Conviction upheld of taxi driver in death of Sam Boulton
Leicester Crown Court Court:
Farook Yusuf Bhikhu, the taxi driver convicted of permitting the ‘car dooring’ which led to the death of Leicester teacher Sam Boulton, today (12 October) saw his appeal rejected by the court.
Bhikhu was convicted of the offence of ‘car-dooring’ in Loughborough Magistrates Court on 5 June. He was originally handed a £955 fine, broken down as £300 for the offence, a £30 victim surcharge and £625 court costs, to be paid in £20 weekly instalments. Following the rejection of his appeal, further costs of £300 were ordered by the magistrate.
A local school teacher, Sam was cycling along London Road in Leicester on 27 July 2016 at around 1.20pm. Bhikhu, having parked outside Leicester train station on a double yellow line, permitted his passenger, Ms Chapple to open her door on the roadside.
This caused a collision with Sam, knocking him off his bicycle and into the path of an oncoming Citroen van. Sam sustained fatal injuries and tragically died later that day, his 26th birthday.
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. Bhikhu submitted a plea of not guilty at the same time and his case went to trial, resulting in his conviction, which was upheld today.
‘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 punishable with a maximum fine of up to £1,000.
Cycling UK and Sam’s family, wants to see more public awareness on the dangers of car-dooring which could be significantly reduced through simple techniques such as the Dutch Reach.
Jeff Boulton, father of Sam, said:
“I’m relieved to hear the court uphold the decision from June earlier this year. In July 2016 our family received a lifelong sentence, because Bhikhu parked irresponsibly to save a couple of minutes and took no responsibility for his passenger’s actions.
“Despite Bhikhu’s major role in the events leading to the death of my son, his refusal to see how his action resulted in the death of a wonderful and talented young man, is almost as upsetting as the way the law trivialises car-dooring.”
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 the tragic death of Sam Boulton, the charity has continued to press the Government to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury or death by car dooring, with tougher penalties.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Advocacy and Campaigns said:
“This tragic case should act as a reminder for all drivers about their responsibility to ensure passengers do not cause injury or death when exiting a vehicle.
“Sam’s needless death also highlights the need for urgent action from the Government to change the law on car-dooring offences. A maximum £1000 fine is inadequate for entirely avoidable behaviour which can kill. This is why Cycling UK and the families of those affected by car dooring have asked Government to introduce a new offence of causing or permitting serious injury or death by car dooring, with tougher penalties.
“Driver education must be improved. In early September, Cycling UK wrote to Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, about the potential to educate UK drivers and their passengers about the “Dutch Reach”, a technique which can help reduce the risk of car-dooring. We are still waiting for his response.”
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
- Farook Yusuf Bhikhu convicted of the offence of ‘car-dooring’ on 05 June 2017 and was handed a £955 fine, broken down as £300 for the offence, a £30 victim surcharge and £625 court costs. This was to be paid in £20 weekly instalments. https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/2017-06-05/taxi-driver-convicted-%E2%80%98car-dooring%E2%80%99-incident-caused-cyclist-death
- The passenger, Ms Chapple, pleaded guilty to the crime of car dooring on 03 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 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1986/1078/regulation/105/made and Section 42 Road Traffic Act 1988 http://www.cyclistsdefencefund.org.uk/the-law-for-cyclists-hit-by-vehicle-doors. 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 3,108 reported collisions where ‘vehicle door opened or closed negligently’ was a contributing factor in incidents attended by the police between 2011 and 2015. The breakdown below were released following a FOI from Cycling UK to the Department for Transport requesting a breakdown of the “Contributory factors for reported road accidents (RAS50)” see RAS50007 specifically https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras50-contributory-factors
- 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, and in their recent letter to Transport Minister Jesse Norman, https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/2017-09-10/cycling-uk-calls-greater-public-awareness-%E2%80%9Ccar-dooring%E2%80%9D
- For further information on the Dutch Reach and Cycling UK’s position see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/samjones/dutch-reach
- Cyclist Sam Harding was killed https://www.cyclinguk.org/cycle/car-door-dangers in August 2012, when driver Kenan Aydogdu opened his car door in front of Harding on London's Holloway Road. Given that this was not a 'driving offence', and the maximum penalty for car dooring was only £1000, 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 Robert as he was cycling along Linaker Street in Southport. Jackson was prosecuted for a car-dooring offence and fined £305.