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Breaking News: Driver in Mick Mason case acquitted by jury

Gail Purcell stood trial following crowdfunded private prosecution, believed to be a legal first

A jury at the Old Bailey has acquitted motorist Gail Purcell of causing the death of cyclist Michael Mason through dangerous driving. She stood trial after the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF) crowdsourced more than £75,000 to bring a private prosecution, in what is believed to be a legal first. Both Mr Mason's family and the CDF have urged the Metropolitan Police to review its investigation of the case.

Mr Mason, known as Mick, died in hospital shortly after his 70th birthday in March 2014, 19 days after he was hit from behind on London’s Regent Street by a car driven by Purcell, who told police afterwards that she had not seen him. He never regained consciousness.

The Cyclists’ Defence Fund, established in 2001 by national cyclists’ charity Cycling UK, raised funds to bring the private prosecution after the Metropolitan Police Service decided not to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

In a statement released after the verdict this afternoon, Mr Mason's daughter, Anna Tatton-Brown, said: “My family and I respect the decision the jury have reached, although we are obviously disappointed.

"It seems that failing to be aware of what’s in front of you while you’re driving is an acceptable mistake, not careless, and that no explanation for that failure is necessary.

“We do, however, draw some comfort from the fact that the evidence was finally put to a jury, something that should have happened long ago.

"It should not have taken the intervention of CDF, and the support of many members of the public, to bring this case to court.

"Given that the Judge accepted that there was a case which the jury had to consider, we would hope that the Police will now conduct a review into their investigation, their rush to blame the victim, their refusal to seek CPS advice, and consider what lessons might be learned.

“My family would once again like to express our sincere and grateful appreciation for all of the support we have received in our search for justice for my much-loved Dad.”

CDF spokesman Duncan Dollimore commented: “While we accept the jury’s decision, CDF are disappointed and concerned about the message this conveys to the general public regarding driving standards.

"Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.

“Notwithstanding the jury’s decision, we believe it was right to bring this case to court given the Metropolitan Police’s unwillingness to do so.

"We do question why the Police failed to obtain witness evidence from relevant eye-witnesses which the legal team instructed by CDF were able to secure. If they had done so they would have recognised, as the Judge did yesterday, that this was a case which rightly had to be put before a jury. We believe they should review their investigation practices involving vulnerable road users, and their engagement with the victims’ families.

“Both CDF and Mr Mason’s family would like to thank all those people who supported this prosecution. Although we can only be disappointed at the result, we hope that this case demonstrates why we need to look closely at how the justice system serves the victims of road collisions and their families, and whether the standards applied to decide what is, or is not, careless or dangerous driving are fit for purpose.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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106 comments

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beezus fufoon replied to ChairRDRF | 6 years ago
2 likes
ChairRDRF wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
ktache wrote:

bikelikebike, go shove that helmet up your fat arse.

Is anyone going to admit to liking his comment.

Well done for your restraint chairRDRF.

 

 

I liked it, not because I agreed with it, but because it challenges the consensus here, albeit in a clumsy way...

sure there will be anger and a feeling of injustice when something like this happens, and it does seem to happen an awful lot

- on the one hand we have people talking about violence, on the other, people raising lots of money to take it to an unsympathetic court, both of which seem a bit pointless and even counterproductive to anything resembling a just society...

personally I think the example set by Stop de Kindermoord in the Netherlands would be a better use of our time, energy, and money.

 

I don't think "challenging the consensus" is in itself neccessarily a good thing. Maybe the consensus just happens to be right, although it is pretty damn uncomfortable to be part of it in this car-obsessed society.

As to what we do next - I have taken part in Stop the Killing protests (which are based on the Dutch example) and that's something to do. But it doesn't mean we give up on changing the current situation which is just inequitable, wrong and won't work for people who want/need to get about by bke and on foot.

You say that you think the consensus happens to be right - can you explain to me how the focus on prosecuting (or persecuting) individual motorists will help change attitudes?

It seems the motorist is already quite comfortable playing the victim card, with the inflammtory "war on motorists" slogans of the gutter press, and the courts/justice system is equally motor-centric in its outlook - it seems to me that this idea of indivduals seeking justice (in whatever form) against other individuals has a limited effect on challenging the wider perceptions here.

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ChairRDRF replied to beezus fufoon | 6 years ago
2 likes
beezus fufoon wrote:
ChairRDRF wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
ktache wrote:

bikelikebike, go shove that helmet up your fat arse.

Is anyone going to admit to liking his comment.

Well done for your restraint chairRDRF.

 

 

I liked it, not because I agreed with it, but because it challenges the consensus here, albeit in a clumsy way...

sure there will be anger and a feeling of injustice when something like this happens, and it does seem to happen an awful lot

- on the one hand we have people talking about violence, on the other, people raising lots of money to take it to an unsympathetic court, both of which seem a bit pointless and even counterproductive to anything resembling a just society...

personally I think the example set by Stop de Kindermoord in the Netherlands would be a better use of our time, energy, and money.

 

I don't think "challenging the consensus" is in itself neccessarily a good thing. Maybe the consensus just happens to be right, although it is pretty damn uncomfortable to be part of it in this car-obsessed society.

As to what we do next - I have taken part in Stop the Killing protests (which are based on the Dutch example) and that's something to do. But it doesn't mean we give up on changing the current situation which is just inequitable, wrong and won't work for people who want/need to get about by bke and on foot.

You say that you think the consensus happens to be right - can you explain to me how the focus on prosecuting (or persecuting) individual motorists will help change attitudes?

It seems the motorist is already quite comfortable playing the victim card, with the inflammtory "war on motorists" slogans of the gutter press, and the courts/justice system is equally motor-centric in its outlook - it seems to me that this idea of indivduals seeking justice (in whatever form) against other individuals has a limited effect on challenging the wider perceptions here.

If you think that a private prosecution is "persecution", I'm afraid you don't get it.

There is plainly a need for a package of measures. But there do seem to be grounds for suggesting that if you don't see what is in front of you, you are guilty of a careless driving offence, and getting a succesful prosecution for that is reasonable. After all, it might send out a deterrent message.

If the prosecution is not succesful, as in this case, there are grounds for having offences of careless driving as summary offences with a magistrate making an objective decision which avoids (careless motorist sympathising) juries. There are also arguments for having clearer definitions of careless and dangerous driving, which CyclingUK have argued for. But whatever, trying to get prosecutions seems to me to be a reasonable - if certainly not the only - step to take.

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ChairRDRF | 6 years ago
10 likes

The last comment about helmets is plain wrong - I'm not going to go into the evidence (take a look at the just out Bike Nation if you want evidence) - but anyway it is completely inappropriate at this time. The fact is that he would have been seriously injured or dead anyway whatever he was wearing - this is about drivers being able to get away with not looking where they are going and victim-blaming  - helmets are a red herring. (In fact, some of us have argued for years that helmets would be a red herring - and this comment, with the first part devoted to praisinbg helmets is a perfect example of this)

 

Your comments about the Mason family "being used" by the CDF are not only patronising, they are disgusting.

 

We need to keep pressuring on all fronts to get it across that not seeing someone in front of you is unacceptable. Saying that "seeing is an involuntary response" is, in the circumstances, well - I'm not going to be able to explain it to you.

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Rich_cb | 6 years ago
7 likes

I originally thought that this private prosecution was a waste of time and money as the result was, unfortunately, entirely predictable.

It has actually served to illustrate the inadequacy of current legislation.

If you can hit and kill someone because, by your own admission, you weren't paying attention and be acquitted of any wrongdoing then it's obvious that the legal framework of motoring offences is flawed.

Parliament should now be the focus of the CDF's efforts, without changes in the law further prosecutions will achieve little.

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jh27 replied to Rich_cb | 6 years ago
2 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

I originally thought that this private prosecution was a waste of time and money as the result was, unfortunately, entirely predictable.

It has actually served to illustrate the inadequacy of current legislation.

If you can hit and kill someone because, by your own admission, you weren't paying attention and be acquitted of any wrongdoing then it's obvious that the legal framework of motoring offences is flawed.

Parliament should now be the focus of the CDF's efforts, without changes in the law further prosecutions will achieve little.

I agree whole heartedly.

Though i should say, private criminal prosecutions are never likely to be successful - the fact that the crown hasn't prosecuted is likely to be highly prejudicial (perhaps the jury shouldn't be made aware of who the plaintiff is?).

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Legs_Eleven_Wor... | 6 years ago
4 likes

Acquited by a jury of her peers.  Most of whom will have been fed  adiet of cycle hatred by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Standard.

But still.  None of us gives a shit really, because if we did, we would do something about it.  Every time tacks were spread over a cycle path, six inch nails would be dropped from an overhead gantry onto a motorway.  Every time piano wire was stretched across a rural path, a paving stone would be dropped onto a car on a motorway.  Every time a cyclist got abuse shouted at him at the traffic lights, he would toss his 3-KG D-lock through the windscreen of the car.  And every time a gross miscarriage of justice like this happened, the murdering fuck would be located and dealt with.

But none of the above will happen, because oooh, 'violence is wrong'. 

Back to munching your bran muffins, the lot of you.

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kil0ran replied to Legs_Eleven_Worcester | 6 years ago
0 likes
Legs_Eleven_Worcester wrote:

Acquited by a jury of her peers.  Most of whom will have been fed  adiet of cycle hatred by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Standard.

But still.  None of us gives a shit really, because if we did, we would do something about it.  Every time tacks were spread over a cycle path, six inch nails would be dropped from an overhead gantry onto a motorway.  Every time piano wire was stretched across a rural path, a paving stone would be dropped onto a car on a motorway.  Every time a cyclist got abuse shouted at him at the traffic lights, he would toss his 3-KG D-lock through the windscreen of the car.  And every time a gross miscarriage of justice like this happened, the murdering fuck would be located and dealt with.

But none of the above will happen, because oooh, 'violence is wrong'. 

Back to munching your bran muffins, the lot of you.

I like this approach:

Non-destructive and extremely inconvenient.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/31/stop-a-douchebag-russia...

Tricky to do from a bike, but would work nicely for, ooh lets see, Sainsburys vans parked on pavements  1

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wycombewheeler replied to Legs_Eleven_Worcester | 6 years ago
0 likes
Legs_Eleven_Worcester wrote:

Acquited by a jury of her peers.  Most of whom will have been fed  adiet of cycle hatred by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Standard.

But still.  None of us gives a shit really, because if we did, we would do something about it.  Every time tacks were spread over a cycle path, six inch nails would be dropped from an overhead gantry onto a motorway.  Every time piano wire was stretched across a rural path, a paving stone would be dropped onto a car on a motorway.  Every time a cyclist got abuse shouted at him at the traffic lights, he would toss his 3-KG D-lock through the windscreen of the car.  And every time a gross miscarriage of justice like this happened, the murdering fuck would be located and dealt with.

But none of the above will happen, because oooh, 'violence is wrong'. 

Back to munching your bran muffins, the lot of you.

a jury of 12, 10-11 likely to be drivers, and half of those to be below average but all who consider themselves careful and competant. 

 

also I think the failure of the polce and cps to act is in itself a potential cause for reasonable doubt - 'why are we here? the police didn't think she did anything wrong, it's just those cyclists picking on this poor woman.' etc etc

also, from the met polce report "Mr Mason was displaying lights on his bike, but these lights could have easily be lost to a driver’s sight in a busy London road in the dark where there are numerous other lights displayed." So maximum brightness lights from now on.

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madcarew replied to Legs_Eleven_Worcester | 6 years ago
0 likes
Legs_Eleven_Worcester wrote:

Acquited by a jury of her peers.  Most of whom will have been fed  adiet of cycle hatred by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Standard.

But still.  None of us gives a shit really, because if we did, we would do something about it.  Every time tacks were spread over a cycle path, six inch nails would be dropped from an overhead gantry onto a motorway.  Every time piano wire was stretched across a rural path, a paving stone would be dropped onto a car on a motorway.  Every time a cyclist got abuse shouted at him at the traffic lights, he would toss his 3-KG D-lock through the windscreen of the car.  And every time a gross miscarriage of justice like this happened, the murdering fuck would be located and dealt with.

But none of the above will happen, because oooh, 'violence is wrong'. 

Back to munching your bran muffins, the lot of you.

Because, what would be the outcome of that war?.... Look to Northern Ireland, The middle east...

Because we know that eye for an eye solves nothing, and most of us wold like to solve this, not make it worse.

Because  "In the ongoing battle between soft shelled bodies and 1.5 ton steel cubes, the soft shelled bodies have yet to score a significant victory" .... Sheldon Brown.

What you are suggesting is the equivalent of Belgium going to war against the USA. Unlikely to go well for Belgium. If Belgium has a problem with USA, they're better off trying to politically take over the UN, and win the hearts of the rest of the world. Longer, more difficult, but with a higher chance of ultimately achieving their goal.

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Jitensha Oni | 6 years ago
13 likes

Is there something we're not being told? If someone killed a pedestrian on shared use while cycling and the case got this far, I wonder how the claim  "I just didn't see them" would be viewed?

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FluffyKittenofT... | 6 years ago
3 likes

I know I'm a broken record on the topic, but, honestly, I just can't see, given what events like this say about human nature (namely, that human beings, as a collective group, are moral midgets with an incurable tendency towards power-worship), that there is any other way forward than pushing to keep motorised traffic and cyclists (and pedestrians) as far apart as possible.

And then to gradually increase the space allocated to the latter two and reduce that allocated to the first.

Legal enforcement and justice are just not going to happen. Human beings don't 'do' justice, it's not our 'thing' . But to me the hope about reallocating space is that it could potentially be self-sustaining, as it wouldn't rely on humans being 'good'.

More space for cycling = more cyclists = more self-interested support for more space for cycling, no 'goodness' required, it would be driven by self-interest, the most powerful force in the world.

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rliu | 6 years ago
6 likes

Was this a jury of delivery van and black cab drivers? Either way, cyclists are f*cked when anything bad happens.

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Housecathst | 6 years ago
4 likes

Is there anything else where you can get away with kill somebody so easily.

Perhaps walking across a motorway bridge with a couple of breeze blocks. somehow they fall off the side of the bridge and kill a motorist. You wouldn't  have to explain what happened, just shrug and walk away, no case to answer. 

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Paul_C | 6 years ago
9 likes

trying to get a fair trial would be like trying to find a white man guilty of murdering a coloured person in the deep south of the USA in the 50's or even 60's...

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toothache90 replied to Paul_C | 6 years ago
4 likes
Paul_C wrote:

trying to get a fair trial would be like trying to find a white man guilty of murdering a coloured person in the deep south of the USA in the 50's or even 60's...

Not just back then, but also applies to present day.

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Tynedoc | 6 years ago
0 likes

[Image result for cyclists friend photo]

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dottigirl | 6 years ago
5 likes

Gutted.

What was the direction from the judge?

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Canyon48 | 6 years ago
4 likes

How the hell is that possible?!

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mike the bike replied to Canyon48 | 6 years ago
1 like
wellsprop wrote:

How the hell is that possible?!

 

I don't know.  I wasn't there.

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brooksby | 6 years ago
9 likes

The Grauniad says that the jury deliberated for a whole  seventeen minutes.

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kil0ran | 6 years ago
12 likes

It will be a brave politician who addresses this issue. Car lobby just too strong. I'm not sure that jail is actually the answer - very large fines and long driving bans may be more appropriate. Italy have done this recently. Enforcement is difficult but the answer is to use the law as a deterrent - e.g. compulsory custodial sentence if you are caught whilst driving banned. Same if you are caught using a mobile more than once.

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Zjtm231 | 6 years ago
9 likes

Verdict amounts to free rein to mow down anyone in front of you if you drive a car with the simple explanation that you didn't see them. Madness

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peted76 | 6 years ago
17 likes

Oh this is shit. So very shit. Shitty shitty shit cock monkey arse nipple twunts. 

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brooksby replied to peted76 | 6 years ago
5 likes
peted76 wrote:

Oh this is shit. So very shit. Shitty shitty shit cock monkey arse nipple twunts. 

Dont bottle it up like that: tell us how you're really feeling.

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P3t3 | 6 years ago
16 likes

Is there some technicality or special feature of this case that has not been reported? I mean, on face value it just doesn't make any sense.  

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Bluebug replied to P3t3 | 6 years ago
6 likes
P3t3 wrote:

Is there some technicality or special feature of this case that has not been reported? I mean, on face value it just doesn't make any sense.  

Judges give juries direction on points of law - so the judge's direction could easily lead to the acquittal.   One of the issues is due to the CPS not prosecuting it indicates there was insufficient evidence in the first place to bring a prosecution.

On and I've always been told that most of what you say immediately at the scene of a car incident if you caused it would be discounted.   It is only what you say later at a police station, other people's evidence of what you were doing before the incident, camera evidence, whether you looked/smelled in toxicated etc that would count.   This is due to the fact that you would be in shock after the incident so not in your normal state of mind.  (I'm sure there was some court case about this.)

I know when one of my sisters' got run over and killed the driver said he didn't see her.  Likewise when one of my brothers' and myself  saw a child get run over but not killed when arranging my mum's funeral, the driver said she didn't see the child.   Neither were prosecuted.   So the standard response for any car driver doing anything wrong is to say you didn't see the person you maimed or killed.

Finally as the case took place in London there is likely to be non-drivers and cyclists on the jury. I know plenty of people who live in London and don't drive plus many who cycle regardless of whether they drive or not.  So it's not about the jury's own habits, which we don't know about,  but the fact that the standard of proof to get a conviction  of any sort when you injure a  more vunerable road user under current legislation is too high.

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P3t3 replied to Bluebug | 6 years ago
2 likes
Bluebug wrote:

Judges give juries direction on points of law - so the judge's direction could easily lead to the acquittal.   One of the issues is due to the CPS not prosecuting it indicates there was insufficient evidence in the first place to bring a prosecution....

...So it's not about the jury's own habits, which we don't know about,  but the fact that the standard of proof to get a conviction  of any sort when you injure a  more vunerable road user under current legislation is too high.

Right - so its just the way the case played out and a burden of proof issue then?

 

Bluebug wrote:

I know when one of my sisters' got run over and killed the driver said he didn't see her.  Likewise when one of my brothers' and myself  saw a child get run over but not killed when arranging my mum's funeral, the driver said she didn't see the child.   Neither were prosecuted.   So the standard response for any car driver doing anything wrong is to say you didn't see the person you maimed or killed.

This is pretty logical though isn't it.  Its very very rare for a driver to hit anything with their car intentionally, especially a person, because the average person isn't a violent murderer.  When they say they didn't see them, they really mean it.  

I guess the standard that we hold drivers to is too low, my driver training never covered how to look, where to look, or any techniques to avoid not paying enough attention.  

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scraff replied to P3t3 | 6 years ago
1 like

 

Bluebug wrote:

 

This is pretty logical though isn't it.  Its very very rare for a driver to hit anything with their car intentionally, especially a person, because the average person isn't a violent murderer.  When they say they didn't see them, they really mean it.  

I guess the standard that we hold drivers to is too low, my driver training never covered how to look, where to look, or any techniques to avoid not paying enough attention.  

 

Which begs the question, what were they doing that stopped them seeing them? I cannot ever recall driving on the road and then suddenly realising there was another road user nearby that I had previously not seen. It's a horseshit excuse and  simply should not be accepted , if a car driver says this then they have  obviously not been giving  the road their full attention, and if you are not giving the road your full attention whilst travelling along at 30mph+ then you are IMHO being careless.

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1961BikiE | 6 years ago
12 likes

How many many of the jurors drive I wonder? Impossible to get a fair hearing IMHO as I believe a majority will be of the opinion that it could be them in the doc one day.

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CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
16 likes

Un. F***ng. Believable.

We need a new offence of "causing death by driving" ... take the whole careless vs. dangerous vs. compentent driver test out of the equation.

Edit: Or just treat it for whta it is - Manslaughter

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