Cyclist who knocked over and killed woman cleared of manslaughter

By Gary Adair

A cyclist who knocked over and killed a woman in east London has been found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving”, escaping a conviction on the much more serious charge of manslaughter.

Charlie Alliston, aged 20, was riding a fixed wheel bike with no brakes, a type commonly used in an Olympic velodrome. He was riding the bike in east London last year when he hit mother-of-two Kim Briggs, aged 44, as she crossed the road. She suffered serious head injuries as a result of the collision and died one week later.

Mr Alliston told the court that he saw Mrs Briggs step out into the road while looking at her phone, and says he shouted out to warn her. He said he slowed down to between 10 and 14 miles an hour and then swerved to avoid her, but that she stepped back into his path. Crash investigators who studied CCTV footage of the incident concluded that the collision would have been avoidable if the bike had been fitted with a front brake. Mr Alliston told the court that he was unaware of the legislation that stated that a fixed wheel bicycle must have a front break in addition to the rear fixed wheel in order to be lawfully ridden on a public road.

The court cleared Mr Alliston of the manslaughter of Mrs Briggs, but found him guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving”. The offence is included in the Offences Against the Person Act and was created in 1861 to deter people from driving through the streets recklessly on horse-driven carriages. It is used by the courts when an accident involves a vehicle that is not mechanically propelled, and serious injury or death is caused. For such incidents it is not possible to prosecute under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The offence of “wanton and furious driving” carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. Judge Wendy Joseph QC has already indicated that she is considering a jail sentence, and has ordered a pre-sentence report. Mr Allison will be sentenced on 18th September.

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