Beyond The Kerb)
10 FEBRUARY 2017
This is all about an incident. One that I’ve read about before, but which last week was finally legally resolved. Now, I’m working from media reports rather than court notes so—caveat emptor—there’s a risk I’m dealing with inaccurate information, but… well, given the CPS’s keenness to pursue a charge of dangerous driving in the absence of serious injury, I’m going to infer that even if there are minor inaccuracies then this was nonetheless a case of truly appalling driving.
The incident involved Julian Harper, who was cycling, and Miriam Thomas, who was driving behind him. It took place on a country lane in Devon and resulted in a collision, with Harper sustaining minor injuries.
Thomas was charged with dangerous driving, but pleaded guilty only to the lesser charge of careless driving. However, the CPS decided to prosecute for the higher charge, and Thomas appeared at Exeter Crown Court in October 2016 and again in February 2017 after the jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict.
The collision is recorded as having occurred slightly downhill of the disused railway bridge in Bolham, Devon, and given the description of preceding events (which we will see below) it seems reasonable to infer that Harper and Thomas were heading west, having come down Bolham Lane into Bolham itself. The lane is narrow and runs downhill, with thick hedgerows limiting visibilty, and given these characteristics it appears to be the sort of road where an amateur racing cyclist could easily reach a speed which would be considered a prudent maximum for any vehicle: bicycle or car, it is the width of the carriageway and the restricted visibility which should likely be the limiting factors, not horsepower.
So, what actually happened?
Harper’s version of events, as stated by the prosecution at the first trial, was reportedly thus: