A cyclist who was told by a police officer that drivers he filmed making close passes could not be prosecuted because the rider swore in the videos decided to check the situation with the Crown Prosecution Service – and was told that his language presented no barrier to taking such cases to court.
Nick Thompson, the road.cc reader who took it upon himself to clarify the CPS’s stance on the issue, provided the above video, filmed near Abercynon in Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales, as an example of the type of footage that had prompted him to take to Twitter last week to share his experience.
to being inches away from being hit by a big metal box on wheels being driven by an arsehole. What a great example of #victimblaming. I wouldn't swear at the drivers if they didn't drive like an entitled fuckwit! I would have absolutely no issue standing before a magistrate 2/4
— Nick Thompson (@nickster_cymru) April 8, 2021
the lives of vulnerable road users is insulting. All captured close passes should be prosecuted before that driver goes on to cause serious injury or even death. Being safe > being offended?! @Makecyclingsafe @MikeyCycling @closepassescdf @righttobikeit @PassPixi @YCCyclists 4/4
— Nick Thompson (@nickster_cymru) April 8, 2021
He told us that he created the thread “after a telephone conversation with a police officer who advised me that the CPS would not be willing to prosecute drivers who are recorded on video close passing cyclists if the cyclist swears in response. I was utterly shocked by this attitude as it came across as victim blaming.
“I think this is an important subject to cover at a time when many cyclists are the victims of extremely poor instances of driving and if a police force or the CPS opts to avoid a prosecution as someone might be offended with the language of the victim, then that sends a terrible message out to vulnerable road users.”
Nick underlined that some of the replies highlighted instances where prosecutions had been brought following submission of videos including the cyclist swearing, which he said “made me doubt whether the officer was advising on actual CPS policy or whether it is down to the personal preference of the officer’s reviewing the footage via Operation Snap.
“Whatever the reason, I have experienced some extremely dangerous close passes since I started submitting footage and it seems that the drivers involved may have been punished with just a written letter instead of prosecution as a result of me swearing in response to my life being threatened,” he continued.
“More to the point, the drivers involved are less likely to change their behaviour after reading a letter than they might be after having points and/or a fine and/or a ban. So, in the meantime, they may just be one close pass away from killing a cyclist.”
Nick wondered whether other readers had experienced similar treatment, and in the past we have reported on a Bristol cyclist who submitted video to police of a close pass, which included him swearing in response to the near miss, and after lodging a complaint when he’d heard nothing back six months later was contacted by an officer who told the rider that he would not face prosecution for his language. Avon & Somerset Police also said that there had been insufficient evidence to prosecute the motorist involved.
Yesterday, Nick received a response by email from the CPS, and said “their advice pretty much confirmed my pre-existing thoughts.
“All they’re concerned about is whether cases sent to them by the police satisfy the Code for Crown Prosecutors which has two stages. The first one determines the likelihood of getting a conviction and the second stage concerns whether the prosecution is in the public interest.
“They also went on to say the following,” he added:
Each case will be considered on its own facts. I can confirm that there is no general rule against prosecuting cases where victims or witnesses can be shown to have used bad language. Provided that the case meets the test under the Code, the CPS will prosecute it.
So there we have it. Officially, if a cyclist on the receiving end of a close pass or other near miss on the road swears in reaction to the incident (often, a not unreasonable reaction when their life has been put in danger), that should not affect the decision of whether or not to prosecute the driver.
That assumes, however, that the investigating officer of the force in question has referred it to the CPS in the first place – but at least if you encounter resistance in them doing so, you can point the officer towards what the CPS has said here.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.