A public consultation has opened on long-awaited government proposals to create new offences of causing death or serious injury when cycling. A document published by the Department for Transport says that the proposed legislation would ’achieve consistency between cyclists and drivers and parity of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury’.
The move follows a campaign formed after the jailing last year of a London cyclist after the death of a pedestrian in London. Charlie Alliston was sentenced to 18 months for causing bodily harm by ’wanton or furious driving’, which carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Earlier this year a review by Laura Thomas, partner at top-100 firm Birketts, concluded that there was a clear case for legislative change.
At present, the offence of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving or other misconduct under section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 can be committed only if the driver or cyclist has ’a degree of subjective recklessness so far as the foreseeability of causing injury is concerned’, the consultation document states. A cyclist may also be charged with dangerous or careless cycling under the Road Traffic Act 1988, for which the maximum penalties range from fines of £1,000 to £2,500.
By contrast, the maximum penalty under the 1988 act for causing death by dangerous driving of a mechanically propelled vehicle is 14 years imprisonment.
The consultation document also seeks view for extending new cycling offences to both the road and other public places. It also considers whether any new cycling offences should carry minimum disqualification periods.
Total parity between motoring and cycling offences is unobtainable, the document acknowledges. 'We do not intend to introduce a testing, licensing or insurance regime for cyclists; the costs and complexity of introducing such a system would significantly outweigh the benefits. Nor do we propose to introduce penalty points for cyclists. A system of penalty points for cycling offences would require a record to be held or the creation of a new cycling licence regime. This could inadvertently discourage many people from taking up cycling, and unfairly burden the vast majority of law-abiding cyclists.’
The closing date for responses is 5 November 2018. The government will announce how it intends to proceed within three months.