How an Irish cyclist’s life collapsed when accused of child hit and run

Posted on: September 21st, 2016

One Irish cyclist tells his horror story after a driver hit a child cyclist in a hit and run and he stood accused.

 

By Paul Lafford, cyclist and motorist

The following story needs to be told. It has sat in my mind for a few years now, as I waited for the time to tell it.

It is a true story and it happened as described. For confidential purposes and the anonymity of others, I will not mention any names, but those people will back up my account.

Some years ago, I had a job as a delivery driver. It wasn’t my favourite job ever, but it paid the bills and conditions were good.

Part of my role was to work the occasional Sunday. One Sunday, I arrived at work, to be confronted by an extremely worried looking manager.

“An accusation’s been made,” he began.

“A child was knocked off a bike last Thursday evening. The driver involved left the scene of the accident. The child is OK, thank God. But it was one of our vans”.

My heart skipped a beat. Getting involved in an accident is one thing, but to leave the scene; that’s a criminal offence.

An internal investigation was immediately launched. As a result of the investigation, it was determined that it couldn’t possibly have been any of us, as we weren’t even in the town at the time.

Everybody breathed a sigh of relief. It would be bad news for somebody, but we were off the hook.

“We employ a better calibre of person than somebody who would leave a child lying on a road,” the manager remarked.

About a week later my phone rang. It was another manager.

“Expect a call from the Gardaí and bring your driving licence to work tomorrow,” she said.

“Be prepared for an interview with them, as they are investigating the recent accusation.”

My world caved in. I was innocent. I had done nothing wrong.

That night, the call came from the Gardaí and an appointment was arranged for interview the following day.

My prior dealings with the Gardaí amounted to the occasional stamping of a passport form, the old stamp for the car tax.

The following day, I was escorted to an interview room. I don’t think I have ever felt so alone and so scared in my entire life.

I was up since 3am, just unable to sleep with the worry.

“Had they found more evidence? Did I hit somebody and not realise it? What the hell is happening?

“You have the right to remain silent…” Those immortal words that we hear on TV, as my rights were read to me.

The Garda stepped out for a few moments, and I took stock of my surroundings; just me, white walls, a recording device similar to an old hifi unit on my left.

There was a bare table, another chair for the Garda and a video camera above the door, trained on me.

I gave a full account of my movements on that day and had my statement read back to me. I signed it, the Garda signed it and I was free to leave.

There would be a full investigation, he assured me. And at the end the superintendant or a detective would decide whether or not to issue further proceedings.

It could take up to six months as due process had to be followed at all times.

I left the Garda station that day, feeling sick to the pit of my stomach.

I’ll be honest here. I sat in my car and cried my eyes out. I arrived home, unable to eat or sleep. For the next 6 months, I would be subject to a Garda investigation.

I don’t know if any of the readers here have ever experienced such a process. You actually begin to doubt yourself. You start to think it’s not really happening. You cry a lot, you worry a lot; you feel very agitated and depressed.

You know you’re innocent, but you begin to think that you may be guilty. Your mind goes into overdrive and any moment of happiness is immediately dispelled by what “they” might find out.

I will always remember Christmas night that year sitting beside the fire; Caroline half asleep, Kian playing with his new toys, waiting for Mrs Brown to start.

“Will I be in jail this time next year?” I thought to myself.

A new year began and most moments of my waking life were consumed with worry.

January, February, March passed and then my phone rang. It was the investigating Garda.

“Is there anything that you wish to change on your statement?” he asked.

I replied that ‘no, I was standing over what I had said’.

A further meeting was arranged for that same night in the same Garda station, the same interview room at 9pm.

Everything was read back to me and there was some legal stuff that went over my head.

”I’m happy that you have no case to answer,” the Garda said; that’s all I heard.

“I’ll be recommending that no further investigation is necessary and the case is closed,” he added.

I left the Garda station that night in tears again. This time it was pure relief and joy.

I was innocent, proven to be innocent and totally free to carry on with my life again.

I phoned home and I can still hear the relief and happiness from the lads here.

At work the following morning I got the heartiest of handshakes from management and staff alike.

My ordeal was over, my nightmare was over. I was free and I never want to see a Garda station again.

So why am I writing all this down? Here’s why.

Lots has been written on social media about the latest scourge on our roads; the cyclist.

I’m a bike rider and a motorist so I try to see both sides of the argument.

You hear people say cyclists don’t pay tax and insurance. Wrong! Bike riders have cars too and do pay tax.

People say cyclists refuse to use the bike lanes. But if they don’t there are good reasons, lots of them. Ask!

It’s often said cyclists take up the road. But it’s totally legal to cycle two abreast.

Cyclists run red lights, they say. Some do. But anybody wearing their club kit will never do that.

I could go on and on, with the same old spiel that you have heard thousands of times before. It has now gotten to the ridiculous stage, as the same old nonsense is trotted out.

Read the above again. That’s the reality of a Garda investigation. Remember, I was innocent and thankfully was proven to be.

So, I will ask you this. Do you want to sit in that Garda station guilty? Do you want to have your rights read to you? Do you want your day in court with a very serious charge to answer?

Your excuse, that they were riding too far out on the road, they were holding me up, I hate lycra, they are f*cking eejits, they think they own the road.

None of this stuff will cut any ice with a Garda investigation. You will follow the process as described above and it will take over every moment of your life.

I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been that soldier. Please, please share the roads.

 

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