The number of cyclists convicted of ‘Causing Bodily Harm by Wanton or Furious Driving’ – a law dating back to 1861, originally used to apply to horses and carts – doubled in 2016 according to new statistics from the Ministry of Justice.
The Victorian-era legislation reached prominence after it was used to sentence cyclist Charlie Alliston, who killed pedestrian Kim Briggs while riding an Olympic-style bike with no front brakes.
Mrs Briggs’ widower – Matthew Briggs – has renewed his calls for the government to prioritise a change in the law, saying the existing legislation was “hopelessly out of date”. He said that he hoped a Government review would be completed in the next few weeks as he called for the introduction of a new offence of causing death or injury by dangerous or careless cycling.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Briggs said: “A week after Kim died I received a call from the police to say there was an issue with the bike and they were considering bringing charges but they didn’t know which charges they could bring because these laws weren’t there.
“We then had to wait 18 months for the case to come to trial. You’re already on a roller-coaster of emotion. I have two young kids who had lost their mum. I’d lost my wife. This just adds to it.
“I don’t blame the police at all for this but the police had to go back to 1861 to scrabble around in a box of old laws, when it’s very, very clear this is just an omission and we need the law to catch up.”
Paul Loughlin, a motoring law solicitor at the law firm, Stephensons, said, pointed out that the charges of death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving were not available to the courts when sentencing individuals who had caused the death of a pedestrian while using a bicycle.
“This means the courts cannot hand down longer custodial sentences and cannot ‘disqualify’ a cyclist from using a bike on the roads for any period of time,” he said.
He added: “If a motorist were to take a vehicle that was either not roadworthy or not permitted for use on UK roads, much as Mr Alliston did with his ‘fixed-gear’ track bike, this would be considered an ‘aggravating factor’ and would warrant a tougher sentence.
“Under such circumstances, I would expect a court to only consider a ‘death by dangerous driving’ charge against that driver and a custodial sentence of up to 14 years.”
The Government has said it will conduct an urgent review into whether cyclists who put lives at risk should be subject to laws equivalent to those applied to drivers.
Ministers will take independent legal advice on the introduction of a new offence for cyclists and hopes to reach a decision early this year.