Taxi driver convicted in ‘car-dooring’ incident which caused cyclist death
At Loughborough Magistrates Court today (Monday, 5 June), Farook Yusuf Bhikhu was convicted of the offence of ‘car-dooring’, bringing the end to criminal proceedings related to the death of cyclist Sam Boulton.
Mr Bhikhu was handed a £955 fine, broken down as £300 for the offence, a £30 victim surcharge and £625 court costs. This is to be paid in £20 weekly instalments.
Local school teacher Sam Boulton was cycling along London Road in Leicester on 27 July 2016. At around 1.20pm, Ms Chapple, the passenger in a private hire car, opened the door as her driver, Mr Bhikhu, parked on double yellow lines outside Leicester train station. The resulting collision knocked Sam from his bicycle and into a Citroen van being driven in the outside lane.
Sam sustained fatal injuries and tragically died later that day, on his 26th birthday.
While Ms Chapple pleaded guilty at the time of the initial hearing at Leicester Magistrates Court in March earlier this year, and was handed a £150 fine, Mr Bhikhu pleaded not guilty.
‘Car-dooring’ is a criminal offence for which both the person in charge of the vehicle at the time, and the person opening the door are potentially culpable. The offence is only punishable with a fine of up to £1,000.
Cycling UK wants to see more public awareness on the dangers of car-dooring. They could be significantly reduced through simple techniques such as the 'Dutch Reach'.
Jeff Boulton, father of Sam, said:
"It's heartbreaking that an offence which has ended a life and caused untold trauma for my family be treated so lightly under current legislation. Car-dooring must be taken more seriously, and the only way to do that is to change the law. Only then will we see people taking the time to think before they act.
"Until we have an appropriate offence in law, I call on the Government to start investigating how they can better educate and train drivers about the dangers of car-dooring and the techniques that can prevent it from happening."
Cycling UK believes the current offence of ‘car-dooring’, which can have serious and life-changing consequences, is trivialised as a minor offence. In light of Sam Boulton's tragic death, the campaigning charity has continued to press Government to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury or death by car-dooring, with tougher penalties.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns officer said:
“How many Sam Boultons have to die before Government takes note, and stops treating avoidable deaths as 'accidents'? A maximum £1,000 fine is derisory, and trivialises these preventable tragedies.
“Cycling UK wants to see Government introduce a new offence of causing serious injury or death by car-dooring, with tougher penalties. It is not right or just that tragic cases, such as Sam's, see inadequate penalties handed down.
“Tougher penalties, including the option of custodial sentencing, should be an option for the court in life-changing or fatal cases, which in turn would hopefully encourage the police and CPS to prosecute."
Notes to editors
- Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
- For further in depth commentary on the relevant hearings and car-dooring, see Cycling UK blog by Duncan Dollimore
- The passenger, Ms Chapple, pleaded guilty to the crime of car-dooring on 3 March 2017, and was handed a £150 fine, broken down as £80 for the offence, a £40 victim surcharge and £30 court costs.
- 'Car-dooring' is a criminal offence under Regulation 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and Section 42 Road Traffic Act 1988. See also http://www.cyclistsdefencefund.org.uk/the-law-for-cyclists-hit-by-vehic…. However, this offence is only punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and no penalty points can be imposed on the offender’s licence.
- There were 561 reported collisions where ‘vehicle door opened or closed negligently’ was a contributing factor in incidents attended by the police in 2015. See table RAS50005 of Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2015.
- Cycling UK has made the case for adequate sentencing for car-dooring offences in their response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the review of road traffic offences and penalties.
- For further information on the Dutch Reach and Cycling UK’s position see Cycling UK blog by Sam Jones
- Cyclist Sam Harding was killed in August 2012 when driver Kenan Aydogdu opened his car door in front of him on London's Holloway Road. Given that this was not a 'driving offence', and the maximum penalty for car-dooring was only £1,000, the Crown Prosecution Service brought a 'manslaughter' prosecution against him, but he was acquitted despite his windows being coated with dark plastic film, reducing visibility in and out of the car to 17% of their normal level. He was fined £200 for the car-dooring offence.
- Cyclist Robert Hamilton was killed in January 2014, when driver Joanne Jackson opened the driver’s door of her car in front of him as he was cycling along Linaker Street in Southport. Jackson was prosecuted for a car-dooring offence and fined £305.
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