Leeds North East MP, Fabian Hamilton, has called for Government action after highlighting a series of justice system failings in the wake of the death of cyclist Ian Winterburn in December last year.
Winterburn was cycling along the A6120 Ring Road in Halton, Leeds, on December 12, when he was hit by a motorist who turned across his path. He died of his injuries 10 days later.
The driver, a 51-year-old woman, received a four-month suspended prison sentence, a £200 fine, 200 hours of community service and a two-year driving ban. She had previously served a 14-month suspension for a drink driving offence.
In the final House of Commons debate of the year, Hamilton highlighted multiple ways in which Winterburn’s family had been failed: first by first West Yorkshire Police, then by the coroners and finally by the justice system.
He raised five questions:
- Why did it take the police over an hour to attend the scene?
- Why is there only one collisions investigation unit for the whole of West Yorkshire?
- Why did it take three hours to notify Mr Winterburn’s family?
- Why did it take the coroner so long to issue a death certificate?
- Why was the sentencing decision moved from a Crown Court hearing to a two-hour hearing in the Magistrates Court?
Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, said that the case showed the need for better funding for roads policing across the UK, as well as increased resources across the whole legal system.
Roger Geffen MBE, the organisation’s policy director, said: “The tragic case of Ian Winterburn’s death exemplifies how spectacularly the legal system can fail to deliver justice at every step of the way, from the police response immediately after the crash, right through to sentencing.
“This case clearly shows why the law on careless and dangerous driving needs clarifying, and why roads policing and the whole legal system need better resources. This is vital not only to ensure justice is done in the aftermath following tragedies like this, but to prevent them happening in the first place.”
“The questions that Fabian Hamilton asked on behalf of the Winterburn family are asked by thousands of road crash victims every year. It is time for the Government to provide answers.”
Based on Police Workforce tables Cycling UK has calculated that outside of the Metropolitan Police area, road policing levels dropped by 48 per cent from 2005 to 2016. This is significantly higher than the 12 per cent drop to overall police numbers during the same period.
At the same time, road casualties have increased, while convictions for traffic offences have fallen.
Government casualty figures from September show a four per cent increase in road deaths for all road users in 2016 – at 1,792, the highest annual toll since 2011.
Figures released in November by the Ministry of Justice showed that successful convictions for road traffic offences have declined from 611,093 to 516,658 from 2007 to 2016.
The Ministry of Justice announced a full review of all road traffic offence and penalties in May 2014, but so far has only conducted a partial review of the most serious driving offences.