Saturday 4 May 2013

Betrayed by a Legal System

A key point of the APCG report on cycling was a legal system that protects the vulnerable. It is clear this week that we do not.

Earlier in the week, Martin Porter discussed why a videoed road rage assault wasn't something the CPS could be bothered to prosecute -even though the prosecutions from the riots showed it was perfectly possible if they wanted to.

There's a key difference between rioters and drivers who assault cyclists: rioters threaten the very stability of society, whereas drivers are pillars of society, and it is cyclists who are abnormal.

One thing Martin Porter missed was that if that Birmingham driver had, instead of getting out of his van to start a fight, had just "clipped" the cyclist, even if the CPS had tried to prosecute the driver, the "a momentary lapse in concentration" defence would have got him off.

We've seen in Bristol judges letting off speeding drivers who cause injuries using the phrase "you didn't intend to hurt someone" as the reason to not punish them. We've seen in London that killing someone by dooring them or driving them over in an HGV not something to penalise.

Today's scottish punishment "you can kill someone and the victim gets blamed" shows how fucked justice is. The driver didn't even have to try the "sun in my eyes" gambit, make up some medical condition and get let off -because in the UK you are not only allowed to drive until you kill someone, you can keep driving afterwards.

In the US, there's evidence of racial bias in Judges, though little seems to be done about that, or juries.

In Northern Ireland, Diplock Courts attempted to address juror bias in acquitting/convicting suspected terrorists. The Diplock report blamed juror intimidation, which no doubt was ubuquitous, but there was also "the danger of perverse acquittals". Having three judges rather than a jury of peers was considered fairer.

This year we've seen many perverse acquittals, and this time a sheriff who gave a driver a mild slap on the wrist -though perhaps if the community service consists of 300 hours of cycling up and down the A9 he may not only appreciate things differently, but he may experience a death penalty administered by someone who could use the "momentary lapse of concentration" gambit.

The Times cyclesafe campaign has been one of the key drivers for visible change in England, triggered by the near death of Mary Bowers, again a case where the outcome could only be described as perverse.

This needs to be fixed. Obviously the petition calling on parliament to act is something everyone should sign, but it is not enough. Every needs to get out there and demand better treatment.

For everyone in Scotland who wants to cycle and live, Pedal on Parliament, is where they need to be in May 19.

But let's go one better. Let's have people from England go up there too, to show how much everyone in the country thinks that this week the Scottish legal system has betrayed us all.

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