Road Share - Case for Stricter liability (with notes) - Dec 2014 Parliamentary Reception
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Road Share - Case for Stricter liability (with notes) - Dec 2014 Parliamentary Reception

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Brenda Mitchell, founder of specialist law firm, Cycle Law Scotland and also the Road Share Campaign presents her arguments for stricter (presumed) liability in Civil Law at a Parliamentary Reception ...

Brenda Mitchell, founder of specialist law firm, Cycle Law Scotland and also the Road Share Campaign presents her arguments for stricter (presumed) liability in Civil Law at a Parliamentary Reception hosted by MSP Alison Johnstone at Holyrood.

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Road Share - Case for Stricter liability (with notes) - Dec 2014 Parliamentary Reception Road Share - Case for Stricter liability (with notes) - Dec 2014 Parliamentary Reception Document Transcript

  • The  Road  Share  campaign  was  launched  in  April  2013  by  Cycle  Law  Scotland  to   encourage  the  Sco?sh  Government  to  introduce    a  system  of  stricter  liability  in  Scots   civil  law  to  give  protecCon  to  vulnerable  road  users  (cyclists  and  pedestrians.)   1  
  • Before  I  discuss  the  campaign,  I  feel  I  should  give  you  all  some  background  about   myself  and  Cycle  Law  Scotland.       Cycle  Law  Scotland  was  founded  in  2011  as  a  joint-­‐venture  with  Thompsons  Solicitors   who  have  a  long  established  background  in  campaigning  and  were  recognised  by  the   legal  profession  at  this  year's  Law  awards  by  winning  “Firm  of  the  Year.”     At  the  same  awards,  I  was  fortunate  enough  to  win  “Solicitor  of  the  Year”  for  2013.       On  that  point,  there  are  lots  of  references  nowadays  to  cycle  Lawyers  and  whether   cyclists  need  a  brand  of  lawyers  just  for  them.  My  answer  to  that  is  quite  simply  “yes,   they  do”.       The  Legal  profession  is  a  powerful  one  but  only  if  it  assists  in  bringing  about  change   for  the  beUer.  Our  campaign  goes  hand-­‐in-­‐hand  with  promoCng  cycle  safety  and   educaCng  the  public.  Every  day  we  are  exposed  to  human  suffering.  Cyclists  rarely   suffer  minor  whiplash,  they  predominately  suffer  severe  upper  limb  fractures.       Chris  Oliver,  Orthopaedic  surgeon  and  immediate  past  Chairman  of  CTC  Scotland,  is   here  tonight  and  in  a  recently  published  arCcle,  he  confirmed  that  whilst  he  loved  his   job,  he  was  growing  Cred  of  fixing  broken  cyclists.     2  
  • Well,  we  are  one  of  only  five  countries  who  currently  have  no  regime  in  place  for   cyclists  or  pedestrians.  The  others  are  Cyprus,  Malta,  Romania,  and  Ireland.       Are  we  keeping  good  company?       Not  really,  other  naCons  across  the  world  also  have  strict  liability  regimes  including   Australia,  New  Zealand,  India,  Bangladesh  and  China  for  the  past  10  years.     Looking  at  Europe,  Germany  introduced  strict  liability  in  the  early  20th  century,  Italy   in  1969,  Denmark  in  the  mid  80s,  France  in  1985  and  the  Netherlands  in  the  1990s.     We  are  not  behind  the  curve,  we  are  decades  behind  the  curve!       When  you  consider  why  countries  such  as  Denmark  and  France,  for  example,   introduced  stricter  liability  regimes,  it  was  in  direct  response  to  a  need  to  reduce   road  traffic  collisions  involving  cyclists  and  pedestrians.  It  is  important  to  note  that   not  all  regimes  were  created  equally  and  the  regimes  do  vary.   3  
  • So,  what  are  we  proposing  for  Scotland?     One  of  the  remarkable  achievements  of  Roman  Jurisprudence  was  the  development   of  no-­‐fault  liability  or,  in  other  words,  strict  liability.  This  is  where  a  person  is  held   liable,  not  for  his  failure  to  display  the  diligence  of  a  reasonable  man,  because  he  is  in   control  of  an  object  of  danger  to  another's  life,  health  or  property.     The  concept  behind  strict  liability  is  quite  simple.  It's  designed  to  protect  the   vulnerable.    However,  it  has  to  operate  as  part  of  a  package  of  measures.     What  we  propose  is  presumed  liability  for  the  14  to  70  age  group.   A  driver  would  be  presumed  liable  in  civil  law  to  compensate  an  injured  cyclist  or   pedestrian  if  he  collides  with  and  injures  them.     Equally,  a  cyclist  in  civil  law  would  be  presumed  liable  and  have  to  compensate  a   pedestrian  should  they  collide  with  and  injure  them.   In  other  words,  liability  will  aUach  but  it  is  always  open  to  a  driver  or  cyclist  to  allege   fault  on  the  part  of  the  injured  individual.     Further  protecCon  however  must  be  put  in  place  for  those  who  are  even  more   vulnerable  i.e.  children  under  the  age  of  14  and  the  elderly  over  the  age  of  70.  In     4  
  • So  what  are  the  benefits?     It  is  clear  that  in  those  naCons  with  high  rates  of  cycling  and  high  levels  of  cycle   safety,  stricter  liability  exists  as  part  of  a  kaleidoscope  of  policies  designed  to  enable   safe  cycling.     It  leads  to  a  culture  of  mutual  respect.     The  Sco?sh  Government  has  confirmed  to  us  that  cycling  is  fun,  is  healthy,  is  virtually   free,  and  is  the  cheapest  form  of  transport.  It  helps  maintain  a  healthy  mind  and   body  but  people  will  only  take  to  cycling  if  they  feel  safe  and  right  now  safety,  or  a   percepCon  cycling  is  unsafe,  is  the  single  most  important  factor  that  stops  individuals   from  taking  to  the  roads.     Ask  yourself  the  quesCon.     Would  you  be  happy  with  your  children  cycling  to  school  in  the  city  centre?     Do  you  feel  secure  and  safe  when  you  cycle  on  “A”  roads?     I  wouldn’t.   5  
  • We  never  said  this  would  be  easy.    As  Alison  reminded  me  at  the  Heels  ‘n’  Wheels   event  during  the  Edinburgh  FesCval  of  Cycling  last  Summer,  she  said,  “This  is  going  to   be  a  marathon  not  a  sprint.”   6  
  • Where  did  this  idea  of  stricter  liability  in  Civil  Law  come  from?     It’s  not  a  mad  cap  Idea  from  Road  Share.  It  was  embedded  in  the  Cycling   AcCon  Plan  for  Scotland,  which  was  iniCally  published  in  2010.    It  set  out   a  vision  to  get  10%  of  all  journeys  by  bike  by  2020.     The  acCon  plan  was  structured  around  key  issues  that  emerged  from  the   Sco?sh  Government’s  consultaCons  held  throughout  2008  and  2009  and   it  set  out  a  framework  to  achieve  that  vision.     It  also  set  out  what  the  Sco?sh  government  will  do.     I  say,  “will  do.”     Powerful  stuff   7  
  • Let’s  have  a  look  at  the  two  separate  acCon  points  which  specifically   related  to  Strict  Liability.     AcCon  point  12  was  as  follows:  To  undertake  a  legisla2ve  search  to   reveal  the  operaCon  of  liability  Laws  and  how  they  work  in  other   countries  in  Europe  and  around  the  World,  and  whether  there  is  robust   evidence  of  a  direct  link  to  levels  of  cycling  and  KSIs.         8  
  • The  outcome  expected  from  AcCon  Point  12  was  to  be…     A  comprehensive  report  on  liability  laws  and  how  they  affect  cycling.   9  
  • The  second  acCon  point  related  to  Strict  liability  was  as  follows:-­‐     To  try  and  iden2fy  what  kind  of  hierarchy,  if  any,  might  be  established  and  develop   an  educa2onal  awareness  campaign  for  all  road  users.   10  
  • The  outcome  expected  from  AcCon  point  13  was  to  be….     A  reduc2on  in  the  rate  of  cyclist  KSIs   11  
  • So  what  happened  and  what  did  the  Government  do?     Well,  these  acCon  points  sat  on  the  back  burner  unCl  the  summer  of  2013  when   there  was  a  refresh  of  the  cycle  acCon  plan  for  Scotland.  Cycle  Law  Scotland   contributed  to  the  refresh  based  on  research  we  had  carried  out  earlier  in  the  year.   Somewhat  disappoinCngly,  however,  Transport  Scotland  confirmed  that  they  had   carried  out  their  own  desk  based  review  looking  at  the  basic  impact  of  strict  liability   legislaCon  in  a  number  of  European  countries.     They  concluded  that  “the  available  data  did  not  supply  robust  evidence  of  a  direct   causal  link  between  strict  liability  legislaCon  to  levels  of  cycling  and  KSIs  when   countries  like  the  UK  are  clearly  reducing  fataliCes  in  cyclists.”     Now,  no  one  here  needs  to  be  reminded  that  this  year  alone  12  cyclists  have  died  on   our  roads.     Spokes  have  conducted  research  which  shows  that  from  around  2005  there  has  been   a  divergence  with  motorists’  injuries  reducing  yet  cyclists’  injuries  increasing.     At  the  same  Cme,  evidence  appears  to  show  that  cycling  in  general  has  not  increased   so  therefore  something  has  gone  wrong.   12  
  • No  it  wasn’t.  Thanks  to  brave  MSP's  and  in  parCcular,  Alison  Johnstone,  the  idea   survived.     Support  was  growing  from  across  the  poliCcal  spectrum.     On  29th  October  this  year,  one  of  the  longest  business  debates  ever  held  took  place   at  Holyrood.     Many  MSPs  spoke  out  in  favour  of  the  proposal  to  conCnue  to  debate  the  issue  of   stricter  liability.  Many  spoke  passionately  but  required  further  informaCon  and   others  were  wholly  against  the  idea.     However,  I  would  like  to  quote  ConservaCve  MSP,  John  Lamont,  who  summed  things   up  nicely  when  he  said,     “In  virtually  every  collision  between  a  car  and  vulnerable  road  user,  it  will  be  the   pedestrian  or  the  cyclist  who  is  injured.  I  fail  to  see  how  anyone  who  accepts  that   cyclists  have  an  equal  right  to  be  on  our  roads,  cannot  support  the  introducCon  of   legal  safeguards  that  address  the  imbalance.”   13  
  • I  menConed  the  growing  support  across  the  poliCcal  spectrum.       These  include  Jean  Urqhuart,  Tavish  ScoU,  Alison  Johnstone,  John  Lamont,  Richard   Lyle  and  many  many  more  who  have  come  out  in  support.  They  are  not  the  only   ones.       Over  5350  individuals  have  signed  our  peCCon  calling  for  the  Sco?sh  Government  to   introduce  a  stricter  liability  regime.     There  is  support  from  numerous  individuals  including  Nick  Nairn,  Cameron  McNeish,   Lesley  Riddock,  Karen  Darke  and  from  Cycling  organisaCons  like  The  Bike  StaCon,   Edinburgh  Bicycle  CooperaCve,    CTC  Scotland.  Spokes,  Pedal  on  Parliament  and  most   recently  Sco?sh  Cycling  and  its  12,500  members.     There  are  so  many  more  and  all  your  support  is  greatly  appreciated.  However,  I   would  like  to  thank  in  parCcular,  ScoU  HasCngs,  as  I  know  that  during  the  course  of   his  rugby  career  he  met  with  some  brutal  opposiCon  but  nothing  could  have   prepared  him  for  the  “Call  Kaye  phone  in.”  Well  done  ScoU!     So  with  all  this  support  ,is  there  hope?   14  
  • At  the  end  of  the  debate  these  were  Keith  Brown,  Transport  Minister’s  words.     “Although  I  am  supporCve  of  nearly  all  the  statements  that  are  made  in  the  moCon,  I   cannot  support  it  in  its  current  form,  given  the  lack  of  robust  evidence  that  stricter   liability  could  have  posiCve  benefits  for  vulnerable  road  users.  However,  there  will   conCnue  to  be  debate  on  the  issue,  in  which  we  will  conCnue  to  parCcipate.”     I  am  pleased  that  he  has  commiUed  the  Sco?sh  Government  to  conCnue  to  be   involved  in  debate  and  the  Sco?sh  government  will  conCnue  to  be  a  parCcipant.     What  I  am  disappointed  about,  however,  is  his  reference  to  a  lack  of  robust  evidence   when  I'm  not  convinced  that  Transport  Scotland  actually  completed  the   comprehensive  research  they  commiUed  to  back  in  2010.     Here  is  just  one  example…   15  
  • SomeCmes,  it  is  good  to  look  at  an  example.     Prior  to  1985,  France  had  a  fault  based  system.  I  have  never  parCcularly  thought  of   the  French  as  being  a  safety  conscious  naCon  and  you  can  see  here  the  example  of   traffic  aUempCng  to  navigate  the  Arc  de  Triomphe  –  chaos!     In  1985,  there  was  a  wholesale  shir  over  to  Strict  liability  where  a  driver  is  liable  to   compensate  a  cyclist  or  pedestrian  if  they  collide  with  and  injure  them.  There  is  no   defence  of  unavoidable  accident  and  there  are  severe  restricCons  on  allegaCons  of   contributory  negligence.  So  what  effect  did  this  have?     There  is  no  denying  that  bicycle  safety  has  improved  markedly  and  figures  from  the   OECD,  being  the  latest  staCsCcs  published  in  2012,  confirmed  that  the  fatality  rate  for   cyclists  fell  by  66%  from  1990.     Granted,  there  had  been  general  improvements  in  road  safety  and  you  cannot  isolate   strict  liability  as  being  the  sole  cause  of  that  significant  reducCon,  but  it  did  play  a   role.     In  the  Netherlands,  it  is  three  Cmes  safer  to  cycle  compared  to  the  UK.     16  
  • Fault  based  is  the  current  system  whereby  it  is  necessary  to  establish  negligence   before  being  awarded  compensaCon.     What  we  are  suggesCng  is  that  with  the  introducCon  of  stricter  liability,  the  current   system  would  be  greatly  improved.   At  present  no  account  is  taken  of  vulnerability  to  injury.     The  concept  of  strict  liability  is  not  unusual  in  Scots  law  and  exists,  for  example,  in   consumer  protecCon  and  control  of  animals.  Furthermore,  it  did  exist  in  the   workplace  regulaCons  unCl  the  dreadful  Enterprise  and  Regulatory  Act  in  2013.       Perhaps,  these  2  case  examples  will  help  to  explain  the  problem…     Jamie  Aarons     Jamie  was  cycling  to  the  gym  when  a  taxi  driver  swung  his  door  open  in  front  of  her.   She  didn’t  have  Cme  to  take  evasive  acCon  and  went  over  the  handlebars,  ending  up   shaken  and  sore  but  only  too  aware  it  could  have  been  much  worse.  The  taxi  driver   was  very  apologeCc,  picked  up  her  bike  and  gave  her  his  mobile  number  but  she   didn’t  make  a  note  of  the  taxi’s  registraCon  number.  To  be  honest,  as  it  was  dark  and   she  wasn’t  familiar  with  the  area,  she  simply  wanted  to  conCnue  her  journey.     17  
  • So,  where  do  we  go  from  here?     Whilst    we  are  reassured  that  Keith  Brown  is  prepared  to  commit  the  Sco?sh   Government  to  conCnue  the  debate  on  the  issue,  we  need  more  than  just  debate.     A  working  party/steering  group  needs  to  be  set  up  and  it  should  commission  the     robust  research  as  outlined  in  CAPS  2010     We  need  to  do  more  if  we  are  to  achieve  that  vision  of  10%  of  journeys  by  bicycle  by   2020.     Scotland  should  take  the  lead.  There  is  huge  support  for  this.     The  Cme  has  come  for  Scotland  to  grasp  the  thistle  and  take  the  lead.     We  are  a  naCon  that  has  always  sought  to  protect  the  vulnerable     We  are  a  brave  and  bold  naCon.     Now,  with  all  that  talk  of  bravery  and  thistles,  don't  be  alarmed  at  the  next  slide.       18  
  • For  those  of  you  who  have  just  taken  a  sharp  intake  of  breath,  this  is  not  a  map  of   Europe  as  of  19  September  2014!     Is  a  map  of  how  Europe  could  look  if  our  poliCcians  and  the  Sco?sh  Government   seriously  consider  this  issue  and  commit  us  to  joining  the  rest  of  our  European   neighbours  who  have  for  decades  been  prepared  to  protect  the  vulnerable  and   thereby  cement  our  place  as  a  cycling  friendly  naCon.       19  
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