Gail Purcell (58) of Colney Street, St Albans, was today (06 April) acquitted by an Old Bailey jury of causing the death of cyclist Michael Mason by careless driving.
Teacher Michael Mason was cycling north on Regent Street from Oxford Circus in London on 25 February 2014. At 6.23 pm Michael, known as Mick to his friends, was hit from behind by a black Nissan Juke driven by Ms Purcell, and as a consequence sustained a fatal injury to his brain, passing away 19 days later on 14 March having never regained consciousness.
This case was brought to court as a private prosecution by Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF), after the Metropolitan Police refused to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice on whether to charge Gail Purcell with any offence, contrary to CPS guidance in fatal collision cases,
CDF brought this prosecution with support from over 2,000 people who donated more than £80,000 to help fund the case.
Throughout the case, Ms Purcell has been unable to offer any explanation as to why she failed to see Mr Mason as he cycled along Regent Street, illuminated by his bicycle lights and the surrounding street lights. CDF strongly believed that a jury should have the opportunity to consider the evidence, a view His Honour Judge Gordon accepted yesterday when he refused the application made on Ms Purcell’s behalf to dismiss the prosecution, accepting that there was a case which had to be put to the jury.
Anna Tatton-Brown, Michael Mason’s daughter, reacted to the jury’s decision saying:
“My family and I respect the decision the jury have reached, although we are obviously disappointed. It seems that failing to be aware of what’s in front of you while you’re driving is an acceptable mistake, not careless, and that no explanation for that failure is necessary.
“We do, however, draw some comfort from the fact that the evidence was finally put to a jury, something that should have happened long ago. It should not have taken the intervention of CDF, and the support of many members of the public, to bring this case to court. Given that the Judge accepted that there was a case which the jury had to consider, we would hope that the Police will now conduct a review into their investigation, their rush to blame the victim, their refusal to seek CPS advice, and consider what lessons might be learned.
“My family would once again like to express our sincere and grateful appreciation for all of the support we have received in our search for justice for my much-loved Dad.”
Duncan Dollimore, spokesperson for Cycling UK’s CDF, said:
“While we accept the jury’s decision, CDF are disappointed and concerned about the message this conveys to the general public regarding driving standards. Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.
“Notwithstanding the jury’s decision, we believe it was right to bring this case to court given the Metropolitan Police’s unwillingness to do so. We do question why the Police failed to obtain witness evidence from relevant eye-witnesses which the legal team instructed by CDF were able to secure. If they had done so they would have recognised, as the Judge did yesterday, that this was a case which rightly had to be put before a jury. We believe they should review their investigation practices involving vulnerable road users, and their engagement with the victims’ families.
“Both CDF and Mr Mason’s family would like to thank all those people who supported this prosecution. Although we can only be disappointed at the result, we hope that this case demonstrates why we need to look closely at how the justice system serves the victims of road collisions and their families, and whether the standards applied to decide what is, or is not, careless or dangerous driving are fit for purpose.”