Cyclist Charlie Alliston cleared of manslaughter over Old Street crash that killed pedestrian Kim Briggs
PUBLISHED: 15:51 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:06 23 August 2017
A young cyclist has been cleared of manslaughter after a crash in Old Street that killed a mother-of-two last year.
HR consultant Kim Briggs, 44, suffered “catastrophic” head injuries and died days after her collision with rider Charlie Alliston on February 12, 2016.
Alliston, then 18, was travelling at between 10mph and 14mph on his Planet X fixed-gear racing bike when Mrs Briggs stepped into his path as she crossed the street.
He was found guilty of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. It carries a maxiumum sentence of two years. The jury deliberated for more than 12 hours and earlier today were given the option of a majority verdict by judge Wendy Joseph.
She adjourned sentencing until September 18, making clear she was considering jail. She said: “I have not seen one iota of remorse from Mr Alliston at all at any stage.”
In a statement read in court, Mrs Briggs’ husband Matthew paid tribute to his “wonderful” wife, with whom he had a daughter aged 11 and a son aged 14.
He said: “She was quick to smile, slow to judge and even slower to anger.”
Mr Briggs said the trial had been “gruelling and painful”, adding: “Out of this senseless carnage, I shall try to bring change to the law and change to attitudes. Perhaps in this way I can honour my wife.”
During the groundbreaking trial, in which Alliston became the first cyclist to face manslaughter charges, the court had heard it was illegal to ride without a front brake, as he had been doing, although “fixies” can also be stopped using the pedals.
The 20-year-old, of Bermondsey, denied both charges and told the Old Bailey on Thursday he was unaware at the time that not having a front brake was illegal, but said having one would have made no difference.
He said he had slowed down sufficiently and shouted twice to Mrs Briggs, but she then stepped back into his path – giving him no time to stop.
Fixed gear bikes allow the rider to brake by stopping pedalling.
Alliston told jurors: “It was the few split-seconds prior to impact that caused the collision. A brake at the time wouldn’t have made a difference.”
But prosecutor Duncan Penny argued the crash would have been avoided if the defendant had a front brake, and suggested Alliston liked to take risks by riding without one, and by not wearing a helmet.
Under cross-examination he questioned the rider about a tweet he sent in 2015 comparing taking off his front brake with being in a “Lucas Brunelle movie”.
Brunelle, the court heard, makes cycling videos, in which he rides around cities weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds, narrowly avoiding pedestrians and going into bus lanes – “doing dangerous stuff”.
Mr Penny suggested: “The thing you felt like when you took your brakes off was you were in one of those films.”
He also questioned Alliston’s motive for online posts made after the crash, but before Mrs Briggs died.
He had written on one forum: “I feel bad due to the seriousness of her injuries but I can put my hand up and say this is not my fault.”
He also said: “It is a pretty serious incident so I won’t bother saying she deserved it,” he added. “It was her fault but she did not deserve it.”
Alliston told the court he accepted the messages were “not thought through” and were “stupid”.
In his closing speech on Monday, Mark Wyeth, defending Alliston, questioned the manslaughter charge. He said: “I ask as a matter of common sense and looking across all the evidence: is this really manslaughter? Really?”
He added: “It’s a tragedy for the Briggs family. It’s also a tragedy for the Alliston family.”
“The counsel of perfection that the prosecution put forward is so complete [that] if you reversed the outcome – if Mr Alliston went over the handlebars, had fractured his skull and died and Mrs Briggs got up and dusted herself off – what’s to stop her from being prosecuted for manslaughter on the approach the prosecution take, because
she should not have been there?”
My Wyeth also suggested it was unlikely that a driver in Alliston’s position would face the same charge – “unlawful act manslaughter”.
“If you drove your car really dangerously and at very high speed, you might get prosecuted for what’s called gross negligence manslaughter,” he said. “You might.
“But this defendant is not getting prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter.”
He added Mrs Briggs had not used the pedestrian crossing 30 feet from where the pair collided and Alliston had right of way.
“This is not a case of somebody jumping the lights,” said Mr Wyeth.
“This is not a case of an approach speed on this bike that was illegal.
“It’s a 30mph area and the hazards that were in that road were not of Mr Alliston’s making.”
Additional reporting by the Press Association.