Woman cleared of careless driving after crowd-funded prosecution over death

A hairdresser accused of knocking down and killing a 70-year-old cyclist has been cleared of careless driving following a crowd-funded private prosecution.

Woman cleared of careless driving after crowd-funded prosecution over death

A hairdresser accused of knocking down and killing a 70-year-old cyclist has been cleared of careless driving following a crowd-funded private prosecution.

Gail Purcell, 59, allegedly failed to spot teacher Michael Mason as he rode along Regent Street in central London.

Her Nissan hit Mr Mason, throwing him into the air and leading him to land in the road head-first, the court heard.

He never regained consciousness and died days after the collision in February 2014.

An Old Bailey jury took 17 minutes to clear Purcell, of St Alban's, of causing his death by careless driving.

Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF), said it had taken up the case after the Metropolitan Police refused to refer it to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice on whether to charge Purcell.

The organisation brought the prosecution with support from over 2,000 people who donated more than £80,000 (€93k) to help fund the case.

Anna Tatton-Brown, Mr Mason's daughter, said: "My family and I respect the decision the jury have reached, although we are obviously disappointed.

"It seems that failing to be aware of what's in front of you while you're driving is an acceptable mistake, not careless, and that no explanation for that failure is necessary.

"We do, however, draw some comfort from the fact that the evidence was finally put to a jury, something that should have happened long ago.

"It should not have taken the intervention of CDF, and the support of many members of the public, to bring this case to court.

"Given that the judge accepted that there was a case which the jury had to consider, we would hope that the police will now conduct a review into their investigation, their rush to blame the victim, their refusal to seek CPS advice, and consider what lessons might be learned.

"My family would once again like to express our sincere and grateful appreciation for all of the support we have received in our search for justice for my much-loved dad."

Duncan Dollimore, spokesman for Cycling UK's CDF, said: "While we accept the jury's decision, CDF are disappointed and concerned about the message this conveys to the general public regarding driving standards.

"Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.

"If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely, the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.

"Notwithstanding the jury's decision, we believe it was right to bring this case to court given the Metropolitan Police's unwillingness to do so.

"We do question why the police failed to obtain witness evidence from relevant eye-witnesses which the legal team instructed by CDF were able to secure.

"Both CDF and Mr Mason's family would like to thank all those people who supported this prosecution.

"Although we can only be disappointed at the result, we hope that this case demonstrates why we need to look closely at how the justice system serves the victims of road collisions and their families, and whether the standards applied to decide what is, or is not, careless or dangerous driving are fit for purpose."

The four-day trial is believed to be the first case to be paid for through crowd-funding.

Opening the case on Monday, Simon Spence QC had told jurors: "Unusually it is not the CPS bringing the case against Ms Purcell. It is a private organisation.

"That does not in any way affect your approach to the case."

He told how Mr Mason had been cycling north towards Broadcasting House at about 6.23pm on the evening of February 25 2014.

His lights were working and switched on when he was knocked off by Ms Purcell's Nissan car, which was going in the same direction, the court heard.

Mr Spence said Mr Mason hit the bonnet of the car and suffered "very severe injury to the brain".

Afterwards, the driver pulled up and was heard to say: "I'm the driver. It was me. Is he okay? I just didn't see him," the jury was told.

In police interview, Ms Purcell told police that she did not see the cyclist but did "hear a noise".

She told officers: "I didn't see anybody from my left ... it's like they came from the sky."

Mr Mason never regained consciousness and died on March 14.

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