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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

Avatar
tritecommentbot | 6 years ago
17 likes

Sad, but not deterred. If and when it comes up again will keep donating. The problem really is legislation. People are voting for shit politicians based on tribal politics. 

 

@Fatboy This will spur absolutely bugger all unfortunately unless a huge social media campaign kicks off on the back of it. In hindsight we know now that the money would have been better spent on getting this debated in Parlt. via a petition and media pressure. 

Also, screw that jury. Wish I was there.

Avatar
Ush replied to tritecommentbot | 6 years ago
2 likes
unconstituted wrote:

Sad, but not deterred. If and when it comes up again will keep donating. The problem really is legislation. People are voting for shit politicians based on tribal politics. 

 

@Fatboy This will spur absolutely bugger all unfortunately unless a huge social media campaign kicks off on the back of it. In hindsight we know now that the money would have been better spent on getting this debated in Parlt. via a petition and media pressure. 

Also, screw that jury. Wish I was there.

Agree with the sad but undeterred part. But I don't think that we "know now that the money would have been better spent on getting this debated in Parlt."

The fact of the matter is that cyclists are a distinct minority.  I shall be bearing this in mind the next time I am called upon to act with fellow feeling for a motorist.

As regards screwing the jury... no thanks ... but I do hope that something nasty and appropriate happens to each of them.

Avatar
Metaphor | 6 years ago
3 likes

Disgusted. 

I will renew my economic boycott until the governments gets its priorities right.

Avatar
brooksby | 6 years ago
16 likes

Thoroughly disappointing - if not particularly surprising - result.   So, what exactly do you have to fail to do nowadays to be counted as driving carelessly?

Avatar
burtthebike replied to brooksby | 6 years ago
8 likes
brooksby wrote:

So, what exactly do you have to fail to do nowadays to be counted as driving carelessly?

Run over a judge, a policeman or a politician.

And the reverse applies obviously: if you are riding a bike and you collide with anything, you will automatically be found to be at fault.

This decision, which I find literally incredible, has declared open season on cyclists.  If no explanation is required for not seeing a cyclist in front of you, behaving completely legally, why should any driver bother looking any more?  They don't even need to make an excuse any more, like the sun was in my eyes, or he was wasn't wearing hi-viz.

I profoundly hope that CDF will be reflecting on this decision and organising some kind of protest and political campaign to get the deaf and dumb judiciary, police and politicians to start listening.  The Justice for Cyclists campaign was admirable, but clearly hasn't worked.  Perhaps all the cycling organisations could get together on this one, even suspending other campaigns; this really is that important.

Avatar
wycombewheeler replied to brooksby | 6 years ago
7 likes
brooksby wrote:

Thoroughly disappointing - if not particularly surprising - result.   So, what exactly do you have to fail to do nowadays to be counted as driving carelessly?

drink, drugs or be a foreigner. Even mobile phone use is not sufficient to be convicted.

Avatar
FatBoyW | 6 years ago
27 likes

Shameful - if you can't explain a failure to see clearly visible objects/ other road users no other evidence should be necessary - you should be done for due care as a minimum. 

So sorry for all the victims of this type of failure of our society and pray this spurs on a change to the UK legislation.

Avatar
Grahamd | 6 years ago
22 likes

Words fail me.

Avatar
madcarew replied to Grahamd | 6 years ago
1 like
Grahamd wrote:

Words fail me.

 

Here in NZ we've managed to go one further. There's been 2 cyclist deaths, that although they resulted in trial, dangerous or careless driving wasn't found. In both the cases, the driver admitted to having seen the cyclist, but ran over them anyway (unintentionally). Careless and dangerous driving both have to have continued for an amount of time. A single / momentary  foolish / unconsidered move is deliberately excluded from both charges. 

Avatar
kitsunegari | 6 years ago
35 likes

What must one do to be convicted of dangerous driving when killing a cyclist?

Would a jury have acquitted her if she had failed to notice a small child crossing the road in front of her?

The message from this is clear: if you are brave enough to risk cycling on British roads, the justice system will not work on your behalf.

Avatar
danthomascyclist | 6 years ago
41 likes

Because of shit like this I find that I'm behaving more hostile towards dangerous motorists as time goes on. I have a genuine feeling of helplessness and that I have to behave like a vigilante because the law won't help me. Sooner or later I'll probably hit breaking point and do something illegal. Because I feel as though I have to just to fucking stay alive.

 

I wonder if many people feel this way

Avatar
jimbudd replied to danthomascyclist | 6 years ago
9 likes
danthomascyclist wrote:

Because of shit like this I find that I'm behaving more hostile towards dangerous motorists as time goes on. I have a genuine feeling of helplessness and that I have to behave like a vigilante because the law won't help me. Sooner or later I'll probably hit breaking point and do something illegal. Because I feel as though I have to just to fucking stay alive.

 

I wonder if many people feel this way

 

I couldn't agree more, I commute every day by bike and the stupidity and impatience is baffling. There is just not respect for human life because you're on a bike. Because there is no fear of repercussion drivers feel it's within there right to risk someone else's life just so they can rush to be stationery at the next set of traffic lights or junction.

I thought about investing in a helmet cam, but I have read countless times on here that the police have very little interest in using this for prosecution. 

It's worrying and frustrating just how little responsible cyclists are protected. The caveat I will add though is that I do see some idiots on bikes (Not cyclists) with no regards for their safety or anyone else's. Unfortunately we are all tarred with their brush.

Avatar
beezus fufoon replied to danthomascyclist | 6 years ago
3 likes
danthomascyclist wrote:

Because of shit like this I find that I'm behaving more hostile towards dangerous motorists as time goes on. I have a genuine feeling of helplessness and that I have to behave like a vigilante because the law won't help me. Sooner or later I'll probably hit breaking point and do something illegal. Because I feel as though I have to just to fucking stay alive.

 

I wonder if many people feel this way

no - I have no qualms concerning arbitrary legality

Avatar
Legs_Eleven_Wor... replied to danthomascyclist | 6 years ago
6 likes
danthomascyclist wrote:

Because of shit like this I find that I'm behaving more hostile towards dangerous motorists as time goes on. I have a genuine feeling of helplessness and that I have to behave like a vigilante because the law won't help me. Sooner or later I'll probably hit breaking point and do something illegal. Because I feel as though I have to just to fucking stay alive.

 

I wonder if many people feel this way

Yes, I think a lot of them do. But most of them are idiots who really, genuinely and truly believe that 'violence solves nothing'.  I wonder where they learned this guff.  Maybe the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto should have adopted that maxim.  Maybe the allies during WWII should have just accepted that Hitler was going to win. 

Violence works.  Get used to it.

You want things to change, you're going to have to use violence, because violence is being done to you.

Now ... if you DON'T want things to change, then fine.  Just shut the fuck up about it. 

Avatar
Metaphor replied to Legs_Eleven_Worcester | 6 years ago
1 like

I wholeheartedly agree with you. The world is in such a state because the good people have become pussies and let selfishness win.

Avatar
Simon E replied to danthomascyclist | 6 years ago
6 likes

Outcome disappointing but not terribly surprising.

As others have said, if she had done that to a policeman, an MP or big name celebrity* she would be looking at time in prison.

danthomascyclist wrote:

I wonder if many people feel this way

Yep.

Casually endangering other people's lives and the way it provokes palpable terror makes me see red. The still from this article on road.cc about Sainsbury's shocking response to a very, very close pass has me wanting to yank that driver from his seat and give him a dose of his own medicine.

 

* apart from Piers Morgan  3

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