Cycling Fatalities: Ian Winterburn

Part of Christmas Adjournment – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 21 December 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence) 5:00, 21 December 2017

Again, I thank my hon. Friend for her helpful intervention. I think that the first part of my speech clearly showed that the family of Ian Winterburn are just such a family. They had appallingly bad service from the CPS; they were not kept informed at all. They were given no assistance; there was no family support whatever. I do not know whether that was the result of cutbacks or of bad organisation and training. I think my hon. Friend probably knows more than I do about that, because she is a member of the Justice Committee, but I will leave it to the Minister to respond to that point.

The final recommendation in our report involves the fact that the number and length of driving bans appears to have declined, with a 62% fall in driver disqualifications over the past 10 years. That is double the fall in convictions for driving offences. Furthermore, very large numbers of drivers are escaping disqualification on reaching 12 points or more on their licence. The Ministry of Justice should examine the reasons behind the decline in the use of the penalty of disqualification and in particular the effect of the so-called exceptional hardship scheme.

I know that our report, which was published seven months after Ian Winterburn was killed, will ring many bells in the minds of his family, who still grieve for him every day. The family would like answers to a number of more specific questions, notwithstanding the recommendations I have just read out, so will the Minister answer the following questions? What is the current status of the review of guidelines for causing death by careless driving? Is a review even being carried out? Why do drivers who have caused death not face mandatory custodial sentences? How many complaints does the Ministry of Justice receive about the coroner service every year? What training is given to the coroner service staff? Who holds the coroner service to account? Is it the Ministry of Justice or is there any form of local accountability? When was the last review of the coroner service, and what were its findings? Finally, when will the coroner service website be improved to offer more and better information to grieving and unsupported families, which seems a simple, straightforward reform?

In conclusion, if we truly care about our environment and about the growing public health crisis, surely we must do far more to encourage cycling, both as a healthy activity and as a way to reduce carbon emissions and congestion, but tragedies such as the death of cyclist Ian Winterburn do nothing but discourage the public from cycling. We need to make cycling far easier and much, much safer, and part of that task is about ensuring that when terrible fatal accidents do occur, the appropriate administration of justice can be relied upon. We all need the assurance that cycling is a safe activity and a good way to move around our towns and cities for everyone who is capable of using a bike. Meaningful answers to and action from the Winterburn family’s pertinent questions, born out of tragedy and grief, would be a good start.