Monday 15 March 2021

Outcome of Police Complaint

I haven't written a blog for a while, as I have been living my online life via Twitter most of the time. However, this particular issue required more than a Twitter thread, so the blog re-awakens...

If you follow me on Twitter you will be aware that back in 2019 I was assaulted whilst cycling to work. You will also be aware that the driver who assaulted me was only given a warning. Further to that I was then given a section 38 warning (effectively a warning for breach of the peace) for the same incident. My warning was given for swearing after I had been driven at, abused and then punched.

If you don't follow me on Twitter, or you need a recap, then this article by Cycling UK Scotland (who helped me through the ordeal) should bring you up to speed. A direct link to the video in question is also below.

As discussed in the article this incident has sparked a Cycling UK Scotland campaign to improve policing specifically around road violence and the use of camera footage. However, this post is not discussing that campaign. This post discusses my formal complaint to the police. 

My Complaint

As part of the formal complaint process Police Scotland assigned an Inspector from a different part of the police force to help me pull together the formal compliant. During that process, which was conducted very professionally by the officer, we produced a document that went to the police complaints team. There were actually five separate complaints contained within that document. They were as follows:

  1. Between 14 October and 29 November 2020, the initial officers who took my report failed to update me with the result of the enquiry despite the fact that I contacted 101 on several occasions and left messages for them. 
  2. Police have failed to obtain a statement from a witness which would have corroborated the Dangerous Driving, Assault and Breach of the Peace offences that I reported on 14 October 2019 which subsequently have not been reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
  3. The suspect was issued with a Recorded Police Warning for the offence of Assault only which I believe was not suitable or appropriate given the circumstances of the offences committed by the suspect.
  4. On the 3 February 2020, nearly 4 months after the initial incident, I was issued with a Recorded Police warning which I believe was inappropriate in the circumstances and was as a direct result of the footage and comments that I posted on social media, stating my intention to make a complaint about the police.
  5. On 3 February 2020, the officers who issued me with a Recorded Police Warning failed to provide sufficient information regarding the warning process/procedure.
These complaints along with details relating to each complaint were submitted in February. I was told that an outcome could take several months due to the need to take statements from those involved. However, I was surprised to recently receive an outcome less than one month later.

Below is the response letter with names and identifying details removed. I've blanked out officer names with colours which always correspond to the same officer. Apologies if you cannot make out the difference in colours, but I couldn't think of any other simple way to do it, and it should be obvious who is who. Please click on each picture to zoom in.

In summary, all five of my complaints were upheld and the Area Commander will be tasked with investigating further.

There were some areas that are worth highlighting.

Injury Ignored - Driver Warning

I remember very clearly the day the officers came to speak to me and I also remember very clearly pointing out that I had an injury from the assault. By the time the officers had come the swelling from the injury had mostly settled down and the bruising subsided. I remember mentioning that it was only a slight injury, and that I've had worse, but I had pictures (see below for a picture I took when I arrived at work). I remember one of them saying that they didn't need any photos. 

That injury, however slight was reason enough that the driver should not just have been given a warning. That in itself meant that the charge should have been sent to the Procurator Fiscal for further consideration. It wasn't.

Not the worst injury (or my best photo!), but an injury none the less.

No Witness Statement - Driver Warning

No independent witness statement was collected. Whilst the witness was initially contacted over the phone (and apparently backed up my version of events fully), the police never followed up to collect a statement. The witness actually tried to contact the police to do so, but was never called back. 

The officer investigating my complaint suggests that this was 'wholly irregular, especially as the evidence provided by this witness was then used for the issuing of the RPW (warning)'. 

Why was no witness statement collected?

Persistent and Alarming Conduct - Driver Warning

As the officer investigating my complaints points out, not only should injury prevent the police from giving a warning only, but in cases where there is 'persistent or alarming conduct which makes individuals scared for their safety' then a warning isn't sufficient. 
It is abundantly clear to anyone watching the footage that this individual was clearly persistent. It starts with him driving his car at me, then coming out of his car, being abusive, pushing several times, punching, walking away, and then coming back to abuse me more. He even mentions something about having issues with me before (not to my knowledge). Very clearly persistent.
As for 'alarming', well, I don't even think I need to say anything in that regard. His actions in this incident were very clearly alarming not only in the legal sense, but in any sense. 

Driver Warning - Overall

With regards to the driver being warned we effectively have three major failings. The police ignored my injury, didn't bother to take a police witness statement and chose to ignore the obvious persistent and alarming conduct. It is pretty clear then that the police did not investigate the driver properly or with any significant effort. This is interesting especially considering the effort that then went into investigating me...

My Warning

The police confirmed in their statements for this complaint that my conduct during this incident was only considered an issue AFTER I had posted my video online and AFTER I had publicly complained about the driver's warning. (It turns out I was correct to complain!) However, that wasn't considered by the unnamed Inspector. Instead that unnamed Inspector did consider that my conduct contravened section 38 of the Criminal and Justice Licensing Scotland Act 2010. 

The Inspector had a chat with a Sergeant. This was the Sergeant that contacted me to say that he was looking into 'further criminality'.  This Sergeant states in his statement that he thought there was a  'possibility' that I'd committed a criminal act and so asked a PC to investigate. The decision on whether to charge or not was left to the PC. It is, then, particular interesting in this case is that this particular PC has failed to provide a statement (is that even allowed?!). Did that PC really make the final decision? Did he really have any say in the decision? Why did he not follow up with the independent witness?

Its important to note that no complaint was received from a member of the public about my conduct during this incident. An Inspector viewed the footage online. Perhaps that Inspector follows me on Twitter? Perhaps a colleague pointed out the footage to him or her. We can't be sure how they came across it, but it is important to note that at that time I had NOT contacted the police and no-one else had contacted the police to complain about me (that I am aware of).

The Inspector having viewed the video online would also have seen all the comments surrounding it, the vast majority who were shocked by the drivers conduct. I can only find one comment suggesting I should have been charged with something, and they suggest vandalism! 

The officer investigating my complaint agrees that the Sergeant made the right assessment (that is that a crime 'may have been committed'). That is fair enough, as I did swear loudly, though very mildly! So yes, it may have been committed, until you actually consider the facts. However, as pointed out in the complaint investigation, my conduct did not meet the threshold of the relevant legislation. Why? I guess for three reasons. Firstly, I quite clearly did not intend to create fear and alarm as I was just reacting instinctively to events. Secondly, it is a defence that the person charged, i.e. me, behaved in a way that was reasonable in those particular circumstances... For example, shouting mild profanities having been driven at, abused and assaulted! Finally, had they actually spoken to the independent witness, they would have learned that they did not think I caused any fear or alarm!

So it seems there was no reasonable legal basis to give me a police warning, yet it would appear that an unnamed Inspector, spotting some footage online where I complain about the police response to an incident, did. Oh and one police officer in the centre of this is not willing to provide a statement. Oh, oh, oh and the Inspector hasn't even been asked for a statement, which is the one thing that the complaint procedure seems to have avoided. Why? It certainly would have been interesting to hear what he/she had to say.

Overall Outcome

Overall, I think it was pretty clear that I was messed around by the police from start to finish (although the complaint's process itself was very smooth). Why I was messed around in this way, be it incompetence, malice, or something else, remains a mystery. Whilst it certainly could be argued that some of the issues were created by incompetence, to me, and this is of course just my opinion, it feels like I was targeted. How, looking at the footage, taking into account witness account, (which was absolutely offered at every stage, but ignored), considering that I was the victim, and taking into account the legalities I was considered guilty of a Section 38 offence, beggars belief.

I do though feel some form of vindication in this. It has been a long, and at times, very stressful process which has clearly highlighted many of the failings of the system. It really is weighted against the protection of vulnerable road users, even without these specific failings. This is why I feel the campaign with Cycling UK Scotland is important (please sign their petition!!). 

In the end, it all comes down to trust and having been through this experience I find it very, very hard to trust the police with any incident I report. Yes, the complaint finished with some nice words, and a promise to do better, but without changes to the system, I and you will always be at the mercy of the current system, which is evidently broken. That's why it is time to fix it.

Will I hear anything back about the Area Commander's investigation? I suspect not, at least not without me chasing it up, perhaps with Freedom of Information requests or similar. Will anything change? We'll see.

Friday 13 September 2019

My Procurator Fiscal Letter

The following is a letter I have just sent to the Procurator Fiscal office in relation to this incident.

Dear Sir/madam,

I am writing to you with regards to the case against xxx xxx (PF No: xxx).

I attended court yesterday as a witness in this case, having attended court previously on the 17th July, where the case was delayed. Whilst waiting for the case to commence I was informed that the driver had pled guilty and that I was no longer required in court. Unfortunately the Court Clerk did not know what exact charge the driver had pled to, and did not know the sentencing. I therefore phoned the Procurator Fiscal office later that day.

After passing on my details over the phone the operator was able to inform me off the sentencing outcome, but for some reason was not allowed to tell me what the driver pled guilty to. I'm not sure why I could find out one, but not the other. I was informed I would need to write to you to find out any other information. I know Mr xxx was fined £150 and received 3 points. Can you tell me if this was in relation to careless or dangerous driving?

Going by the level of fine and points that Mr xxx received I can only assume that the charge was dropped to careless. Can I ask for you to please inform me of how the PF assigned to this case managed to justify accepting this?

I am not sure if your systems allow you to view footage on YouTube. If they do though, you can view the camera footage of the incident in question here ( As you will see from the footage, I was placed by this drivers actions, in significant danger and suffered significant distress. The van that Mr xxx passed me in missed my right arm with centimetres to spare, at high speed, with an oncoming HGV.

Firstly, taking into consideration section 2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, could this driving not be considered dangerous? It is obvious to any 'competent driver' that this driving falls 'far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver'. Further, it certainly would be obvious to any competent driver that 'driving in this way would be dangerous'. Had his vehicle been a few centimetres further to the left, it would certainly have resulted in my serious injury or perhaps death. As a cyclist I have absolutely no crumple zone or roll cage to protect me.

I am sure that Mr xxx is an upstanding citizen, and this may indeed be the first time that Mr xxx has been charged with an offence, however the consequences of his actions, should his positioning have been only very slightly different, or should I have wobbled even slightly to my right, could have been very serious to myself, a husband and father of three. Why then did the PF agree to reduce the charge to careless (my assumption) considering the level of driving concerned, the very obvious danger that it represented and the very real effect that this could have had on my family?

Further to the above, having allowed for the charge to be dropped from dangerous to careless (again my assumption), why has the PF allowed for the sentencing to be almost as low as it is possible to be? Why for example, when a driver has clearly and of his own free will put another person at significant risk, at a level of very obviously dangerous driving, has the PF allowed the fine and the points applied to be at a level that is below mobile phone use, or a lack of insurance documents? Yes, the use of mobile phones whilst driving has significant potential to put other road users at risk, and so should be treated seriously,  but how can this incident where I was ACTUALLY put at significant risk, and placed in a state of obvious distress, not be sentenced to at least a similar level?

One thing is clear from this sentencing is, that it is not in any way a deterrent. With sentencing consistent with this, a driver could put 4 cyclists at risk (and potential serious injury or death) before being considered for a driving ban. If you had a family member who cycled, would you consider that justice had been served in a case like this?

I think it is quite clear from what I have written above that this case and the outcome do not serve the public interest. Therefore, I would be very grateful if you could inform me of the reasoning behind the dropping of the charge (my assumption) and the level of the accepted fine and points.

I look forward to your detailed reply.

Yours sincerely

Dr David Brennan

Friday 12 October 2018

I Have Some Questions?

Cyclists are bad.

They run red lights.
They cycle on the pavement.
They are a menace!

At least that's what some commentators suggest.  Is this based in reality? Well yes, some cyclists do do these things. Why though do these commentators focus on these things when all around them, people driving cars do the same, and at greater risk to those surrounding them?

Why focus on the cyclists?

Why suggest, either explicitly or implicitly that we shouldn't invest in cycle infrastructure because some behave badly (nearly always endangering themselves and no-one else)?

Why do people focus their time disparaging an activity that has some many positive upsides for participants, communities, cities and our countries?

There is no logic. Is there? Please do let me know if there is? Let me know if there is a good logical reason to oppose safe infrastructure for cycling. Don't just base it on your own opinion, as that is almost certainly soaked in bias, as my own opinion almost certainly is. Base it on facts, research and logical argument. Please do.

Don't go on news programmes looking for soundbites. Don't point-score. Don't smile smugly when you feel like you've got one over on your opponent. Stick to logic. If you are truly right, if the facts and figures are on your side, you will win. Victory is really there for the taking. Why haven't you taken it yet?

Just don't pluck statistics out of thin air. Or a red bus with words written on the side. I'd definitely avoid that.

If you can't supply the logic and the facts behind that logic, with evidence, then what is it that drives your passion to stop active travel. Is it fear? Emotion? A sense that you no longer understand or can control the changes going on in the world around you? A niggly feeling that somehow progress, however benign might make your life worse? Perhaps progress is bad? Conflict is good?

Or are you just a prick, looking for air-time? Seeking attention by verbalising click-bait?

What is it? Really, what is it!?! I honestly don't have a clue.

You may realise just now I have so many questions and, I've been quiet for so long, here on this blog, these questions have just built and built until now they feel like they need to explode out of my head.

So here they are, digitally laid out before you. I'd really appreciate if you start answering them.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Political, Will or Won't

Today I received a response from Rona Mackay in relation to the questions I asked previously. You can find the response below.

Hi David,

Sorry for the delay in replying to you on this matter. Here is the council response to your questions:

On phase 1 there were serious concerns about the safety of the design, particularly at road junctions and crossings. Given these concerns, the SNP group made a manifesto commitment to make phase 1 of the project safe, and to this end we have discussed with the roads department the following outcomes:
a) The cycle way will be reinstated more prominently by Cala before they leave the site.
b) Where the separation zone juts out we will put in reflectors (this is particularly useful for motorcyclists).
c) Extra clear warnings when there is an access across the cycle lane.
d) Extra bollards at McDonalds.
In addition to the above, the off main road phase (Kessington to Maryhill Road) was reported to the PNCA Committee on Thursday and agreed on. This will be in relation to Traffic Regulation Orders prior to signs being put into use.
In relation to Phase 2, with the complexity of the layout of the A81 at the junctions with Boclair Rd and ASDA it is envisaged that only bigger problems will emerge. At this time there does not appear to be any political will within the council to revisit the next phase of the project.
I know that you will be disappointed regarding Phase 2, but should there be any developments in this regard, I will contact you immediately.

Best wishes,

There are a couple of things of note. First off, there are 4 issues with phase 1 listed. One is that they think there needs to be some reflectors fitted. Secondly, they think some bollards need fitted. Thirdly they think some signs need added and finally the junction at Cala (Allander sports centre junction) needs reinstated to what it was before.

Remember Rona stated that phase 2 wasn't going ahead because of major issues with the lane.....

OK, so lets get b), c) and d) out of the way first. Very simple, minor changes. Will they make any difference at all? Almost certainly not. Total waste of tax payers money, if you ask me. However, if it means we can go ahead with phase 2, yeah, lets get some reflectors, bollards and signs.

a) is a little more interesting. This junction is described on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britian's blog (11th picture down). Yes, it isn't perfect and Cala, who are doing some house-building nearby dug this junction up and made it worse (what you see now). It needs a bit more of a ramp (OK quite a bit more), some different colouring for the lane and perhaps a slight narrowing of the cycle lane itself (not something I normally ask for!). So actually, what I and Friends of Bearsway want, is more work than the councillors want. They just want it re-instated to what it was before, with a lower ramp and no coloured lane.

But hey, we sort of agree.

Wait though, this is a relatively minor alteration of this junction. Yes it might make a big difference, but the actual alteration is minor. So, umm...what are the major changes to phase 1 that are required before phase 2 can begin? Some reflectors, bollards, signs and a slight change to one junction!?!?

I wonder how much snagging is required on every road build. Do they stop completion of roads until the first has been fully snagged and are perfect?!?!?

Hauld yer breeks though....there's more. They mention the' off road phase at Kessington/Maryhill'. Well, ok....but this is actually a completely separate issue. Nothing to do with Bears Way at all. Completely and utterly separate. So I've no idea why this was mentioned here.

Then comes the rub.

I'll summarise

We think phase 2 might be difficult, so we would rather not do it, thank you very much. Making active travel a real alternative, so that it's not just for the brave, is just too darn difficult. Sure, there are more cyclist injuries in the area where phase 2 would go, but we are more concerned about getting voted in by Mr and Mr Angry of Bearsden and Milngavie at the next election, than actually giving two tosses about active travel. Traffic levels might well be increasing in the area, pollution is a big issue, oh yeah and so is congestion and yeah, our national party wants more active travel, but.....we are concerned if we allow it to go to design stage, that we might get a good design and we might actually have to annoy Mr and Mrs Angry and give it the go ahead....So, we'll bury our heads in the sand and hope it all blows over.

I think that just above covers the last two paragraphs.

Actually I can summaries it with two words extracted from the e-mail

Political Will.

Actually its quite unusual for a politician to admit that they just don't want to do it. No actual reason given, just that...nah...not for us, thanks. So we have a national party saying that active travel is a national policy and we have an MSP of that national party sending me a response that completely and utterly goes against national policy.

Hello Transport Minister, are you reading this!?!?

So, that's it then. Time to pack our bags, and give up on the lost cause that is East Dunbartonshire.....well, Quite the opposite.

First off, if you live in East Dunbartonshire, contact your councillors and MSPs (of every party) and let them know that this is not acceptable. You can do that easily here. It's time to find 'the political will'. I'm not just talking to you, the resident of East Dunbartonshire though. I'm talking to everyone else in Scotland. Contact your MSPs and tell them that you are shocked by what you see happening in East Dunbartonshire. Let them know that you will not accept that attitude where you live.

Finally, contact Humza Yousaf (his e-mail is Just add FAO Humza Yousaf). I actually think Humza gets active travel and I'm excited by the national changes that are occurring, but if he has councillors and MSPs from his own party that are rebelling against national party policy, that needs to be dealt with, right?!

Oh and you, yes you, cycling campaigns, cycling orgs etc. You don't get off scot-free either. It's time for you to make your voice heard as well. What do you think about this approach? Is it acceptable? Should we just abandon all hope in East Dunbartonshire, or will you help me lobby the council, and all the parties in the area to find this missing 'political will'?

We sit on the edge of a great opportunity to truly take Scotland's transport system into the 21st century. However, if we sit back and expect politicians to make the leap, without being pushed, we will find ourselves falling back into the car dominated abyss. So take this stand with me. Let's help give our politicians the political will, to make East Dunbartonshire, and Scotland, cycle and people friendly.

Monday 30 October 2017

Bear Way Extension? Not Likely!

Here is a short e-mail trail between myself and my MSP Rona Mackay concerning the active travel discussion in Holyrood tomorrow (31st October some time ater 2pm), and the extension of Bears Way. I'll leave the e-mails here without further comment, unless you want to add your own....

Dear Rona,
Following on from my questions on Twitter, I was wondering if you will 
be attending the active travel debate on Tuesday at Holyrood?
I am very concerned with the state of active travel in East 
Dunbartonshire. I have heard from very reliable sources, that the SNP in 
the region do not want to consider extending the Bears Way cycle lane 
past its current location. This is particularly concerning considering 
recent data released demonstrating that the majority of cyclist 
incidents (resulting in injury) occur in the area of phase 2.
You can see the data for yourself at this link 
Bears Way phase 1 was a great start, but on its own provides no 
significant safety to those cycling through the area, as they still need 
to cycle on the road in the most dangerous areas. The extension of Bears 
Way is absolutely vital to the area in which traffic congestion will 
only serve to get worse with the new builds in the area. 
I would be very grateful if you could attend the debate and address some 
of these issue.

Reply from Rona:

Dear David,
Thanks for your email. I asked you to email as I prefer not to enter into constituent discussions on social media. I hope you understand and didn't want you to think I was ignoring you.
To answer your question, I am not taking part in tomorrow's debate on Active Travel. I am speaking in another debate tomorrow which is more directly related to my work on the Justice Committee.
With regard to Bears Way, I think you know my stated position - and that of the SNP group on EDC who voted to postpone the extension before the May election - that I am not in favour of extending it until the problems with Stage 1 have been addressed. How long this will take, and if indeed anything has been progressed on that front, I will have to ask the Council, which I am happy to do on your behalf.
I am fully supportive of Active Travel and I am happy that the Government is taking this forward as a priority throughout Scotland. However, I maintain my position that Bears Way is extremely badly designed and I do not believe it serves the best interests of cyclists, motorists or pedestrians.
I know it is unlikely you will agree with me on this, but I hope you respect my position.

My reply:

Hi Rona,
Many thanks for your reply. Of course I respect your position on this, 
however I do wholeheartedly disagree with it. As someone who finds phase 
1 Bears Way the safest and most enjoyable part of their commute, I find 
it hard to understand what problems with phase 1 would justify a 
moratorium on the design and implementation of phase 2, something that 
the crash data demonstrate is desperately needed.
I would be the first, and probably was the first 
( to 
criticise some aspects of Bears Way. It certainly isn't perfect. 
However, it is far superior to what was there before. As I have ridden 
on it over time, and seen others (including many children) riding on it, 
I have come to realise that despite its minor flaws, it is a huge 
benefit to those who use it and who could potentially use it, if it was 
Just recently the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain, a well respected UK 
wide campaign group, rode on the lane and gave it its approval 

Considering that the overwhelming majority of the cycling community 
support the extension of the cycle lane (I could provide a list of 
organisations if you require it), could you please list for me what 
issues that the EDC SNP group have with phase 1? Also, if the resolution 
of the issues on phase 1 are all that is holding up phase 2, can I ask 
what work your councillors have been conducting, and what internal 
communications they have been making on behalf of constituents to 
resolve these issues? I have seen a lot of public discussion with 
regards to the shared space on Kirkintilloch (which I might add, I am 
not a huge fan of), but absolutely nothing with regards to progressing 
Bears Way.