Cyclist convicted of 'furious driving' over pedestrian's death

A cyclist who ploughed into a mother-of-two then blamed his mortally-wounded victim has been cleared of manslaughter but convicted of "wanton and furious driving" following a ground-breaking trial.

Wednesday, 23rd August 2017, 5:56 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:50 pm
Charlie Alliston crashed into 44-year-old Kim Briggs as she crossed Old Street, east London, in February last year

Charlie Alliston, then 18, was travelling at 18mph on a fixed-wheel track bike with no front brakes before he crashed into 44-year-old Kim Briggs as she crossed a busy street in London in February last year.

Prosecutors took the unprecedented step of bringing a manslaughter charge due to the unusually grave circumstances of the case.

Following an Old Bailey trial, jurors took more than 12 hours to find Alliston not guilty of manslaughter but convicted him of a lesser offence of causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

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The former bike courier, wearing a top with "Anti Social" on it, had been on his way to buy food for his girlfriend when he crashed into Mrs Briggs during her lunch break.

As she crossed the capital's Old Street, he twice shouted for her to get out of the way but failed to stop or avoid the head-on collision.

He sprang up and continued to shout at his victim as she lay in the road with catastrophic head injuries. Mrs Briggs died in hospital a week later.

Alliston criticised Mrs Briggs and claimed she was responsible for the crash in a string of posts on social media in the days that followed.

In a comment on an online news article, he claimed he had shouted out to her but she "ignored me", looked back at her phone then "stopped dead" in his path.

He wrote: "I feel bad due to the seriousness of her injuries but I can put my hands up and say this is not my fault."

On an internet forum for fixed-wheel bike enthusiasts, he later described how he twice warned her to "get the f*** outta my way".

He wrote: "We collided pretty hard, our heads hit together, hers went into the floor and ricocheted into mine.

"It is a pretty serious incident so I won't bother saying oh she deserved it, it's her fault. Yes it is her fault but no she did not deserve it.

"Hopefully, it is a lesson learned on her behalf, it shouldn't have happened like it did but what more can I say."

He complained: "Everyone is quick to judge and help the so-called victim but not the other person in the situation, ie me.

"It all happened so fast and even at a slow speed there was nothing I could do. I just wish people would stop making judgments.

"It's not my fault people either think they are invincible or have zero respect for cyclists."

Jurors heard Alliston's trendy "fixie" bike was not legal to use on the road without being modified to add a front brake.

He bought the £700 Planet X bike second-hand for £470 in January last year, telling the vendor he wanted to use it for track cycling.

In a reference to an American bike stunt film-maker, he tweeted: "The time when you first take your brakes off and feeling like you're in a @lucasbrunelle movie."

Crash investigators who studied CCTV of the incident concluded Alliston would have been able to stop and avoid the collision if the bike had been fitted with a front brake.

But giving evidence in his trial, Alliston, now 20, from Bermondsey, south London, claimed not to know the bike was illegal on the road and told jurors he was not riding recklessly.

He said: "At all times I would know what I'm doing and completely responsible for my actions. I did not get a kick or enjoyment out of not being safe."

Mrs Briggs's widower Matthew, from Lewisham, south London, sat in court throughout the trial, during which the CCTV footage of the crash was played several times.

Judge Wendy Joseph QC ordered a pre-sentence report, making clear she was considering jail.

She said: "I have not seen one iota of remorse from Mr Alliston at all at any stage."

She adjourned sentencing until September 18.

In a statement read in court, Mr Briggs 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."

The Briggs had been together for 26 years and married for 18 years.

Mr Briggs said they were a "very happy straightforward London family" who enjoyed life before the tragedy.

Alliston appeared relieved but gave away little emotion as the jury returned the verdicts as Mr Briggs sat a few feet away in court.

Outside court, Mr Briggs called for "radical change" in cycling culture and the introduction of a new law of causing death by dangerous cycling.

He said: "I am now determined to do what I can to prevent others from going through the heartache we have had to bear following Kim's needless death.

"We need to radically change some aspects of our cycling culture. This is not a witch hunt against all cyclists (I, myself cycle in London), only the irresponsible and reckless. We all have to share these imperfect streets, let's do so with care and due regard for each other.

"The current law is outdated and has not kept pace with the huge increase in the number of people cycling and the associated increased risk of collisions, nor the attitude of some cyclists. We need to change the way the law deals with this.

"I am calling for an introduction of laws of causing Death or Serious Injury by Dangerous or Careless Cycling, thereby bringing cycling laws into line with the Road Traffic Act.

"I also want people to understand that riding any bike without two brakes is illegal and, as we have seen, potentially lethal. I want bike retailers and, in particular, courier companies to communicate clearly and forcefully that these bikes are not legal or fit for road use."

He acknowledged the jury verdicts and said it was "very important" that Alliston admitted lying about his wife being on a mobile phone at the time of the crash.

He added: "Finally, I would like to say that I will not live my life in anger. Anger is corrosive and damaging and there is enough anger in this world. Rather, I shall endeavour to live my life and bring my children up as Kim did. Surrounded by positivity, compassion, humour and joy."

Lawyer Keith Barrett, of Fieldfisher law firm, said he was pursuing a civil claim on behalf of the family.

He added: "I hope that the spotlight on this trial will encourage courier companies and others to insist that their agents are full insured, as they would a car or van driver, in the event they seriously injure or kill someone on the roads."