The headline might as well be "Despicable Scroat kills Mother of two", and on the face of it Charlie Alliston looks like a pretty unpleasant character. Especially when portrayed next to his victim. But look a bit deeper and there are very disquieting factors and undercurrents at play in this case.
Martin Porter, QC, has written an excellent piece on his blog and goes into some depth about the various legal aspects of it. I strongly urge you to click this link and and read it. It is also covered in the Guardian.
I have a slightly more visceral take on the whole thing. This evening in the five miles of urban cycling commuting between my office and the edge of Long Ashton, seven pedestrians stepped out into my path while I was cycling on the road or on a clearly designated exclusive and separate cyclepath (ie not a shared path). That number excludes over a dozen who walked across a pedestrian crossing when the road light was green and pedestrian "man" was red, as I approached it. It also excludes the group of girls strung out across the road as I approached Long Ashton estate (they'd chosen to walk on a quiet road rather than the pavement) nor does it include the runner listening to music on earbuds who ran across my path in Long Ashton.
I also had to brake hard and swerve around the bonnet of a car that pulled out from a side road, who also fortunately saw me as I shouted loudly at the driver through his open window. He was looking the other way. He stopped as he heard me, his car half in and half out of the junction. If he had failed to stop, and he had not seen me, I would have been unable to stop in time and would have rolled across his car. If I was lucky.
That was not an untypical commute.
Whilst Charlie Alliston may be a particularly stupid and immature man, he has been harshly treated. Had his saddle height been a fraction lower his bike would not have required a front brake, and would therefore have been road legal, like many other fixies. And though remorse does have an impact on sentencing, it should have no place in charges and prosecution.
I expect pedestrians to be stupid so ride accordingly. But one day my luck may run out and I may hit and kill one. If this prosecution and its consequences are allowed to stand, it could be any of us that face furious cycling or manslaughter charges.
And if the criteria for manslaughter charges are now to be applied consistently, can we expect more of the (on average) 500 drivers a year that kill pedestrians to be charged with that offence?