24th August 2017

Yesterday Charlie Alliston, aged 20, was convicted of ‘Causing Bodily Harm by Wanton or Furious Driving’. He was on trial at the Old Bailey for Manslaughter in relation to the incident on the 12th February 2016 which led to the death of Kim Briggs.

Charlie Alliston was said to have been riding his track bike (an Olympic style bike) which had no front brake at 15 – 18 mph when he collided with Mrs Briggs. She suffered a serious brain injury ultimately leading to her death. The fact that the bike should have been fitted with a front brake to be legally ridden on a road is said to be the Prosecution justification for charging Manslaughter.

The Jury were given a majority direction after many hours deliberating. Following this Charlie Alliston was acquitted of Manslaughter but convicted of the Wanton and Furious Driving offence.

This offence is contrary to section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Whilst this may seem like archaic legislation it is the same Act that is used to prosecute offences of Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH – sections 18 and 20) and Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH – section 47).

Section 35 is committed when injury is caused to a person as a result of the manner of driving. The wording of the offence is actually: “by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever”. The offence covers any vehicle or carriage and therefore includes horse drawn vehicles and bikes.

The Crown Prosecution charging practice is that this offence should only be prosecuted in cases where the Road Traffic Act does not apply – such as this case where the Defendant was riding a bike as opposed to driving a mechanically propelled vehicle.

The maximum sentence for this offence is 2 years custody as opposed to life imprisonment for Manslaughter.

There has been much discussion over the last 24 hours about changing the Road Traffic Legislation to include cyclists. This would cover the current offences of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving and Causing Death by Careless Driving as well as the same offences of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous and Careless Driving.

My brief research into previous incidents shows that between 2010 and 2014 19 pedestrians were killed by cyclists and 431 pedestrians were injured. The number of accidents with cyclists and pedestrians has increased by nearly 50% between 2009 – 2015 with the number of incidents in London increasing by 98% in that period. Due to health and environmental concerns there are more people cycling for recreation and to commute to work. Many cyclists would not appreciate the danger they pose to pedestrians in the same way that they would if they were driving a car.

This case will no doubt have reached a lot of cyclists and highlighted the potential dangers to pedestrians. As people become more heavily reliant on alternative modes of transport maybe there will come a time for the legislation to be reconsidered.

Blog by Trish Mytton, Partner and Head of the Criminal Law Department