To follow on from my previous blog post on the case of cyclist Charlie Alliston who was charged with manslaughter over the death of Mrs Kim Briggs, he was yesterday found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury but guilty of the offence of “wanton or furious driving”. He showed no remorse which the judge commented negatively upon so a custodial sentence may be imposed (maximum 2 years for that offence under the law dating from 1861).
There were some very relevant comments after the trial by Mrs Briggs widower, himself a cyclist, who said: “The current law is outdated and has not kept pace with the huge increase in the number of people cycling and the associated risk of collisions, nor the attitude of some cyclists. We need to change the way the law deals with this. I am calling for an introduction of laws of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling, thereby bringing cycling laws into line with the Road Traffic Act”. Those are surely sensible proposals.
Mr Briggs also made some negative comments about “some aspects of our cycling culture”. This case is like many that attract a lot of public attention. Effectively a tragedy arising from a whole combination of unusual circumstances – a young rider (aged 18 at the time), on an inappropriate bike, with a vulnerable pedestrian who might have been on a mobile phone at the time (i.e. not looking when crossing the street). Mr Briggs’ comments are very much to the point, and updating the law in this area would surely be worthwhile. But changing the culture so that some cyclists do not behave so aggressively and consider they have the right of way regardless is going to be a more difficult problem to solve.
Postscript: Mr Alliston was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders’ institution.