Daughter of cyclist killed as he rode home criticises police after crowdfunded trial
Driver cleared by jury of causing death by careless driving after trial funded by donations
13 April, 2017 — By William McLennan
THE daughter of a man who died after being knocked from his bicycle says questions remain over the way police handled the case, as a jury cleared a motorist of any criminal wrongdoing.
Anna Tatton-Brown, whose father Michael Mason died more than two weeks after the collision in February 2014, said the original decision by the Met Police not to pursue a prosecution had also been put “on trial” at the Old Bailey last week.
Gail Purcell, 59, who was driving the vehicle that collided with Mr Mason as he cycled to his home in Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, was cleared of causing death by careless driving on Thursday.
The four-day trial was the result of a rare private prosecution. Police officers investigating the 70-year-old’s death refused to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service – which is the conventional route by which criminal charges are brought. Instead, lawyers representing the Cyclists’ Defence Fund brought the case.
It was paid for with more than £70,000 of donations in what is believed to be the first example of a crowdfunded prosecution in Britain.
At one point during the trial, Ms Purcell’s defence barrister applied for the case to be thrown out on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence.
However, His Honour Judge Gordon ruled that the jury should test the case.
Ms Tatton-Brown said the decision was “vindication that this is where this case should always have been”, adding: “It wasn’t for the police to make that decision, it was the jury. In many ways we had a victory, in a sense, when that happened.”
She said she was “not suggesting for a moment that the jury reached the wrong verdict”.
However, she added: “While Gail Purcell was not found guilty, the police in many ways were on trial in this case.”
Judge Gordon also ruled that some costs should be refunded to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund.
Ms Tatton-Brown added: “In my mind, that’s vindication that this case should have been paid for by the state and should have been taken by the police and the CPS.”
Anna Tatton-Brown with her father, Michael Mason
She also has concerns over the way the investigation was carried out and said that lawyers acting on her family’s behalf had found that several witnesses, who gave vital evidence at the trial, had not been pursued by police.
The family were also disturbed by the tone of some of the investigation.
A transcript of a police interview with Ms Purcell, carried out when Mr Mason was gravely unwell, caused particular concern.
In the interview, Ms Purcell describes how the high-end salon where she works in Conduit Street has an in-house chef, from whom she can purchase food and drink with a staff discount throughout the day.
Her solicitor then interjects: “I think when I was in there someone was eating scrambled eggs, actually.”
In response, one detective constable says to the other: “I know where we’ll go for breakfast next week.”
Mr Mason’s life-support machine was switched off the following day.
Ms Tatton-Brown told the New Journal this week: “I think you can imagine how sick we were when we read that transcript.”
She called for the Met to investigate the handling of the case.
Ms Tatton-Brown believes police should reform the way they treat cycling fatalities, so all cases are automatically referred to the CPS.
Her view is backed by Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer, who served as the Director of the Public Prosecutions, the head of CPS, before entering parliament.
He said: “In these tragic and fatal cases, I believe there should be a rule requiring the police to submit a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether charges should be brought or not.”
The jury returned its not guilty verdict last week after hearing that Ms Purcell told police she “honestly didn’t see” Mr Mason, who was cycling in front of her at around 6.20pm in Regent Street on February, 25, 2014. He suffered a “very severe injury to the brain” and never regained consciousness, the court was told.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: “The position of the Metropolitan Police Service in this case remains that all statutory requirements have been strictly adhered to in terms of presentation of the evidence. The test for referral to the Crown Prosecution Service, as laid down by the Director of Public Prosecutions, was applied and found not to meet the required threshold.
The evidence was also tested in the coroner’s court and not referred for further investigation or examination by any other agency, statutory or otherwise. Her Majesty’s Coroner concluded that this was the result of an accident and the investigation supports this finding.”