In the final House of Commons debate of the year, a Leeds MP has called for Government action following the case of cyclist Ian Winterburn and the multiple failures of the justice system in its aftermath.
Leeds North East MP, Fabian Hamilton described how Garforth Academy teacher, Ian Winterburn, 58, was hit by a car which turned across his path as he cycled along the A6120 Ring Road in Halton, Leeds just over a year ago on December 12 last year. He died of his injuries 10 days later.
The driver, a 51-year-old woman from Leeds, only received a four month suspended prison sentence, a £200 fine, 200 hours of community service and a two year driving ban. She had served a previous 14 month suspension for a drink driving offence.
During the course of the half hour debate this afternoon, Hamilton for the first time in the public eye highlighted how the Winterburn family were failed by first West Yorkshire Police, then 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, say the case exemplifies the need for better funding and priority for roads policing across the UK, as well as increased resources across the whole legal system.
Using Police Workforce tables, the charity has calculated, outside of the Metropolitan Police area, that road policing levels have dropped by 48 per cent from 2005 - 2016. The drop 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 as convictions for traffic offences have fallen. Recent government casualty figures from September show a four per cent increase of road deaths for all road users in 2016; at 1,792, this is the highest annual toll since 2011. This followed figures released in November by the Ministry of Justice which have shown successful convictions for road traffic offences have declined from 611,093 to 516,658 from 2007 to 2016.
After the debate Roger Geffen MBE, Cycling UK’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.”
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.