Motorist denies causing the death of a cyclist during rush hour traffic following Britain's first crowdfunded prosecution backed by the crash victim's BBC journalist daughter

  • Driver and cyclist collided on Regent's Street, London in 2014
  • Metropolitan Police decided not to refer the case to prosecutors
  • Family of man killed used fundraising website to pay for private case
  • Motorist appears in court and denies causing death by careless driving

Gail Purcell faces a trial for causing death by careless driving after a private prosecution funded partly by a JustGiving webpage

Gail Purcell faces a trial for causing death by careless driving after a private prosecution funded partly by a JustGiving webpage

A woman is to face an Old Bailey trial next April for causing the death of a cyclist in what is believed to be the first crowdfunded private prosecution in British legal history.

Gail Purcell, 58, allegedly hit cyclist Mick Mason from behind, causing a traumatic brain injury, during the evening rush hour on February 25, 2014.

The 70-year-old teacher was cycling home along Regent Street in central London when he came into contact with Purcell's black Nissan Juke.

Mr Mason suffered a serious injury to his brain and never regained consciousness, dying 19 days later after being taken off life support on March 14.

Purcell had stopped at the scene but told police officers she had not seen Mt Brown but 'just heard an impact'.

Today, she denied one count of causing death by careless driving during a short hearing at the Old Bailey.

Purcell, dressed all in black, clasped her hands as she entered her plea.

Prosecutor Tim Godfrey said: 'Your lordship will be aware the case concerns a road traffic accident on Regent Street.'

Judge John Bevan set a trial date for 3 April and asked: 'This is a prosecution brought by whom?'

Mr Godfrey replied: 'It's a charity, the Cyclists' Defence Fund.'

Mick Mason died after coming off his bike in Regent's Street in February 2014

Mick Mason died after coming off his bike in Regent's Street in February 2014

Mr Mason's family, including his daughter Anna Tatton-Brown, decided to bring  a private prosecution after the Metropolitan Police did not refer to case to prosecutors

Mr Mason's family, including his daughter Anna Tatton-Brown, decided to bring  a private prosecution after the Metropolitan Police did not refer to case to prosecutors

The Metropolitan Police twice decided not to refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service

Mr Mason's family, including his daughter BBC journalist Anna Tatton-Brown, decided to go ahead with a private prosecution and raised £60,000.

A Justgiving page was set up to raise money for the legal costs by charity Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF).

The CDF and Cycling UK brought the private prosecution following donations from more than 1,600 supporters who helped raise over £60,000 towards case costs.

The CDF, a campaigning body that defends the rights of cyclists was set up in 2001 by Cycling UK in response to the case of Darren Coombes, a nine-year-old cyclist who suffered brain damage from a collision with a motorist.

Judge Bevan said: 'You must attend on the 3 April or in such other dates that the trial is fixed for because your bail is to attend your trial, and if you don't attend the trial could go on without you.'

Thousands have been raised to fund the prosecution on the JustGiving fundraising website

Thousands have been raised to fund the prosecution on the JustGiving fundraising website

Purcell, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, was released on unconditional bail ahead of her Old Bailey trial on 3 April.

Deputy coroner Dr William Dolman ruled that Mr Mason died as the result of an 'accident' at the inquest into his death.

Duncan Dollimore, a coordinator for the Cyclists Defence Fund, previously said: 'We are not aware of crowdfunding of this nature to provide a prescution like this.' 

WHAT IS A PRIVATE PROSECUTION?

The right to bring a private prosecution dates back to the earliest days of the legal system. Under UK law, anyone has the right to bring a private prosecution in front of the criminal courts.Cases have historically been rare due to the high costs involved in investigating and pursuing such cases.

Legal aid is not available for private prosecutions, meaning they have to be paid for by the alleged victim.

There are a number of organisations that regularly prosecute cases before the courts but do so as private individuals, using the right of any individual to bring a private prosecution. One example is the RSPCA.

According to CPS guidance, there is nothing wrong in allowing a private prosecution to run its course through to verdict and sentence.

There is no requirement for the CPS to take over a private prosecution. The fact that a private prosecution succeeds is not an indication that the case should have been prosecuted by the CPS, it says.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has the power to take over private prosecutions and there will be times when the CPS will exercise this power. 

 

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