Back in January, I wrote an article about the first successful prosecution in court from an Operation Considerate online submission. Since that time, I have been very disappointed with the decisions of the Operation Considerate officers regarding cases that were at least as bad as that one, so I was heartened to hear from them in May that they were preparing another of my cases for court. In that conversation, it emerged that it was going to court because they had found that the driver had no licence or insurance, but at least it was going to court.
The case resulted from a report I submitted at the end of November last year about a driver who overtook me on the inside, too close, at speed. The incident is shown in the following video:
In my statement, I said:
I was riding in primary position in the centre of the inside lane of this 2 lane carriageway with a narrow cycle lane on the left, having just set off from traffic lights, intending to proceed onto Blackburn Road. The driver of this car drove up the inside of me, partly in the cycle lane, with the right hand side of the car encroaching significantly into my lane. As my wheels were in the centre of the lane, which is 3m wide, and the car was roughly half a metre into my lane, I can estimate that the side of the car was about 0.7 metres from my left hand side. I can also calculate from the video footage that it was travelling at 30 miles-per-hour.
Some time after I heard that the case was being prepared for court, I received a call from the Witness Care Unit informing me that the case was coming up. I asked what the charges were and was pleased to hear that there was a careless and inconsiderate driving charge included as well as those of driving without a valid licence and insurance. I was surprised to hear in mid-July that a hearing had already been held in the absence of the defendant, the outcome of which was that the case was proven. The hearing was adjourned until early in August for sentencing.
Last week, I received a letter from Witness Care (who are really helpful, by the way) confirming that the case was proven and indicating briefly the sentence. Wanting more details, I contacted them again and was told that the defendant was found guilty on all three charges, including driving without due care and attention. He was fined £440 and ordered to pay £110 costs. He was also given 6 penalty points, resulting in his being disqualified from driving for 12 months due to repeat offending.
It is good to see that the courts are dealing effectively with these cases. I am fairly sure, however, that, had it not been for the licence and insurance issues, the Operation Considerate team would not have brought this case. I have had a number of cases that were at least as severe as this one in which the Operation Considerate officer has responded: “I do not believe there is a realistic prospect of a conviction in any trial. I therefore do not propose to take the matter further.” Indeed, earlier in the year, an officer involved in Operation Considerate told me that he would not have taken forward the case that led to a successful conviction in January, despite that fact that it already had done.
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the blockage preventing us from breaking the vicious circle that is holding back progress on road justice, at least in the near-miss types of cases handled by Operation Considerate, is probably more to do with the culture in the Police rather than the Magistrates’ Courts. Fortunately, as more of these careless and inconsiderate driving charges lead to successful convictions, the excuse regarding “no realistic prospect of a conviction” becomes less and less tenable.