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Cyclist filmed knocking over five-year-old wins defamation case against child's father

The 63-year-old cyclist said the video being shared on social media, and then going viral, caused him to feel threatened and scared to leave his home

A cyclist who was filmed knocking over a five-year-old girl on a snowy path in Belgium on Christmas Day 2020, the footage of the incident subsequently going viral on social media and causing much discussion and outrage, has won a lawsuit against the child's father in relation to the video being shared online.

The 63-year-old cyclist, who has not been named, had in March 2021 been ordered to pay a symbolic €1 in damages to the child's family, a judge in Verviers also handing the rider a suspended sentence after agreeing that the footage showed that the cyclist had been riding too fast and there was insufficient space to overtake safely.

However, later that year the man sued the child's father for defamation, a lawyer for the cyclist saying that the footage being shared on social media with a caption asking if it should be reported to the police, and consequently going viral and being picked up by media outlets around the world, provoking shock and anger among many who viewed it, had caused his client to feel threatened whenever he went outside.

Patrick Mpasa said he had not shared the footage of the incident at Baraque Michel in the province of Liège on Facebook to seek revenge, rather to raise awareness and did not "want a witch hunt, just him to apologise".

The cyclist recently won the defamation case and has previously demanded €4,500 (£3,911) in compensation for the value of the bike he says he can no longer use. A court is expected to make a decision on how much compensation he is entitled to in April 2024.

The incident sparked widespread online debate after footage of the cyclist passing the group, his left knee making contact with the girl named Neïa after he came round a bend on a snow-covered path.

The cyclist, who was 61 at the time of the incident, handed himself into the police after an appeal was launched and spent a night in the cells. The public prosecutor pressed charges of intentional assault and battery to a minor, and the cyclist could have faced up to a year in jail.

Ultimately, the man received a suspended sentence and the court concluded: "the cyclist [had] dealt, by lack of foresight or precaution, an involuntary blow, without intention to attack the person of others, to Neïa."

It added that "the defendant should have taken into account the climatic conditions (snow and frost) and the presence of many people including children, on this holiday, to adapt his speed and his conduct."

At an earlier hearing on 3 February 2021, the cyclist said that he had not caused the child to fall on purpose: "When I left my home and set off, there was hardly anyone there. It was only on this portion, of about one kilometre, near the Baraque Michel, that there were a lot of pedestrians.

"I braked, I adapted my speed and I activated my 120-decibel horn. As I passed the little girl, I felt my rear wheel slipping. To avoid the fall I rebalanced myself by doing a knee movement. I felt that I had touched the little girl but I did not immediately realise that she had fallen."

Later in the same year, the defamation case was brought against the girl's father, Mr Mpasa, whose lawyer at the time stated: "We have the right to express ourselves. We have the right to post or have posted a video on the internet. In this case, we must check whether we have exceeded the limits of this freedom of expression."

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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Londheart | 2 months ago

This is a seemingly hopeless conflict, arguably till you look at it from the English language perspective. The man's knee accidentally collided with a girl called Neïa (meaning: 'full of hope'). He kneed Neïa, so he is a knee-er. Also, it could have been a lot worse than it was: a near miss?

Left_is_for_Losers | 2 months ago

I look forward to Cycling Mikey having several such cases brought against him. 

Brauchsel replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 2 months ago

Me too. As noted previously, truth is a defence in English law and a driver filmed using a mobile phone at the wheel will have an expensive day in court if he claims that Mikey defamed him by posting that he was using his mobile phone at the wheel. 

jaymack replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 2 months ago

As we know cycling is a broad Church that contains the occasional dick. No one's a paragon of virtue all the time, sad but true.

Eton Rifle replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 2 months ago

Never going to happen.

Cry more. 🤣🤣🤣

roboito | 2 months ago

He said he felt that he touched the girl so he should have stopped to make sure she was OK. If he'd used basic good manners none of this would have happened.

Stephankernow replied to roboito | 2 months ago
roboito wrote:

He said he felt that he touched the girl so he should have stopped to make sure she was OK. If he'd used basic good manners none of this would have happened.

I agree, I would have stopped and asked how tbe child was and applied commonsense and courtesy.
I believe then none of this would have occured! The words commonsense and courtesy seens to have vanished from a %age of tne population.

hawkinspeter | 2 months ago

I don't particularly care about the cyclist's excuses - the fact he didn't stop after knocking over a kid tells me all I need to know.

JL77 | 2 months ago
1 like

It's really two-sided. It's wrong to post the video online. But without the video, the guy would never have been found. And the police wouldn't have bothered.

Regarding the excuse that he slipped, I always found it very odd that he then tried to compensate by moving his weight (leg) in the direction he was falling  :-s

Cocovelo replied to JL77 | 2 months ago

To avoid the fall I rebalanced myself by doing a knee movement.

It might have been lost in translation but if I were falling to one side then I would put my leg out to that same side to catch myself and avoid the fall?

Jimmy Ray Will replied to Cocovelo | 2 months ago

I would say sticking the knee out as he did would absolutely be what you'd do if you were looking to change direction whilst minimising lateral load on the front wheel. So exactly what you'd do looking to change direction on a slippery surface. However, once your front end has broken traction, getting your leg down is the only real course of action.

I am confident he didn't mean to hit the child. I am also confident he had no intention of stopping / slowing for people he thought were wrongly blocking 'his' path. 

Jimmy Ray Will | 2 months ago

My understanding of this is the 'involuntary assault' charge is key here. He was deemed to have caused an assault, but not intentionally. The video and subsequent coverage is positioned to suggest otherwise, and therefore defamation has arguably been committed... or something.

To be frank, no one except the 5 year old comes out of this one with any dignity... everyone could have done better. 

Oldfatgit | 2 months ago

@admin ... on the back of this, you might want to consult with your legal team about NMOTD.

And ... let us know if posting number plates and faces is going to be counted as defamation.

I am aware the in the UK there is no expectation of Privacy while in a Public place and that stills and video footage is mainly legal.

Secret_squirrel replied to Oldfatgit | 2 months ago

Oldfatgit wrote:

@admin ... on the back of this, you might want to consult with your legal team about NMOTD.

Why? There is nothing similar about this case to NMOTD, different country, different circumstances, different laws. 

In addition the press have a public interest defence.

Very very unlikely to have something like this happen with a NMOTD, even those which are published on YouTube first.

Oldfatgit replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 months ago
1 like

The defamation case was sparked by the video appearing on YouTube and then being picked up by other media outlets.

There are similarities between this incident and NMOTD ... namely that someone has been captured doing something potentially character damaging, and subsequently placed on line for trial by viewer.

This kind of case *could* be brought against you** in the UK should someone have the funds and drive to do so.

On a personal note, I am also curious as I have several incidents on my own YouTube channel, and can't afford to defend such an action legally.

** not necessarily 'you' ... unless you fit the description.

Brauchsel replied to Oldfatgit | 2 months ago

"This kind of case *could* be brought against you** in the UK should someone have the funds and drive to do so."

Extremely unlikely under English defamation law. The drivers generally aren't identified, the commentary is generally (non-actionable) opinion rather than purported fact, and an accusation of bad driving is (sadly) unlikely to be seen as serious enough to pass the proportionality test. Plus truth (or something like it) is a defence, and so most drivers on film would be very badly advised to start a case. 

AidanR replied to Oldfatgit | 2 months ago

The general public gets upset about a cyclist kneeing a 5 year old so that they fall to the ground.

The general public don't really care if someone drives 2 tons of metal dangerously close to a cyclist.

tootsie323 replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
1 like

It seems to me that when a driver hits a cyclist people tend to break out the hashtags but when a cyclist hits a pedestrian people tend to break out the pitchforks...

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