Brain-injured cyclist wins Met payout

All three men were cleared.

All three men were cleared. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

A cyclist from Stoke Newington left brain damaged after he was hit by a police car answering an emergency call could be in line for a seven-figure payout after a judge ruled the officer’s driving “fell below an acceptable standard”.

Journalist Donald MacLeod was returning home to Stoke Newington after drinking two small glasses of wine with a friend in Fleet Street’s El Vino wine bar, when the accident happened in March 2010.

The 63-year-old father-of-three was in a coma for several weeks and now needs round-the-clock care.

A former editor of Education Guardian and head of communications for the Russell group of universities, he brought the claim against the Metropolitan Police through his wife Barbara, who lives in Inveresk, near Edinburgh.

Mr MacLeod, a keen and safety conscious cyclist who used his bike daily, was wearing a helmet and a high-visibility jacket with his bicycle lights illuminated, said Judge Martin McKenna, who ruled there could be no question of contributory negligence.

At the point where Mr MacLeod was hit - at a mini-roundabout in Southgate Road on the Hackney-Islington border - the road had narrowed and he would have contravened the Highway Code if he had ridden on the pavement.

It was the responsibility of the police driver, who was on his way to a shooting on a Hackney estate with three other officers, to pass Mr MacLeod safely, and the cyclist could not be criticised for failing to take measures to avoid the impact, despite the car’s siren and flashing lights.

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The officer, who entered the roundabout at 55mph, was driving at an excessive speed in circumstances where he could not bring the car to a halt in time to avoid the accident and contrary to the Met’s own policy.

Sitting in London, the judge said: “The manner of his driving plainly fell below an acceptable standard and he failed to drive with such care and skill as was reasonable in all the circumstances.

“His speed was high and consistent with a desire to get to the rendezvous point as his priority rather than safely. The reality is that he would have arrived at the rendezvous point within the expected response time if he had driven to the speed limit.

“But for the breach of duty the injury to the claimant would not have occurred.”

Following the ruling on liability, the amount of damages will now be assessed if not agreed.