Widower of woman killed by bike courier welcomes plans for new cycling offence

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The widower of a mother-of-two who was knocked over and killed by a bicycle courier has "fully welcomed" the announcement ministers are considering a new offence of causing death by careless or dangerous cycling.

Charlie Alliston, then 18, was travelling at 18mph on a fixed-wheel track bike with no front brakes before he crashed into 44-year-old Kim Briggs as she crossed Old Street in east London, in February last year.

He was cleared of manslaughter but was sentenced to 18 months in jail this week after being found guilty of causing bodily harm by "wanton and furious driving", a crime under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Kim Briggs (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Kim Briggs (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The Victorian law, originally drafted to deal with reckless handling of horses, was used because there is no cycling equivalent in law of the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.

Speaking to the Press Association, Matthew Briggs said the case of his wife "highlighted a huge gap" in the law.

He said: "I fully welcome it and am grateful to the government for acting so swiftly, and am looking forward to helping the review in any way I can and getting these laws on the statute book.

Charlie Alliston was jailed for 18 months for causing bodily harm by
Charlie Alliston was jailed for 18 months for causing bodily harm by "wanton and furious driving" (Lauren Hurley/PA)

"Kim was by no means the first person this has happened to, but I think what Kim's case has done is highlighted a huge gap in the law between one from 1861 at one end and manslaughter at the other end. Manslaughter could only be brought because these were a rather unique set of circumstances, otherwise they would have been left with the Victorian law."

The review is likely to spark anger among cyclists, who point out that more than 100 bike users are killed and 3,000 seriously injured on British roads each year, compared with two pedestrians killed and 96 seriously injured when hit by a cycle in 2015.

Causing death by dangerous driving can be punished by up to 14 years in jail, but it was not immediately clear what maximum sentence ministers envisage for any new cycling offence.

I welcome the government's announcement tonight and will comment further in the morning.

-- KimBriggsCampaign (@BriggsCampaign) September 20, 2017

Announcing the review, transport minister Jesse Norman said: "Although the UK has some of the safest roads in the world, we are always looking to make them safer.

"It's great that cycling has become so popular in recent years but we need to make sure that our road safety rules keep pace with this change.

"We already have strict laws that ensure that drivers who put people's lives at risk are punished but, given recent cases, it is only right for us to look at whether dangerous cyclists should face the same consequences.

Transport minister Jesse Norman (David Jones/PA)
Transport minister Jesse Norman (David Jones/PA)

"We've seen the devastation that reckless cycling and driving can cause, and this review will help safeguard both Britain's cyclists and those who share the roads with them."

The review is due to report conclusions on the proposed new offence in the New Year, based on independent legal advice.

A second phase will then involve a wider consultation on how road safety can be improved for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. It will consider the rules of the road, public awareness, guidance and signage and will take evidence from a range of road safety and cycling organisations, as well as the general public.

Since the Government trebled spending on cycling between 2010 and 2017, there has been a huge increase in the number of bicycles on British roads.

Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK's chief executive, said: "The consultation on road safety issues is an opportunity to keep cyclists and pedestrians safer.

"Cycling UK looks forward to working with the Department for Transport on this consultation to ensure it focuses on evidenced ways that keep our most vulnerable road users safe, by addressing risks such as dangerous roads, drivers and vehicles.

"The proposed review of cycling offences needs to be carried out as part of the Government's promised wider review of all road traffic offences and sentencing. This will ensure the justice system can deal with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users."