Old Bailey - Scales of Justice
Old Bailey - Scales of Justice

Minister backs talks to improve traffic justice

CTC has welcomed a commitment from Helen Grant MP, the Minister for Courts and Victims, to support discussions on how to improve the legal system's response to road traffic offences.

CTC's Campaigns & Policy Director Roger Geffen met Helen Grant, together with representatives of British Cycling and road crash victims charity RoadPeace, at the Ministry of Justice this morning. 

The meeting came just days after the courts reached not guilty verdicts in two cases which shocked the cycling community.  The driver of the lorry which left Times journalist Mary Bowers with severe injuries was found not guilty of dangerous driving - although he had previously admitted the lesser offence of careless driving.  Meanwhile, a driver who opened his car door into the path of a cyclist, leading to his fatal fall under a following bus, was acquitted of manslaughter.

Will Jeffries was also at the meeting to tell Helen Grant about the derisory sentence handed down to Lee Cahill, the 18 year old driver who already had a speeding conviction before causing the death of his brother Rob Jefferies by 'careless' driving.

CTC, British Cycling and RoadPeace impressed on the Minister that these are not one-off cases. Instead, they are evidence of a systematic failure of the legal system to treat bad driving offences with the seriousness they deserve, thereby failing to provide adequate support for the victims, or even data or information on how many bad driving prosecutions, convictions and sentences result in deaths or injuries to cyclists or other vulnerable road user groups.

I am grateful to the Minister for Justice for listening to what we had to say this morning, and for her recognition that there are many issues which need to be addressed if more people are to be encouraged to cycle in confidence and safety.  The law does not complacently accept behaviour which puts people's lives in danger as mere "carelessness" on the railways or construction sites.  It now needs to eliminate such complacency from our roads too."

Roger Geffen
CTC Campaigns and Policy Director

Helen Grant said she had been pleased to take on the role of victims' minister, following 23 years as a lawyer in which she had seen how crime victims "go through hell" trying to secure justice in the aftermath of the crimes they have suffered.

She agreed to involve the Ministry of Justice in a cross-organisational working group with the Department of Transport (who also attended the meeting) and other relevant bodies, to assess how to improve the legal system's response to crimes committed on our roads.

CTC's Stop Smidsy campaign has been documenting many cases where bad driving is dismissed as mere 'carelessness', or not prosecuted at all.  The campaign is due to be formally re-launched in the New Year.

Roger Geffen