A lecturer of policing said that a case where yet another Irish cyclist was threatened with prosecution for reporting a motorist close passing them is part of a “strategy which police use to dissuade complainants”.
Cian Ó Concubhair, a lecturer of criminal, law, policing, and criminology at Maynooth University also said that touching a van as it passes “dangerously and unlawfully” is not criminal damage.
He was reacting to a video posted on Twitter after Gardai in Limerick refused to prosecute a close-passing motorist.
Aidan Hogan, the Limerick-based cyclist who posted the video, said: “Garda who rang couldn’t offer a single reason to support the decision [of no prosecution] other than to say it wasn’t their decision, but the Inspector’s.”
It has been a recurring theme from cyclists reporting close passes that, even when rank-and-file officers see a criminal issue worth at least fining, they are overruled by their senior officers.
Hogan added: “Was, however, able to advise me against touching vehicles, due to a risk of a criminal damage charge.”
He told this website that that was said to him by Gardai was “very thinly veiled”.
In his video, the van driver closely overtakes Hogan around a point in the road where there are speed humps with gaps, only to join a line of cars very closely ahead.
Ó Concubhair said: “Touching a van that’s passing dangerously and unlawfully close to you does not constitute criminal damage under the 1991 Act.”
“Strategies police use to dissuade complainants from pushing police to bring legit prosecutions often include threatening the complainant with prosecution,” he said.
This is also in line with the IrishCycle.com survey on close pass reporting which found that, among survey responses, Gardai tried to deter cyclists from reporting 51% of close passing by motorists.
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Being threatened with prosecution is a less common but recurring issue within the attempts to dismiss and dissuade reporting.
In 2021, John Grace, a Cork businessman who posts under the name @righttobikeit, has previously outlined how he was fined for “cycling without reasonable consideration” after reporting what he viewed as a motorist deliberately intimating him with their SUV. In another case it is understood that he was threatened with a fine but never received it.
Reponding to this at the time, Galway TD and former Government minister Ciaran Cannon said: “This really poor decision making by some members of @GardaTraffic @gardainfo needs to stop now. It has the potential to make our roads and streets even more dangerous for cyclists.”
Former transport Minister Shane Ross, in 2019, changed the close passing law to separate out the offence of dangerous overtaking of a cyclist from the general dangerous overtaking offence — no contact or injury is required to be in breach of the law, and there’s no distance to prove.
The offence carries 3 penalty points and the fixed charge fine is €120, the number of points is the same but the fine is higher than the general dangerous overtaking law.
‘Stayin’ Alive at 1.5′ founder Phil Skelton, who in December received an award from the Road Safety Authority for his work in the area of dangerous overtaking of cyclists, said around the same time: “Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 called for a mandatory training module for rank and file Gardaí prior to the introduction of this legislation and we have seen no evidence of this to date.”
Skelton added: “We often get reports of Gardaí being unaware of this legislation and that is clearly problematic in terms of specific enforcement and of hit-and-miss awareness and subsequent and predictable post-code lottery situations. We certainly need to see a renewed focus in the New Year.”