Motorist cleared of death by dangerous driving in crowd-funded case

A woman who was prosecuted in what is believed to be the first crowd-funded court case has been cleared of causing death by careless driving.

Hairdresser Gail Purcell, 59, failed to spot 70-year-old Michael Mason as he rode along central London's Regent Street.

The Old Bailey heard that Mr Mason was thrown into the air, landing head first after being hit by Ms Purcell's Nissan.

Mr Mason never regained consciousness after the early-evening collision on 25 February 2014, and died on 14 March.

During the four-day trial, the court heard that Mr Mason's lights were working and switched on as he cycled towards Broadcasting House.

After being hit by the bonnet of Ms Purcell's car, Simon Spence QC said he had suffered a "very severe injury to the brain".

The jury heard that afterwards, Ms Purcell pulled up and was heard to say: "I'm the driver. It was me. Is he okay? I just didn't see him."

During a police interview, Ms Purcell told officers she did not see Mr Mason but did "hear a noise".

"I didn't see anybody from my left ... it's like they came from the sky," she said.

The jury took 17 minutes to clear her of causing death by careless driving.

Mr Mason's daughter, Anna Tatton-Brown, said she and her family "respect the decision" but were "obviously disappointed".

"We do, however, draw some comfort from the fact that the evidence was finally put to a jury, something that should have happened long ago," she added.

The case was taken up by Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund, after the Metropolitan Police refused to refer it to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice on whether it would be appropriate to charge Ms Purcell.

To help fund the case, more than 2,000 people donated over £80,000.

Spokesman for Cycling UK's CDF, Duncan Dollimore, said: "While we accept the jury's decision, CDF are disappointed and concerned about the message this conveys to the general public regarding driving standards."

He added: "If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely, the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review."