"

I assume that it was the fact that the police didn't send it to the CPS in the first place, with the heavy implication that there was no case, and the slightly incredible "evidence" of PC Gamble, which was mostly assumptions and guesswork, but all victim blaming.

This was a criminal case and

cyclome2's picture

This was a criminal case and I believe presumed liability refers to civil cases.

Criminal cases have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt ("you have to be sure"). This is a very high barrier. From the quick time in which the jury found the defendant not guilty, I suspect the evidence on the prosecution's side was not clear cut enough to pass this barrier. It would be interesting to know what the judge said in his summing up.

On the legality of the lights, I would be surprised if Michael Mason's lights complied with the law. Very few of us (including myself) have lights that comply with the relevant standards, as most lights sold by the industry do not meet the standards. Fortunately, this does not seem to have been picked up on by the defence or the police.

Unfortunately the law is

cyclepeasant's picture

Unfortunately the law is inconsistent. Car drivers have recently been prosecuted for minor damage to Street furniture, stationery vehicles etc. Yet death of a human being on a cycle doesn't warrant forwarding for prosecution.
I wonder if the young lady in micks case has police "connections"
I was involved in a motorcycle accident, the fault of the car driver,and the police conveniently lost the paperwork. I later discovered she knew some high ranking officers in the county force.
Draw your own conclusions!

Thank you for the detailed

Bill.World's picture

Thank you for the detailed report. As has been asked, was any reason given why the innocent verdict was returned?
As has also been expressed if Mike was abiding by the law with his riding and Ms Purcell didn't recall him even being on the road I find it very hard to understand why at least careless driving wasn't proven.
I feel so sad for Mike's family. They have tried so hard to help all of us through their loss only to be let down again by the system that is supposed to protect us all.

I was involved in a case six

John_Stewart's picture

I was involved in a case six years ago on a rural dual carriageway trunk road. You may think that such circumstances were far different to Regent Street but the common factor was that the driver (of an HGV) simply said that he did not see the cyclist. This all happened in a time trial; the driver had moved out and passed Nos. 33, 32 and 31 safely but drove straight into the back of No. 30. He freely admitted that he had not seen him, could give no explanation of that but he was clearly full of remorse and virtually self-despair at what he had done. He was prosecuted for causing death by careless driving, pleaded guilty and was given various penalties including a two-year ban with a re-test required before being able to drive alone again. He lost his job and almost certainly would never get another driving HGVs.

The police put a great deal of effort into trying to discover why the man had not seen the cyclist. (It was daylight and he was using a high-visibility rear light and wearing a day-glo back number). They calculated that he should have been seen from 900m away; the driver's eyesight was tested and found to be satisfactory but somehow the investigation didn't get past the mechanics of sight, it seemed that no-one knew how to deal with the phenomenon of things being seen but the brain not registering that something needed to be done to react to what had been seen. A sad case all round and it seems that we are no further forward now with this problem.

Duncan - thank you for the

Bmassey10's picture

Duncan - thank you for the report and I support the campaign recommendations that you've made. What an ordeal the Mason family has been through.

There is no mention of any mobile phone evidence. Did I miss this or is this another piece of evidence that the Met police deemed irrelevant. My understanding is that in serious accidents, the driver's phone is seized to determine if distraction played a part. Was Gail Purcell distracted by her mobile phone that night?

I'm struggling to understand how a court full of intelligent people swallowed PC Gamble's testimony regarding a 4 second reaction time at night. Nobody who drives a car would accept this explanation from an expert or anyone else. Surely the defence was able to destroy this during cross examination?

Let's say I'm wrong and the jury did rely on PC Gamble's evidence. In cases where the jury has been swayed to a decision by an expert witness who gave flawed evidence there is surely a recourse to an appeal? There are plenty of historical examples of this in England, so given how inconsistent and flawed PC Gamble's testimony is to his previous evidence, the Highway Code and common sense, why is this case different?

Many of PC gamble's assertions can be tested and measured using data, so why wasn't this done and why can't this be done? It beggars belief that the court accepted someone's opinion over facts and data when there is so much scientific data available on human reaction times, braking distances, tyres, road surfaces headlights, street lights etc. etc

Above anything else, the met police conduct has been shameful. The sloppiest of investigations and no-one has been held to account for this. Justice has not been done for Mick and the family and very few questions have been answered.

Gail Purcell can put a brave face on the acquittal but once the celebrations are over with her family and the friends who still talk to her, in those quiet moments when she looks in the mirror, Gail knows deep down the real cause of Mick's death that night and she has to live with that.

If there is the slimmest possibility of an appeal, retrial, legal review or anything else necessary to revisit this and the family support it, I will be one of the first people to donate money again to make this happen.

I really feel for Mick's

richb99999's picture

I really feel for Mick's family.Thank you for not giving up on the case. When you stood up for one cyclist, you stood up for all of us. I guess losing a case like this is always a possibility, but not bringing the case in the first place would have been a much worse option.

It's disgraceful that the police did not refer the case to the CPS. In those circumstances, the CDF was surely right to pursue a private prosecution. I contributed a few quid, and I do not regret a penny. Cyclists have to stick together and keep on fighting to be treated as legitimate road users, who are owed a duty of care. Gail Purcell's driving sounds terrible. I'm glad that the collision investigator PC Gamble is now retired. He sounds like an idiot. But I'm still astonished the jury reached the wrong decision, unanimously, and so quickly. Was the judge's summing up balanced?

It's a bad result, but clearly demonstrates how much change is needed. You have my full support in the future campaigning for Road Justice.

I concur with many of the

auchmill's picture

I concur with many of the points made and offer my respects to Mick's family.

There is an issue with juries. How many of them were car drivers and how many were cyclists? Juries bring all their preconceptions and biases to court and these may well affect how they view a case such as this. There should have been regular, urban cyclists on that jury to balance the likely motoring lobby, but unfortunately it's not possible to challenge juries in this way.

I totally disagree. Juries

John_Stewart's picture

I totally disagree. Juries must be randomly selected to be impartial. They must not be selected by reference to their qualifications, occupation, leisure or sporting interests.

It is a serious dichotomy,

burtthebike's picture

It is a serious dichotomy, when random selection is the cause of lack of impartiality on a jury. Not sure what the answer is, but the current system is heavily weighted in favour of drivers, so the drivers on the jury find other drivers not guilty. What system could possibly ensure impartial juries?

I think that the sight

brianpesda's picture

I think that the sight requirement of drivers needs to be much more stringent. Regular testing of drivers should be mandatory in lighting which includes night-time and bright sunlight conditions. I can pass the current sight test with ease, but I don't drive because I know that I am a hazard to others at night or when the sun is shining into my eyes. These tests should apply to all drivers, not just the elderly.

Does this open a new

BrooksCTC's picture

Does this open a new precedent that failure to see absolves any collision?

My thanks to all and I grieve and continue alongside.

It is absolutely inexplicable

BRY7UPP's picture

It is absolutely inexplicable that the jury was happy to accept all the victim blaming in this case by the so called police expert, especially as the old chestnut about not wearing a helmet was trotted out once again, having been rejected as a blame factor in an accident many times over.
Assuming the jury was working within guidelines set out by the judge, who gave them to the jury based on the law, then the law is clearly insufficient to cover such cases and needs to be changed.
Hopefully the co-operation which is building between CTC and other pro-cycling organisations will enable more influence and, hopefully, money to be brought to bear in future cases. Sadly there will be many more of them before any rebalancing of the justice system comes about.
Please say that there is an intention to appeal this decision. As said by an earlier contributor to this thread, I will gladly make a further donation to the cause, as I'm sure will everyone else who is, quite rightly, incensed by this travesty of justice.

"It is absolutely

burtthebike's picture

"It is absolutely inexplicable that the jury was happy to accept all the victim blaming in this case by the so called police expert,...."

I'm afraid it is only too explicable: a policeman has authority and statements by one are automatically believed by most people, even when they are extremely questionable. It would have been difficult for the prosecuting lawyer to challenge this evidence from a pillar of the community without diminishing their own case in the eyes of the jury.

I am sorry to have to say

John_Stewart's picture

I am sorry to have to say that I feel that PC Gamble's evidence was influenced by his possibly subconscious desire to justify the original refusal of the police to refer the case to the CPS. As has been said above, this "four second reaction time" is nonsense. One's reactions are the same in darkness as in light; it's just that reaction only begins when the circumstances have been seen and recognised.

Like previous writers have

DAVIDSHERBORNE's picture

Like previous writers have mentioned, the critical factor is why the jury decided in the way they did. This type of verdict is unfortunately typical of many cases (and NOT just those involving cyclists). There is a problem, I think, in that the members of the jury try to put themselves in the position of the driver. They then say "have I ever not seen something in front of me"? If the the answer is yes and they know that they are a "good" driver then the accused cannot be guilty.

I do not know how to solve this problem, but it happens over and over again.

Thank you very much for this

gjkathome's picture

Thank you very much for this article. It really is staggering that a jury could acquit after hearing the ridiculous explanations from PC Gamble especially as, I presume, these were effectively challenged in court.

I supported the prosecution, indeed contributed. However, when I did so I had a slightly queasy feeling that I was picking on a particular driver who might consider herself unlucky to be selected for a, very unusual, private prosecution. I wonder if the jury had similar feelings - "the police didn't see the need to prosecute, now a bunch of cyclists has got together to bully a motorist". The verdict was delivered so quickly there can have been very little discussion of the evidence.

I think this possibility of jury bias should be considered before another private prosecution is brought.

Graham Knight

Very distressing and

9996156's picture

Very distressing and annoying. An obvious answer to this question as I'm sure the police checked but considering their form throughout this whole ordeal, who knows?
I assume they checked the drivers phone records to check she wasn't texting or anything?

Thank you for an excellent

CharlesT53's picture

Thank you for an excellent summary of a disappointing outcome. Has a transcript of the hearing and judgment been requested for Counsel's review? There may be good grounds for an appeal and I would be pleased to contribute again. I assume that it would not need to involve Mick's family attending court again.

As a long term London cyclist myself, I would have thought the duty of care rested upon the driver for other less well protected road users and that, regardless of the speed limit, they should drive with due consideration. It seems self-evident the defendant did not drive with enough caution given that Mick was not accused of an unexpected manoeuvre putting him in harms' way. That said as a London driver too I appreciate just how much visual data you have to process - which is why I would avoid Regent Street!

The battle for fairer treatment of cyclists will go on of course.

I too hope that this will be

burtthebike's picture

I too hope that this will be appealed, not necessarily involving Mr Mason's family.

Surely it is in the public interest to resolve this farce of a law, where a driver can kill by failing to see something directly in front of them and be found not guilty of any crime? Surely even the car drivers will see the injustice and stupidity of such a law, and the necessity of clarifying it? After all, in the same week another driver was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving when she killed another driver when she drove on the wrong side of the road.

Sadly, you cannot "appeal" as

CMBentley's picture

Sadly, you cannot "appeal" as the defendant was found not guilty, the case is finished. All that could be done would to be bring another prosecution if there was found to be additional evidence which was not available at the time of the first case.

POLICE INVESTIGATION Ordinary

thinkbike's picture

POLICE INVESTIGATION
Ordinary police officers cannot be relied upon to investigate stuff. They patrol and answer calls, but the police organisation also charges them with investigating stuff. They lack the time or skills to do it. That is why lots of cases such as collisions cases fail: improper preservation of the scene and evidence, failure to ask the proper questions etc because often the investigating officer is a uniform or traffic officer on shifts and it is immensely difficult to manage and co-ordinate an investigation in a timely fashion in those circumstances.
When these types of case go wrong, it is ultimately an organisational failing.
I did 30 years in the police and I concluded a long time ago that the correct procedure to investigate an accident (especially a fatal one) was that it should be handled by a detective! A controversial opinion I am sure you can imagine within the organisation.

I also concluded that distinctions between careless and dangerous/reckless driving are also wrong. If a person drives carelessly then it is dangerous is it not?

THE LAW
The formulation of the law tries to draw a distinction between moments of inattention that may be careless and deliberate risk taking. In my view if the criminal law is to be applied to the manner of people's driving then it need not make this distinction. That distinction should be made at the mitigation and sentencing stage. The only offence in my view should be dangerous driving and it should be based upon the evidence, the foremost of which is usually that a collision of some nature occurred. Note I am not advokating "dangerous driving" as a term, as it is currently thought of in the Criminal Justice professions. I am saying the term needs to be applied to any incident where danger has been increased by for example, inattention, risky behaviour or whatever. These happen all the time of course and there might be no accident. But where an accident does happen it is possible to "freeze" the incident and investigate it more readily.

BLAME
Some accidents are 100% one person's fault and 0% the other. In a 50/50 case it may be appropriate to prosecute both or neither but in most cases it is more one person's fault than the other. In the comments further back, someone suggested the victim's lights, which were working, may not have been legally compliant. Even if they weren't, that should not mean a prosecution should not go ahead. Even if the victim was without lights culpability lies mainly with the car driver in this case, whose duty as a driver was to drive carefully and avoid accidents and who in a lit street in a car with working headlights, should have seen a black cat infront of them let alone a cyclist with cycle lights. If they were dazzled by the shop lights and other car headlights then their duty of care was to slow down or stop until they could get their bearings.

CHANGE LAW AND POLICY
I think any campaign to change the law should focus on there being a single offence relating to driving standards and a requirement to apportion blame in a structured fashion at the police and CPS stage and thereafter always prosecute anyone who is shown to have done something above a certain threshold of dangerousness (which might include both parties). Finally, where a more vulnerable road user has been hit by a less vulnerable one there should be a presumption that the less vulnerable was to blame unless they can categorically prove otherwise. Forget the bullshit excuses, if you hit, even a child who "ran from nowhere" you were going too fast/not considering the possibilities eg looking under parked vehicles for pedestrians legs etc.

thinkbike, seldom have I

burtthebike's picture

thinkbike, seldom have I agreed so wholeheartedly with a post.

Your suggestions are both sensible and based on many years of experience as a police person seeing and investigating such incidents, and are therefore doubly valid.

The onus for behaving safely is always with the person with the greatest power, it is not for the those threatened by the dangerous behaviour to wear armour, avoid interactions or otherwise change their behaviour.

The defendant drove a tonne

mtcornish's picture

The defendant drove a tonne of metal through a space shared with pedestrians and cyclists, without looking, yet the Highway Code was complicit in their acquittal.
CAMPAIGN TO REMOVE RULES 3 & 59 FROM THE HIGHWAY CODE.
These two rules, in supporting case outcomes like this one, say that if you step outside after dark without protective clothing you will be at fault if a motor vehicle drives into you. These rules create a disproportionate impression of danger and fear around walking and cycling that push even more people into cars for even shorter journeys, driving up obesity and pollution.

Expert witness? Was the

CMBentley's picture

Expert witness?

Was the expertise of PC Gamble challenged? Did the prosecution have the services of their own expert witness? It seems to me that PC Gamble may have gone beyond his training in collision invesitgation with his theories about reaction times and visibility of cyclists. PC Gamble is a police officer with, presumably, some additional training; does that qualify him sufficiently to make conclusions about the psychology of driving or the visibility of this or that in Regents Street? I would like to have seen his expertise challenged.

Thank you for bringing the private prosecution, it was the right thing to do.

...and another thing... by

CMBentley's picture

...and another thing...

by not submitting the case to the CPS the Metropolitan Police are acting as a prosecuting authority i.e. they are taking the decision not to prosecute. Police forces in England and Wales are investigating authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service is the prosecuting authority. I think it is outrageous that the Police in this case took it upon themselves to act as both investigator and prosecutor - something that they are not allowed to do!