A motorist who racially abused a group of cyclists before reversing into them, causing injuries and damaging their bikes, only to return moments later to unleash another racist tirade, has been handed a suspended two-year prison sentence and banned from driving for 20 months.
The group of four cyclists were riding in Bower Hill, Epping, on 8 January when a motorist drove dangerously out of a nearby lane before stopping his vehicle in front of the riders.
The driver, Harry Downer, then proceeded to shout racist abuse at the cyclists before reversing and hitting them. With the cyclists injured, the then-20-year-old fled the scene, before returning a few minutes later to continue his racially motivated rant.
Downer was later charged with four counts of racially aggravated public order offences, two counts of racially aggravated common assault, two counts of racially aggravated beating, two counts of racially aggravated criminal damage, one count of dangerous driving, and one count of using a fraudulent number plate.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal motor vehicles, charges that were related to separate crimes committed across Hertfordshire and Essex between December 2021 and January 2023.
And last week, the 21-year-old was sentenced to 24 months in prison, suspended for 24 months. Along with his suspended sentence, he has been given a 30-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, must complete 300 hours of unpaid work, and must wear an electronic tag to ensure he abides by a curfew for six months.
Downer has also been banned from driving for 20 months and must complete an extended test before regaining his licence. Finally, he received an £80 for using false number plates.
Following the sentencing, Essex Police’s investigating officers Olivia Clark and Elliot Harris said in a statement: “We are glad to see the courts use the full breadth of their powers when sentencing Downer.
“It is completely and utterly unacceptable for anyone to be subject to verbal and physical racial abuse as was the case in Epping. We simply will not tolerate people being targeted in this way.
“All the victims and officers in this case have seen justice served with this sentencing. This has been a distressing investigation and we’d like to thank all our colleagues for the time and energy they put into this.”
The January attack in Bower Hill isn’t the first time that cyclists have been targeted near Epping in recent years.
Last August, hundreds of drawing pins were allegedly scattered along a bike lane on Epping New Road, near Epping Forest, causing a number of cyclists to puncture during their bank holiday ride.
That incident itself came just three months after two cyclists claimed that they were assaulted on the same road by a motorist who allegedly pulled up alongside them before throwing tacks at the riders’ faces and along the cycle lane.
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.