Cyclists' Defence Fund prosecutes driver in Mason case

Michael Mason with his daughter Anna Tatton-Brown
Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund has issued proceedings against Gail Purcell (58) of Colney Street, St Albans, the driver involved in the collision which led to the death of London teacher Michael Mason two years ago. The private prosecution for causing death by careless driving follows months of fundraising by supporters after the Metropolitan Police declined to prosecute Ms Purcell.

Seventy year old Michael Mason, known as Mick to friends and family, was cycling along Regent Street in London on 25 February 2014 when he was hit from behind by a Nissan Juke vehicle travelling in the same direction. Tragically nineteen days later, on the 14 March, Mick died from the injuries he sustained.

Later that year the Metropolitan Police decided not to prosecute the driver, declining to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) contrary to CPS charging guidelines. Following that decision the Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF) funded legal representation, on the family's behalf, to engage with the police and CPS and request a review of the decision not to prosecute.

U-turn then reverse

The concerns raised regarding the charging decision were echoed by champions of victim's rights including London Assembly Member Baroness Jones, who wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in February 2015 to express her concerns regarding the police's handling of the case. Subsequently Mick's family were delighted when on 13 March 2015, shortly before a vigil to mark the anniversary of Mick's death, Cycling UK were able to report that the police had performed a u-turn having told the Evening Standard (but not the family) that they were going to refer the case to the CPS for review.

The good news for Mick's family was however short-lived. By 18 March the police had reversed their decision and, again without notifying the family, informed the media via a circular that they would not be seeking a CPS review after all.

Hi-viz and helmets

Explaining that decision Detective Inspector Nick Mason, in his final review of the case, stated that "He (Mick) was not wearing any high visibility clothing, nor was he wearing a safety helmet though his bike was displaying a red light at the rear and a white light at the front".

CDF and Cycling UK would question how the Inspector's comments concerning a helmet and hi-viz are relevant to the charging decision in this case, not least because neither are legal requirements for cyclists, but will not comment further currently given the pending legal proceedings.

Some kind of justice

Given the unwillingness of the police to prosecute, CDF and its supporters have continued to raise funds to help Mick's family seek justice, and investigate the viability of a private prosecution. Speaking last year Mick's daughter Anna Tatton-Brown, after mentioning how strongly her Dad felt about the amount of bad driving he experienced whilst cycling, said that "If he were alive now, I've no doubt that he would be fighting tooth and nail to get some kind of justice. It doesn't feel right to just let this lie."

If he were alive now, I've no doubt that he would be fighting tooth and nail to get some kind of justice. It doesn't feel right to just let this lie.

Anna Tatton-Brown, Michael Mason's daughter

By March of this year, as the second anniversary of Mick's death approached, CDF's Justice for Michael fundraising appeal had raised nearly £60,000, allowing CDF to instruct solicitors to commence a private prosecution of Ms Purcell for the offence of causing death by careless driving. The proceedings have now been issued in Westminster Magistrates Court, with an initial court hearing listed for 6 September.

Overwhelming support from the cycling community

The prosecution brought by CDF in this case would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of countless supporters. Mick's daughter Anna has described the support from the cycling community as "overwhelming", adding that "it gives us hope that we might get justice for Mick and for others."

Speaking on behalf of the CDF, Duncan Dollimore, said, "This is the first step towards what we hope will be justice for Mick Mason’s family. They have suffered not just the tragic death of a family pillar but also been woefully let down by the police and legal system at the time they needed it most.

"The Cyclists’ Defence Fund wants to thank everyone who has generously donated. Without their help this private prosecution and the Mason family’s ongoing struggle for justice wouldn’t have been possible."

​Update 24 August 2016

Cycling UK originally reported that the first court hearing date would be 6 September, however the hearing has now been put back one week to 13 September at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

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