We've all seen the newspaper headlines of drivers getting a slap on the wrist for Death By Careless Driving charges. Unfortunately I could link to loads of examples where justice is, quite clearly, hasn't been served.
Anyone who follows this blog will know that gaining justice can also be difficult for other less newsworthy incidents. Whilst I have had some success, it is still a very difficult process to go through. There is a hint that things may be changing with some excellent news coming from the West Midland Police, but will change ever come to Glasgow?
Fellow cyclist and Twitter friend @sturmeyarcher3 has had some experiences with the police in Glasgow that he wanted to share. This demonstrates that whilst there appears to be a willingness to help, the process is difficult and often fruitless. This is exactly why police forces need to be as pro-active as possible. and to follow West Midlands Police's lead...
The first round of fixtures was on the 30th May 2009. A beautiful sunny afternoon; the lark on the wing, the snail on the thorn kind of thing. I’m riding my bike to a local shop, a route I used for my commute every working day. I know from previous readings from my bike computer (sadly no more, but more of that later) that my speed would have been about 30mph (it’s a fast downhill, so it”s the fastest I’ll ever go), in a 30 zone, so I’m not holding anyone up.
I’m down, I don’t know what’s happened, what’s happening. A woman is talking to me, asking me if I’m ok. Of course I’m ok, I’m on my bike. I’m not though. I recognise the road, but from a crazy angle. There’s blood. Lots. The woman is talking to someone else- ‘this is what you’ve done’- or something like that. A man says ‘sorry’. The woman talks to me again, tells me not to move, the ambulance is coming.
In the ambulance, paramedics check me over. The noise of what Glasgow children call ‘nee-naws’ in my ears. They ask me what happened. ‘I was riding my bike…’.
Hospital, a trolley being wheeled into A&E. Clothes being cut from me. I’m covered in road rash. The doctor tells me I’ve been in a collision- news to me- I was riding my bike, then I was down- I’d fallen off somehow, that’s what I thought. Collision? The doctor says I’ve given the witnesses a fright- all that blood. He laughs. “So many wee blood vessels there- it always looks really bad- even when it’s not”. He’s more concerned by my neck and spine, but it turns out the road rash and the bleeding from those wee blood vessels were the worst of it, physically anyway.
The police arrive, and I wonder what I did wrong. I can’t think straight. ‘Tell us what happened’.
I say that I was doing about thirty, secondary position, know the road very well- I guess I must have hit a pothole. The officer shakes his head. ‘No. Your bike was hit by an overtaking vehicle- your handlebars have taken the paint off his passenger door’. Blimey. The driver of the car behind me had seen it all, seen the dangerous overtake, seen me being taken out, and stopped to help. Someone in that woman’s car had gone to the traffic lights a short way down the road to confront the driver of the car that had hit me, and brought him back to see what he’d done-
‘this is what you’ve done’- or something like that. A man says ‘sorry’.
The police officer says that the driver was in his late 80s, says he didn’t know he’d hit me.
A few hours and some kindly joshing (what sort of bike have you got? Lots of cyclists on the team here!) later I’m discharged. I get into a taxi, newly aware that I’m a victim of dangerous driving, newly aware of my own mortality, mightily relieved generally. Seeing my bandaged head and hands and shredded clothes the cabbie asks what happened. I tell him what the police said. ‘That’s this year’s holiday paid for then big man’. Eh? What? He says that the driver was at fault and I should claim, easy-peasy.
I’d hadn’t thought of that.
A couple of days later when my head had cleared a bit I called the CTC solicitors and asked their advice. ‘Give us as much detail as possible, we’ll talk to the police and take it from there’. A month or two and a few attempts at ‘no helmet so contributory negligence’ nonsense later, they pay up. My injuries, my trashed bike and bike computer, all tidied up into a sum of money. In other words, guilt admitted.
Justice though, what about that? The two police officers had said that they were in no doubt that the ‘old boy’ shouldn’t be on the road, hadn’t stopped when he’d hit me, didn’t even know he’d hit me- and the book should be thrown at him. So due process took place, and many months later I’m going in the front door of the district court. Suddenly my name is called and I’m in a small room with a man who looks like he’s far too busy for the likes of me- doesn’t even look at me. He’s the Procurator Fiscal and asks about the ‘accident’- not my word. What did I see? I tell him that I didn’t ‘see’ anything, I was riding my bike and then I was down. I’m sure he harrumphed. ‘Well if that’s all you can say you’re an unreliable witness and we won’t proceed’. I was shown the door. Out in the street I felt like I’d just been trashed into the road again. I couldn’t describe what happened so the ‘crime’ didn’t happen. Just like that.
Road crime 1 Justice 0.
About three years later, about half a mile from home, not as far as the spot where the previous incident took place, a converted minibus gave me a really close pass. I mean really close. I mean a magnatom-type-screaming-at-him close pass. Another magnatom thing-I’d taken to shouting out and trying to memorise number plates of those who come close to killing me, I did so. At the next set of lights (it’s inevitable that these dangerous folk don’t really get anywhere fast, for all their nutcase driving) I pull up on the inside (bags of room, he’s turning right) and tap on the nearside window. He winds it down, I tell him him he’d passed too close. I shouted it, he’d terrified me. I know. Abuse followed. Cyclist bingo. Then he slipped the brake off, allowed the vehicle to roll back a couple of yards, then turned the wheel and drove at me. Twice. I managed to unclip and jump onto the pavement. He then jumped the red light and was gone.
I’m shaken. Unhurt, but shaken. The driver of the car next in the queue at the lights spoke to me, said I should report it. I remembered the harrumphing PF and thought ‘no’. She gave me her name and number and asked me again to report it. As I cycled to work I turned it over in my mind, and pitched up at the House of Plod. Reported. A few weeks later I got a Sunday morning phone call asking me to visit the local police station. I was interviewed in a store cupboard. ‘What was I wearing?’ ‘Did you have your hi-viz on?’.’You should wear a camera- we do but it means we have to be on our best behaviour’.
Upshot? No such vehicle with the number plate I and the witness described. ‘Maybe false plates’. No further action.
Road crime 2 Justice 0.
August 1 2015. A lovely Saturday evening, 7pm ish. I head out to see the new Bearsway, a controversial (motorists hate it) cycle lane. 50 yards from home I’m punishment passed by a high revving 4×4. I’m human. I gave him the vickies. 75 yards up the road he stopped- middle of the road. He’s blocking the whole lane, and gets out of the car and stands in the other lane, simultaneously stopping me getting past him and stopping cars coming the other way. I don’t fancy a close confrontation with this madman so try to cycle up the inside, and he rushes across and decks me. I’m down.
My hip and knee have hit the kerb and my bike is on top of me. I somehow unclip, get out and take my camera from my jersey pocket. Shaking with fear I take a photo of the number plate (I learned something from the previous incident), but no way am I pointing it at the face of the clearly incensed driver. The driver of a car which had been stopped by the incident got out and instructed the madman to move. ‘You didn’t see what he did- he tried to swerve into me!’ (Bike versus 4x 4- yeah right). Mr Angry moved to hit me again. ‘Police officer instructing you to get in your vehicle!’ Where did that come from? It was the witness. Mr Angry fumed, but obeyed and was gone.
I thanked the witness, wondered how he’s thought of that one – ‘I am a police officer- off duty so I can’t call it in- but you should’. Off duty officers can’t call the police? Eh? Anyway, I thank the witness, I’m sure he saved me from further damage- the driver was seriously nuts, the bastard child of Ronnie Pickering and Jason Wells with a touch of Keith Peat’s Dog- but angrier and violent.
So I go to local plodshop. Statement taken (once she’s found a pen). It gets a bit silly here, but I made none of it up.
I ask what happens next. ‘We’ll make enquiries’. Then what? How can I find out- shall I come back in? Sharp intake of breath. ‘Ah, well, you see, this is A division, not B division.’ What?
‘It’s a B division incident, so when it’s processed we pass it on to B division and than we can’t access the details because we’re A division and we’re not allowed to see B division records”
I make a smart arse comment about Police Scotland being a unified force that probably has an intranet all of its own. No deal. ‘You can’t come back to this office- even if it is your nearest police office, this is A division, you’re B division’.
I ask for a crime/incident number so that I can follow up with what’s happening. Sharp intake of breath. ‘We can’t allocate an incident number- we don’t have a typist on duty’ A typist. In 2015 the law stops for want of a typist.
To be fair, an incident number was then phoned to me later that evening, but what if I hadn’t insisted?
Two weeks pass and an officer from B division phones. He wants a statement. I do it all again.
He tells me that the vehicle has a registered keeper in Wales. So? ‘Well, that makes it complicated’. How? Silence. Crime. UK police force, make a phone call. I say these things, maybe not in that order, maybe with a tinge of incredulity. Silence. ‘Leave it with me’.
Months later, Sunday evening, two police officers at my door. Statement taken. Again. The ‘Wales’ story again. ‘It’s complicated’. Again. I ask if the witness is really a police officer- ‘yes he is’.
To my mind it’s open and shut. Crime witnessed by police. Photo evidence of the vehicle used by the criminal taken at the scene. But it’s ‘complicated’.
Months later. Two more police officers at my door. They have mugshots. I tell them I was not making eye contact with the thug at the time, I was trying to minimise any escalation of his actions, so I couldn’t identify him from mugshots. ‘Hmm’.
August 7 2016. Phone call from B division. ‘We can’t identify who the driver was so we can’t take any action’.
September 17 2016. I write to the police expressing my despair at the lack of a prosecution.
September 18 2016. Two officers turn up and spend a long time explaining the ins and outs of the case and the reasons for their being unable to proceed. It goes along these lines, sort of.
The car was, at the time of the assault, registered in Wales and the registered keeper was defintitely in Wales at that time. The car was in Scotland, having been ‘traded’ but the paperwork not completed. By the time the police investigated my assault the car’s ownership was in doubt; not registered to anyone, no insurance detailed- nothing. All attempts to trace the occupants of the car that evening came to nought. It was a whole lot more complex than that, we spent an hour or so, me asking more and more questions, the police describing each cul de sac and the frustrations they felt. They explained that the witness, the police officer, had indeed reported the crime and had taken the action he had (asking the driver to get in the car and leave) because he felt that was the best way to reduce the immediate risk; he was alone and the guy was well-pumped up, and knew that I had the vehicle reg number so due process would catch the guy. Fair enough.
It seemed to me, although I’m filling in these details based on the looks on the officers’ faces rather than anything actually said, that the driver of the vehicle (Mr Punchy-Angry) took fright, and somehow got rid of the vehicle in the strict legal sense- so it now probably has become ‘another’ vehicle, with different plates etc.
Two frustrated police officers, to be fair, who clearly stated that at times like this the victim can feel let down. No shit eh? They also spoke about vulnerable road users, how they frequently sit in their unmarked cars and deal with those who close pass cyclists etc. All very nice. I told them about the West Midlands Traffic Police initiative (no brownie points for not already knowing this), and they told me about the atmosphere at the recent Bearsway meetings they had attended (much shaking of heads and muttering about ‘what’s wrong with these people?’)
Anyway, a cordial meeting, but the bottom line is the arrogant, entitled and violent thug got away with it. I can only hope that he had to spend a lot of money covering his tracks.
Road crime 3 Justice 0.
A terrible story, very well told. Many thanks to both of you for sharing it.ReplyDelete
Thank you Sam.ReplyDelete
If you're still riding after all that then you're a flaming hero.ReplyDelete