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All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group hears about varying prosecution rates across the country

Joseph Delves
1 Feb 2017

Varying attitudes by region result in prosecutions differences as roads policing is not a strategic requirement

The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) inquiry into Cycling and the Justice System has heard evidence about the varying attitude of different forces to road policing and enforcement.

Appearing before the group’s first session were representatives of Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, RoadPeace, who campaign for recognition for road crash victims and road danger reduction, along with cycling barrister Martin Porter QC.

The group heard how as roads policing is not a strategic policing requirement - one of the areas all forces and police and crime commissioners must address when setting their local policing plans - it is more vulnerable to being cut when budgets shrink.

It also means that police forces are under less obligation to account for how they allocate such resources as they may have.

The result being that there is little data available as to how many officer hours are being spent policing the roads.

At a time of increasingly constrained budgets, one of the organisations invited to appear, Cycling UK, reported that a 3% reduction in police numbers saw a 37% reduction in roads policing.

Excluding London’s Metropiltan Police, overall there are now 1,437 fewer dedicated roads policing officers than in 2010.

However, officer numbers are not the entire story as proactive policing still appears to be able to elicit results.

West Midlands police, whose ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative saw undercover police decked out in lycra to catch close-pass drivers, were highlighted as exhibiting best practice with regards to having a coherent policy to roads policing and prosecuting offenders.

Even so, the panel reported that attitudes vary massively by area and that this can affect the likelihood of prosecutions being brought before the courts.

Cycling barrister Martin Porter QC gave as an example the case of Mike Mason, who was hit from behind and killed on Regent Street in Central London.

He suggested the Met Police had approached their investigation of the collision with the seeming intention of looking for reasons to excuse the driver rather than objectively collecting evidence.

He also described the difficulty in getting the police to refer cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, even when a wealth of evidence is available. 

With the Met police declining to refer the case to prosecutors, the driver involved will instead face the UK’s first crowd funded private prosecution at the Old Bailey this April.

With regard to increasing the number of successful prosecutions Porter and others on the panel spoke in favour of a system of presumed liability as a way of addressing what they believed was the police’s frequent unwillingness to bring prosecutions for dangerous driving.

He also highlighted how sentencing guidelines are regularly ignored by judges on the occasions that prosecutions are brought before the courts.

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