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Editor’s comment: Kim Briggs’ death was a tragedy, but I don’t believe Charlie Alliston deserves to be in jail

PUBLISHED: 14:25 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 19:06 22 September 2017

Charlie Alliston, 20, outside the Old Bailey. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Charlie Alliston, 20, outside the Old Bailey. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Kim Briggs’ family are grieving for a young wife and mother. Her death was a heartbreaking shock I cannot pretend to imagine.

Victim: Mum of two Kim Briggs died. Picture: Met Police Victim: Mum of two Kim Briggs died. Picture: Met Police

They bore the greatest loss and I’ve tried to keep that in mind while writing this. But the fact remains: I simply don’t believe Charlie Alliston should be in jail.

Yes, he did something wrong: he rode a bike without a front brake. That is a criminal offence under the Pedal Cycle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983. Its maximum penalty is a fine.

What he didn’t do was run a red light, or jump a zebra crossing, or pull a wheelie in the street, or ride without brakes (you brake on a fixie using the pedals).

His bike was going at 10 to 18mph on a trunk road where he had right of way – slower than most cars and well within any speed limit.

As I’m sure each of us has done may times. Mrs Briggs misjudged whether it was safe to cross. Charlie Alliston made a misjudgement too: he swerved to avoid her but they collided.

I’ve seen so many this week saying 18 months behind bars is not enough for him.

In some countries, what Mrs Briggs did – jaywalking – is a criminal offence, too. Would we have wanted to see her in the dock had she lived? Of course not.

Yet some – in the national press and among its readership – were positively foaming at the mouth at the prospect of a cocky young cyclist being taken down a peg. The facts of the case seemed almost an afterthought for them.

Nothing I saw in this trial convinced me Charlie Alliston was anything more than a scapegoat.

One phrase I keep seeing is “holding cyclists to account”. It is nonsense. One holds power to account.

Neither Charlie Alliston nor Kim Briggs, as vulnerable road users, had power in London’s transport network. That, not a tragic accident, is the injustice that deserves our attention.

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5 comments

  • All cyclists that break the law should be held to account for there actions. I am fed up with nearly getting hit by cyclists on the pavement or, when i am crossing the road at either a zebra crossing or when the green man is lit at a set of traffic lights, I think that if cyclists are caught breaking the law then the should have their bike impounded and undergo a cycling training course. I also think that cyclists should have to pay some form of insurance.Rant over.

    Report this comment

    David Houghton

    Saturday, September 23, 2017

  • I saw some merit in your argument until I came to: "One phrase I keep seeing is “holding cyclists to account”. It is nonsense. One holds power to account." That seems to me to encapsulate the "rights without responsibilities" culture - a culture which Mr Alliston exemplified in his choice of bike, lack of remorse and insistence that he had done nothing wrong. Please answer this. If my home in Hackney is burgled, I'd look to hold the burglar to account. Who do you think I should hold to account instead: the Labour council? The Met Police? Central government ('cos everything, always, is the Tories' fault)?

    Report this comment

    Neverwas

    Saturday, September 23, 2017

  • I disagree with the sentiments of this article. The cyclist is at fault here and deserves a prison sentence.

    Report this comment

    Helen Povey

    Saturday, September 23, 2017

  • Excellent piece and I completely agree. Thanks for writing this.

    Report this comment

    jonmhill

    Saturday, September 23, 2017

  • Thank you for your brave and thoughtful assessment.

    Report this comment

    Zero Blank

    Thursday, September 21, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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