Cyclist hit by police car ‘had been drinking’

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The award-winning journalist left brain damaged when he was knocked off his bike by a speeding police car had been drinking at a well-known media haunt before the tragic smash, the High Court heard.

Through his wife, Barbara, former Guardian education editor, Donald MacLeod, 63, is suing the Metropolitan Police for £1m in damages after he suffered devastating head injuries in the crash in May 2010.

The court heard Mr MacLeod, who also worked for the Durham Advertiser, Newcastle Evening Chronicle and The Scotsman, had been drinking at the famous El Vino’s, on Fleet Street, before getting on his bike to go home.

Former work colleague, Anthony Dursi, of Hackney, east London, said they had gone to the bar and shared a bottle of wine over two hours.

Julian Waters, representing the Met, asked if that meant they had had a half-bottle of wine each.

But Mr Dursi said he had been drinking quicker. He thought Mr MacLeod would have had about a quarter of the bottle before he left to go home.

The court previously heard that the grandfather, of Inveresk Village, near Edinburgh, was thrown from his bike when he was hit by a police car speeding towards a reported shooting on a housing estate.

He was so badly injured in the smash near the Northgate pub, in Southgate Road, Islington, that he is even now unable to look after his own affairs and is suing the Met through his wife.

His barrister, Angus Withington, claims Mr MacLeod was struck from behind by the police car as he cycled along Southgate Road, while the police claim he cycled straight into the path of the car from a side street.

For the Met, Mr Waters told Judge Martin McKenna, who is hearing the case in London, that Mr MacLeod’s case is “inherently unlikely”.

“He wore a well-maintained hi-viz jacket and the bicycle was illuminated,” he said.

“The reflective strips would have picked up the lights and certainly the blue flashing light.

“It is wholly unlikely, to the point of impossible, for not just one but two front seat occupants to miss such an obvious presence if Mr MacLeod had been in Southgate Road.”

When he eventually left hospital, Mr MacLeod moved from his then home in Scholars Place, Stoke Newington, east London, to Scotland, where he can be closer to his children and grandchildren.

After hearing evidence from road collision experts, Judge McKenna apologised to Barbara MacLeod for the ordeal of having to listen to the hard facts of how he was injured.

“It must be very distressing,” he said.

The judge is being asked to rule whether the Met is to blame and therefore liable to pay very substantial damages.

Judgment on the claim was reserved until a later date.