A jury at Gloucester Crown Court today cleared Daniel Mansell of dangerous driving and attempted grievous bodily harm after an incident last November involving Stephen Barnes, who was cycling in a group of six to eight riders.
In a police interview, Mansell admitted colliding with Barnes while attempting to overtake. After this, Barnes caught up with him and banged on Mansell’s car. An oncoming driver, Edward Raffle, said that he was forced to stop when he saw Mansell’s car approaching him in the middle of the carriageway, with Barnes riding at its nearside and banging the window. Despite having knowingly collided with Barnes just seconds previously, Mansell’s account was that Barnes “did that for no good reason”.
Raffle, who was a witness during the trial, reportedly gave a version of events which matched those of Barnes: that Mansell stopped, reversed his car and then drove directly at Barnes as he dismounted his bicycle, forcing him to jump onto the bonnet to avoid being hit directly. Mansell then left the scene (and stated as much himself).
The jury took just an hour to find the defendant not guilty of all charges.
Some points are of particular concern:
- That the original collision, which appears not to have been disputed by any party, did not itself result in a conviction for at least careless driving, an option which would have been available to the jury. (Indeed the same could perhaps be said of driving in the middle of the road towards oncoming traffic.)
- That Mansell was not—it would appear—also charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
- That an independent witness’s corroborating account of the use of a car as a weapon did not convince the jury of an assault charge.
Although it is unwise to infer too much of a case from media reports, because details of individual cases can undermine the proof of offences which may appear plain from a subset of the evidence, this result does appear to be deeply worrying in terms of the law’s ability to protect people from ill-judged driving and vehicular assault.