Tuesday, 19 September 2017

R v Charlie Alliston

Charlie Alliston - now aged 20 - has been sentenced to 18 months detention in a Young Offenders Institution for an offence contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 section 35.

On 12th February 2016, Mr Alliston was cycling at approximately 18 mph down Old Street (London).  As he approached the junction with Charlotte Road the traffic lights were at green in his favour.  Mrs Kim Briggs was trying to cross Old Street.  Mr Alliston ran into her causing injuries which proved to be fatal.  It appears from the sentencing remarks of Her Honour Judge Wendy Joseph QC that Mr Alliston saw Mrs Briggs, swerved, slowed to 10-14 mph and was shouting to Mrs Briggs - "Get out of the fucking way."

A key feature of the offence was that Mr Alliston was riding a bicycle which did not have a front wheel brake.  That is contrary to Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 (as amended 2015).

The offence under section 35 is commonly referred to as "wanton or furious driving" and it applies to cyclists and other road users.  Mr Alliston was acquitted by the jury of manslaughter.  Whilst there are offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988 of causing death by driving, those offences apply to the driving of mechanically propelled vehicles.  Unsurprisingly, there have been some calls for the law to be amended in order to avoid recourse to the old section 35 offence.

Please read the Judge's sentencing remarks and see also the CPS News Release.

Cyclists and the law: General points

Pedal cycles used on the roads must comply with the Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 (as amended 2015).

The Highway Code contains guidance about both law and good practice for cyclists.  In particular see - Rules for Cyclists.  The status of the Highway Code is covered by the Road Traffic Act1988 section 38.  In particular, section 38(7) states - "A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of the Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings."

Cycling on footpaths seems to be fairly common these days but it is an offence under the Highways Act 1835 section 72.  (Perhaps another instance where the law needs to be updated).

Cyclists are required to obey traffic signs - Road Traffic Act 1988 section 36.  This applies to "a person driving or propelling a vehicle who fails to comply with the indication given by the sign."  See also the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.

The law does not impose a specific requirement to have a bell but the Highway Code recommends that one be fitted.  This is Rule 66 in the Highway Code and generally-speaking the recommendation does not appear to be observed.

There are offences of dangerous cycling, careless or inconsiderate cycling and cycling when under the influence of drink or drugs.  The dangerous cycling offence relates to the manner of driving and does not extend to the state of the bicycle. 

Further material:

The Secret Barrister - Some thoughts on Charlie Alliston and Deaths on the Roads

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