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Police’s “road safety culture” questioned as motorist escapes punishment for allegedly abusing and swerving at female cyclist

Lancashire Police say the cyclist’s report was mistakenly closed, with the subsequent delay “causing difficulties” in investigating the “fast and terrifying incident”

Lancashire Police’s attitude towards vulnerable road users has been called into question following an alleged incident involving a passing motorist who verbally abused and repeatedly swerved his vehicle at a female cyclist – and which, due to an error made by police staff at the time the incident was reported, saw the driver escape punishment for actions described by the cyclist’s husband as “beyond abusive”.

However, a member of the force’s Immediate Response team has said that the “frustrating” failure to identify and prosecute the driver for the “fast and terrifying incident” was simply down to the delay in opening the investigation caused by a control room operator mistakenly closing the cyclist’s initial report, and that the police are nevertheless able to pursue the motorist for driving a vehicle with an expired MOT.

The alleged incident, which was not captured on camera, took place on 3 September as cyclists Paul and Natalie Bennett were riding through Foulridge, a village in Pendle, Lancashire, when Paul dropped back due to a mechanical issue. As he was riding back up to his wife, the driver of a BMW X3 passed the two cyclists.

“The road in that location is both fast and wide and it’s very unlikely a passing motorist would even be slightly inconvenienced by the presence of a cyclist – not that this would be a valid excuse,” Mr Bennett said.

“Yet the driver pulled alongside my wife and leaned over the passenger seat of his car and began verbally abusing her for being a cyclist. Once he’d finished doing so, he then used his vehicle to swerve at her, forcing her towards the kerb, multiple times.

“My opinion is that this is not simply a public order offence, but under CPS guidelines would constitute assault with a vehicle.”

A56, Foulridge, Pendle (Google Street View)

“A culture where scrutiny isn’t welcome”

Following the alleged assault, Mr Bennett took a note of the driver’s number plate – which he used to verify that the vehicle in question had a lapsed and invalid MOT (“which is still true today,” he says) – before reporting the incident to the police.

A few weeks later, “after hearing nothing from the police for some time”, Mr Bennett requested an update from North Yorkshire Police, who informed him that the matter had been passed to Lancashire Police.

When no update duly arrived, Mr Bennett then contacted Lancashire Police on 16 October – a month and a half after the incident – to complain about the lengthy delay. A day later, the police took a statement from Mr Bennett both over the phone and in person at his home, while also scheduling to speak to his wife.

“At this point I’ll state that I feel that more effort has been employed by Lancashire Police in preventing escalation of the complaint than had been undertaken to that point in actually doing anything about the incident,” Bennett said.

Finally, on 8 November, Mrs Bennett received a call from an officer who had previously visited their home who, according to Paul, “stated that the police were unable to act further in relation to the driver/registered keeper as the details in the statement were vague”.

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“Considering the dates involved between the incident and Lancs Police taking a statement, this is hardly surprising and is a direct result of failing to take timely action,” the cyclist said.

“Likewise, as explained to the officer during his time in my home, the incident occurred next to two premises that would almost certainly have CCTV footage of the road – Dales Motors and the neighbouring petrol station – yet it would be unlikely that over 28 days after the incident footage would still be available, though timings could be provided to-the-minute based on GPS tracking of the ride.”

He continued: “My wife feels more strongly about these events and feels she’s been purposefully put in a position whereby her statement compromises the initial information provided to the police to justify no action.

“All updates were requested in a written format, yet that hasn’t been provided with Lancs Police seemingly preferring phone conversations. I think this itself is problematic and suggests a culture where scrutiny isn’t welcome.”

“Zero confidence”

Earlier this month, Mr Bennett complained about the force’s handling of the case to the office of Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who stated that it is “unable” to deal with the matter “in the first instance”.

“The PCC’s office seem to be unwilling to ask why the incident was simply closed, why the original prompt for a reply was entirely ignored and why, given the nature of the incident, the police are treating it as a public order offence given the actions of the driver were beyond just being abusive,” he said.

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The cyclist also criticised Lancashire Police for previous road safety incidents in which he believes the force “failed entirely to respond appropriately”, and called into question the force’s attitude in general towards incidents involving drivers and vulnerable road users.

One of these incidents saw an “impatient driver” allegedly threaten the cyclist with violence following a close pass on a 20 percent gradient, while another involved a young motorist “overtaking me at speed, entering a 90-degree blind, single track bend and encountering an oncoming pickup truck”.

“The driver then swerved back across me, narrowly missing my front wheel, finally coming to a stop in a nearby tree,” Mr Bennett said. “As there were no injuries, and despite the aggravating circumstances, the police did not attend. They would have attended if branches from the tree were in the road.”

“To this end, I have zero confidence that Lancs Police act appropriately where vulnerable road users are concerned and would ask that the person responsible within Lancashire Police is now asked some incredibly difficult questions as to the culture they preside over and whether it’s appropriate for them to continue in that role,” Mr Bennett continued.

“My dad, who was a traffic policeman prior to retirement, rides throughout the Ribble Valley, as does my wife and my best mate,” he told Lancashire Police. “I simply do not want to write to you again when something serious happens to one of them – as feels almost inevitable – or have them write to you, when something happens to me.”

Delay causes “frustration”

In response to Mr Bennett’s complaints, Sergeant Paula Cullen from Pendle’s Immediate Response team said: “Whilst I cannot begin to answer specific questions to the wider complaints relating Mr Bennett’s historic encounters with Lancashire Police, I am able to provide some reply to the incident on 3 September.

“The initial call was made to North Yorkshire Police who transferred the details to Lancashire control room immediately. Unfortunately, when this was done, the control room operator closed that report, it was never passed to an officer for deployment and the crime was not identified. This remained the case until Mr Bennett emailed in on 16 October which was over a month after the incident.

“At that point the control room identified that an error had been made in the closure of the incident and re-opened the report requesting deployment and raising a crime report of a public order offence.”

She continued: “Clearly the time delay in action has caused difficulties in the investigation, not only in the quality of evidence which we have able to gather given that recollections will naturally fade in detail over time but also in the availability of what we would term ‘golden hour’ tasks which are often key in the success of investigations.

“As Mr Bennett quite rightly suggests, CCTV opportunities have been lost as well as the opportunity to explore independent witness opportunities at the time of the incident.

“Whilst we have the registration of the vehicle involved in the incident, we do not know who was driving the vehicle at the time. Understandably the description provided by Mrs Bennett is not sufficient for identification purpose given the delay in us obtaining that statement and her recollections in what must have been a fast and terrifying incident.”

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Sergeant Cullen also noted that while there are “other avenues” available to identify the motorist, such as issuing a request to the registered keeper of the vehicle as part of a notice of intended prosecution for road traffic offences.

“However, this must be done within 14 days of the offence for it to be legally made,” Sergeant Cullen said. “In addition, this is only an avenue if we were looking at road traffic offences. As we were hoping to progress a criminal offence this method of lawfully identifying the driver is not one open to us.

“Once again it is the delay in beginning this investigation which has caused the frustrations in it progress.

“The final point which is raised is in regards to the lapsed MOT on the offending vehicle. This is a matter that has been dealt with, and although it does not relate to a victim-based offence it is the only point of we have been able to lawfully progress against the owner of the vehicle.”

In a statement to road.cc, Lancashire Police also advised any cyclist who has witnessed or been a victim of dangerous driving to submit video or photographic evidence to the force’s Operation Snap road safety portal.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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52 comments

Avatar
Runtilyoudrop | 5 months ago
2 likes

Lancashire z police force. Bunch of cnuts.

Avatar
wtjs | 5 months ago
11 likes

This is a PR offensive by Lancashire PCC on local social media, in which he lauds the effectiveness and 24/7 dynamism of LC's Traffic Division and which is so at odds with the truth that it should be bookmarked by quantum mechanics theorists as evidence of Alternative Universes. The PCC must be living in one, but I must proffer some photos to validate the universe the rest of us are lumbered with. This shows the advertising of Hartley Transport and Training of Lancaster- who operate 44 Tonner G16 DHT, which will get away with a blatant RLJ offence

Avatar
wtjs replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
7 likes

And this is PL17 OEM, no MOT since 19.10.23, parked on Garstang High St. Reported on 20.10.23

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wtjs replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
8 likes

And PK60 HKV, no MOT since 30.10.23. Pickups seem worst for this offence round here- either them or Mercedes

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wtjs replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
8 likes

And double white line offender, school bus NA65 VZS

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wtjs replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
6 likes

This is when Hartley's Training 44 Tonner passed the red light: the preceding scene when the lights changed to amber. You can see the shadow of G16 DHT approaching, with sun due south

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wtjs replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
8 likes

And double header with Qashqai VA65 EVL, SORN-ed, and Sandero WV68 FYM, No MOT on the same shot (apologies for repetition). A Day in the Life of NW Frontier Wild West Town Garstang

Avatar
neilmck | 5 months ago
17 likes

I live in and cycle around the Parisian region in France and I'm horrified by the attitude of drivers in the UK. When I came to France 30 years one would not have dared to cycle in Paris and now cycling is so popular that the most frequented cycle path in Europe can be found in Paris. So what was it that triggered the change in Paris? Politicians. The Greens got into power in Paris and over the last twenty years have transformed the town. Old people still complain it is bad for cars, but as the years pass inevitably there are less and less of them.

Avatar
Hirsute | 5 months ago
11 likes

"Lancashire Police’s attitude towards vulnerable road users has been called into question"

for many, many years.

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qwerty360 | 5 months ago
17 likes

IMHO this provides a good example of why the "Notice of Intented Prosecution" (NIP) should be replaced with a "Notice of Investigation" that the police are effectively REQUIRED to issue in any case involving an identified motorvehicle immediately.

 

We set an incredibly tight time limit that only applies to motoring offences to request information and expect a reasonable investigation first; This is basically impossible, so is just a way to prevent cases proceeding...

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Browsie replied to qwerty360 | 5 months ago
9 likes

Lancashire police appear to be of the opinion that NIP actually stands for " no intention ( to ) prosecute", as we simply can't be arsed with all the paperwork involved!.

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wtjs replied to Browsie | 5 months ago
6 likes

Lancashire police appear to be of the opinion that NIP actually stands for " no intention to prosecute"

Undoubtedly. Again, apologies for repetition, but the only case of mine in over 4 years of intensive GoPro use to get anywhere near a prosecution was

https://upride.cc/incident/j111kdw_bmwgrancoupe_uwlcross/

https://upride.cc/incident/j111kdw_bmwgrancoupe_closepassuwlcross/

but they abandoned it after 18 months when a defence lawyer wrote them a letter. The police (blamed, as usual, on the CPS) claimed that they couldn't continue because of the absence of rear-facing footage

When I questioned the absence of action over this RLJ, they just said they had been too busy to look at it- this, along with 'only a momentary loss of concentration', is the Lancashire Constabulary Routine Omni-Excuse. In dire straits, when these don't work, they just deploy 'case mistakenly closed and it's now too late'

https://upride.cc/incident/t90jdt_audiwithcaravan_rljatspeed/

Avatar
wtjs | 5 months ago
11 likes

In a statement to road.cc, Lancashire Police also advised any cyclist who has witnessed or been a victim of dangerous driving to submit video or photographic evidence to the force’s Operation Snap road safety portal

If this wasn't so serious, it would be comical. There are many aspects of these cases which are identical to my own experience. Reporting to OpSnap Lancs is simply a black hole. You never hear anything back if they know that you know them and how they operate- they don't like people like me who have mounds of data about them and how they do nothing about anything related to cyclists, or anything else really. If they could get away with it, it would be 'you're nicked' for all those who waste police time by reporting incidents. These are the last two I have reported to them, and I have received no response beyond the 'APL' reference number- and I never will

https://upride.cc/incident/pj23vmc_honda125_redlightcross/

The RLJ lorry incident below is awaiting upRide approval. Nothing will happen to either the driver or the rider. The other trick they frequently use is immediately closing the incident- but it's always done by an un-named officer. Try complaining and the Force Control Room just says 'the officer didn't sign the log'. I don't give them a phone number, because that leads to more dodges: a favourite one is that an officer phones you and hangs up after one ring. It then goes to voicemail, and if you try to respond 'the officer is on days off' or has been 'transferred to another station'. As for the 'no MOT' story!!!- people on here are rightfully sick of me going on about WU59 UMH- 6 1/2 years of 'no MOT/ insurance' on a vehicle with phone numbers and Facebook account displayed. I last saw the vehicle carrying metalwork for his Groundworks business on Sunday 17th December. I saw old friend Dacia Sandero WV68 FYM yesterday the 19th- no MOT since 5.7.23. First identified and reported on  7.9.23- I have hundreds of such offences recorded and I don't think anything has been done about any of them

 

Avatar
Hirsute replied to wtjs | 5 months ago
7 likes

" people on here are rightfully sick of me going on about WU59 UMH- 6 1/2 years of 'no MOT"

Although I did laugh out loud at

"police are nevertheless able to pursue the motorist for driving a vehicle with an expired MOT"

Avatar
chrisonabike | 5 months ago
14 likes

"Mistakenly closed" - there was no mistake...

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the little onion replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
12 likes

I think you will find the full explanation is in the locked filing cabinet, in the basement toilet, behind a sign saying "beware of the leopard"

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
8 likes
Quote:

simply down to the delay in opening the investigation caused by a control room operator mistakenly routinely closing the cyclist’s initial report

fixed it

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 5 months ago
10 likes

What's required is for police to jump all over these kinds of traffic related assaults and throw the book at the drivers. Whilst they continue to do absolutely nothing (except cover up for their own incompetences) then drivers will continue to feel emboldened.

Avatar
qwerty360 replied to hawkinspeter | 5 months ago
2 likes
  1. Require police officers handling these complaints cycle.
  2. Record all failed/screwed up prosecutions for detailed complaints from third parties
  3. Remove a complaint from the list each time an officer is injured by bad driving while cycling
  4. Mandate that a significant chunk of any civil claim by an officer cycling goes to a suitable cycling charity so long as entries on list 2 exist.
Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 5 months ago
4 likes

Where's WTJS?

Avatar
wtjs replied to Secret_squirrel | 5 months ago
10 likes

Where's WTS?

Just heard. Working on it!

Avatar
the little onion | 5 months ago
12 likes

institutionally anti-cyclist

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