The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Cycling and Walking began an inquiry into Justice in June 2023. They had previously conducted a Justice inquiry six years ago in 2017 when they were the APPG Cycling. Now with the additional remit of walking, they again returned to how the justice system can help reduce harm posed to people walking and cycling. This covered both prevention efforts by police as well as the wider justice system after a collision.
Victoria Lebrec, AVZ Collision Investigation lead, gave evidence on civil claims and treatment of victims. AVZ also produced short background briefings for the inquiry. These were kept to two pages with recommendations focused on what could be implemented without parliamentary approval. The turnaround time was also short so these were rapid responses as well.
AVZ submissions to the APPG Cycling and Walking Justice inquiry (June 2023)
Tackling speeding calls for more speed enforcement, focused on 20 mph roads, as most of speed enforcement is on higher speed roads (London is an exception).
Online reporting Is key to increase detection of careless driving and other offences with cyclists keen to ensure the risk posed to them is recognised, sanctioned and deterred.
Justice (post collision)
Collision Investigation argues for a focus on those serious injury collisions which do not receive a forensic investigation. This will be the vast majority (>95%) of serious injury collisions as the Serious Collision Investigation Units are only able to manage investigations into fatal and life threatening collisions.
Sentencing: Deterrence and disqualification focuses on the use of disqualification as a key sanction appropriate for law breaking drivers/riders.
Better Treatment of victims advocates for a compassionate approach with injured walkers and cyclists and bereaved families presumed to be victims of crime, until the contrary is proven.
Gaps in laws discusses two key gaps: 1) a summary offence for unsafe (but sober) driving that carries a mandatory driving ban (the equivalent of drink/drug driving offence for impaired driving.) and 2) new offences of Failing to remain at the scene of a fatal or serious injury collision (see below).
Hit and run Is a key concern with walkers and cyclists the most common road user to be killed and seriously injured in a collision where the driver leaves the scene. This covers the need for new criminal offences, thorough investigation and monitoring, as well as timely support for victims.
Civil compensation Is arguably more important to walkers and cyclists than criminal prosecution, as the latter will almost always be only a fine whilst compensation can mean the difference between recovery and lifelong pain and injury.
General (both prevention and justice related)
Data gaps Identifies key missing information, including the lack of data linkage between collision reports and court records. For example, it should be possible to know how often drivers are held responsible and convicted of causing a walker’s death and how this varies by night//day, or area, etc.
Good practice highlights the need for good practice to be identified and monitored at the local level by PCCs and campaigners. Given the independence of police services, this is pragmatic.
Why this contribution?
AVZ campaigns for road danger reduction. This includes with enforcement and the wider justice system. So this inquiry was a key opportunity to help ensure the focus stayed on tackling the harm posed to people walking and cycling, and not wider road safety where motor vehicle concerns (e.g. seat belts and motorcycle helmets) dominate.
Our briefings to this inquiry build on the response Amy Aeron-Thomas, AVZ Traffic Justice coordinator, submitted on behalf of RoadPeace to the 2017 Justice for Cyclists inquiry. That response was supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, London Cycling Campaign, Road Danger Reduction Forum and 20’s Plenty for Us. For more information, see also our 2021 PCC Manifesto Commit to Act on Road Danger, developed with 20s Plenty for Us and RoadPeace, and supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Road Danger Reduction Forum and Sustrans.
Whilst there has been progress (i.e. DfT Roads Policing Review, Operation Snap, forensic collision investigation standards, causing serious injury by careless driving, increase in lifetime bans, etc) too many of our calls in the 2017 response remain the same.