Britain’s first crowdfunded prosecution has ended with the defendant being acquitted in just 17 minutes as the jury said she was not guilty of killing a cyclist by dangerous driving.
The landmark legal case was brought by The Cyclists' Defence Fund, a subsidiary of the Cycling UK charity, which raised money through online crowdfunding in order to privately prosecute Gail Purcell, a 59-year-old hairdresser.
However, Ms Purcell, of St Alban’s was cleared within minutes at the Old Bailey yesterday, after the jury concluded she was not responsible for the collision which killed cyclist Michael Mason in February 2014.
The case, which saw £80,000 raised to bring about the private prosecution, followed the decision by the CPS not to prosecute Ms Purcell, whose car collided with the 70-year-old teacher as he rode along Regent Street in Central London.
Prosecuting, Simon Spence QC described how Mr Mason had been cycling towards Broadcasting House when he was struck by Ms Purcell’s vehicle, adding: “He was knocked from his cycle by the car driven by this defendant. She was driving in the same direction as Mr Mason.
“The prosecution case is that for whatever reason, the defendant simply did not see a cyclist in the carriageway ahead of her in the traffic in circumstances where she should have done.
“And she drove into the back of him, knocking him from his cycle, and causing fatal head injuries.”
But Ms Purcell said traffic was free flowing, that she never saw the cyclist, and that he appeared as though he had "have come from nowhere".
In a later interview, she told police officers: "I didn't see anybody from my left. It's like they came from the sky."
Investigators later ruled that the incident had not been a high speed crash, and that Ms Purcell had been driving within the 30 mph speed limit.
Speaking outside of court, Anna Tatton-Brown, Mr Mason's daughter, said that her family were “disappointed” by the verdict, adding that the jury’s decision appeared to conclude “that no explanation” was necessary for “failing to be aware of what’s in front of you”.
"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.
"It should not have taken the intervention of CDF, and the support of many members of the public, to bring this case to court.”
A spokesman for the CDF said that it was “disappointed and concerned” about the message the case would send to the public about driving standards.
“Careless driving is supposed to be driving which falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver,” 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.”