Do the police have an ingrained prejudice against cyclists?

UPDATE: There is a follow up article here.

This post primarily looks at an incident that happened to me recently and the police response to that. However, I was prompted to make this blog post about it when I saw a police article headed “400 cyclists stopped for dangerous road use“. Many of these cyclists were certainly guilty of an offence (although there is no specific law against using a mobile phone whilst cycling), but you can be sure that most of those stopped were not actually causing a danger to anyone. Of course, it is the duty of the police to uphold the law, within the constraints that their resources allow, so it may be quite appropriate for them to mount an expensive exercise like this, but one has to question why they are then unable or unwilling to deal with the very dangerous actions of some drivers.

On 6th June 2013, I was subjected to what I consider to be a serious road rage attack. I reported this to the police and went to the police station to give a statement and provide video evidence. Here is the video that I provided as evidence. (I provided the original, unedited front and rear files as well.)

After having great difficulty getting any response from the police, I was eventually told that they did not consider the case worthy of further action. Needless to say, I feel very much let down by the Police in this case (so far) and have made a complaint, the text of which is below with names edited out.):

On 6th June 2013, whilst riding my bicycle home from work, I was subjected to what I consider to be a very serious road rage attack, which culminated in the motorist threatening to knock me off my bike and then attempting to use his car to follow through on that threat. I reported the incident to the police through the 101 service, and someone returned my call at 12.06pm on Friday 7th June. I explained what had happened and an arrangement was made for me to attend an interview at Astley Bridge Police Station at 7.00pm on Sunday 9th June.

In the interview, there were 2 officers present, but the officer taking my statement was PC ******** (PC ######). She was very helpful and took a detailed statement from me, which I signed. I also provided video evidence of the incident on a DVD, which was placed in a bag with a label, which I also signed. The officers stated that they did not have equipment to view the video evidence, but that they would review it with other officers and contact me. I provided my email address and my mobile phone number. They also stated that the motor vehicle involved was a lease hire car, and that they had already approached the lease company in Birmingham for details of the driver.

I then waited for a call, but did not receive one. I did not have any missed calls or messages recorded on my mobile phone during that time. On Monday 17th June, I became concerned that the 14 day deadline for any Notice of Intention to Prosecute would expire on the following Thursday, so I phoned the number that PC ******** had given me (0161 856 5761) at 01.49pm and explained my concern about the NIP deadline. I was told by the person answering the phone that PC ******** was not available, but that she would call me back, and they confirmed my mobile phone number as the correct number to call me on. I did not receive a call or message, so I rang again on Tuesday 18th June at 02.29pm. Again, I was told that PC ******** was not available, but that she would ring me back, and again the person I spoke to confirmed my mobile phone number. I still did not receive a call or message, so I phoned again at 09.50am on Wednesday 19th June and had exactly the same conversation again. I still did not receive a call, so I phoned on Thursday 20th June at 10.10am. This time I was told that PC ******** was now on holiday. I asked what I should do now, and explained the issue regarding the NIP and was told that a sergeant would ring me back within 24 hours. I received no call, no missed calls and no messages, so I rang again on Friday 21st June at 04.20pm. On this occasion, the phone was answered by an answering machine, so I explained who I was and left a message asking for someone to ring me back. I still received no response, so I called again on Saturday 22nd June at 01.48pm and left two messages, the second one to confirm my mobile phone number.

On Monday 24th June, I received a voicemail message from a person called ******** at Bolton North police. I called back and was told by ******** that a sergeant had looked at the evidence and decided that “no crime has been committed and there is nothing the police can do”. I said that I strongly disagreed with this and started to explain why. ******** told me that she was not a police officer, so couldn’t comment. I asked for the name of the sergeant, which she didn’t give me, but she offered to ask the sergeant to ring me back. My phone recorded a missed call from an unknown number at 05.18pm whilst I was cycling home. At 07.12pm on the same evening, I phoned and left a message apologising that I hadn’t been able to answer the phone and asking for someone to try again. At 09.28pm that evening, I received a call from the Sergeant.

I did not write the name of the sergeant down, so am unable to provide that. He seemed very helpful, even when I was getting a little upset when going through the incident again, explaining that I hadn’t stopped shaking for several hour afterwards. We had a long talk about it, but his position was still that he did not consider that the incident warranted any further action beyond talking to driver. He appeared to be of the belief that as no NIP had been served, that would be the end of the matter. I pointed out that this would only affect charges relating to a motoring offence. The sergeant seemed quite vague regarding the progress of the case and where PC ******** had left things, but was very familiar with the sequence of events that were shown in the video evidence that I provided. I pointed out that I still consider the incident to be extremely serious and, in my opinion, warranted a charge for assault. He did concede that the incident could be interpreted as, at least, common assault.

I then asked the sergeant what the next step would be, as he suggested that the case should be picked up when PC ******** returns after a couple of weeks. I am making this complaint because I believe this is far too long to leave things now, and frankly feel seriously let down by the police. I am sure that, had the a similar degree of threat been directed towards me by someone with a knife or a broken bottle, then the case would be taken far more seriously.

I have received an automated acknowledgement of the complaint and am awaiting further contact.

Regarding the issue of whether this incident constituted an assault, the following are relevant.

  • The actus reus of a common assault is committed when one person causes another to apprehend or fear that force is about to be used to cause some degree of personal contact and possible injury. (“Actus reus”means the actions that constitute committing the offence.) In this case, the fact that the driver threatened to “knock [me] off”, followed by the wheel screech and rapid acceleration towards me did indeed cause such an apprehension.
  • The mens rea is that this fear must have been caused either intentionally or recklessly. (“Mens rea” refers loosely to the question of whether the offender knew they were committing an offence.) In this case, the fact that he stated “I will f*****g knock you off”, then accelerated hard in his car indicate that the act was intentional, and there can be no doubt that the manner in which he drove at/past me was reckless.

In my view, there is no possible viewing of this evidence that can reasonably lead to the conclusion that there isn’t a very strong case against this driver. It is also a damned sight more dangerous than, for example, a cyclist riding a bicycle slowly along a 20m stretch of pavement within the precincts of Manchester University, with no pedestrians in sight, to get from the cycle racks to the road. I have been told that was one of the reasons cyclists were observed being stopped and issued with penalty notices, presumably within the remit of “Operation Grimaldi”.

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4 Responses to Do the police have an ingrained prejudice against cyclists?

  1. Chris says:

    Shocking behaviour. Perhaps you local MP, TV / Radio station would be interested in seeing your video and hearing from you. There is new Police Commissioner in place who should also be very concerned, perhaps worth saying hello to as well. Good luck.

  2. MrHappyCyclist says:

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll wait until the outcome of the complaint rather than resort to the media at this point. Their interest is mostly in selling copies rather than social justice. For MP, I think it’s a bit early for that, but will bear in mind. Cheers.

  3. I have had a recent disappointing encounter with GMP, who refused to speak to an illegally parked driver. I think there is a collective *must not upset motorists* theme, not just with the Police, but in the whole of our society.

  4. Purely says:

    Sounds like my experience of GMP. I was the victim of a deliberate hit and run (with independent witnesses) and they still couldn’t be bothered to investigate it properly. After much hassling I eventually got a barely literate and obviously cut and pasted letter out of them. I gave up at that point.

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