Cyclist struck by police car wins compensation

Donald MacLeod was left brain damaged after the crash. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Donald MacLeod was left brain damaged after the crash. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A CYCLIST left brain damaged after he was hit by a police car answering an emergency call has won a High Court claim that the force is liable for damages.

Journalist Donald MacLeod was returning home in north London, after drinking two small glasses of wine with a friend in a wine bar on Fleet Street, when the accident happened in March 2010.

The 63-year-old father-of-three was in a coma for several weeks and now needs round-the-clock care.

A former education journalist at The Guardian and head of communications for the Russell group of universities, Mr MacLeod lives in Inveresk, East Lothian, with his wife, Barbara.

Following the court ruling yesterday, Mrs MacLeod, who brought the case against the Metropolitan Police on her husband’s behalf, said: “It has been such a rollercoaster. We couldn’t believe the police would force us to take them to court. It is such a relief to know that Don’s care is now secure and we don’t have to worry about that in the long term.”

Mr MacLeod, a keen and safety-conscious cyclist who used his bike daily, was wearing a helmet and a high-visibility jacket with his bicycle lights illuminated, said Judge Martin McKenna, who ruled there could be no question of contributory negligence.

At the mini-roundabout where he was hit the road was narrow. However, Mr MacLeod would have contravened the Highway Code if he had ridden on the pavement.

The court ruled it was the responsibility of the police driver, who was on his way to a shooting in Hackney with three other officers, to pass Mr MacLeod safely, and the cyclist could not be criticised for failing to take measures to avoid the impact.

The officer, who entered the roundabout at 55mph, was driving at an excessive speed in circumstances where he could not bring the car to a halt in time to avoid the accident and contrary to the Met’s own policy, the judge said.

Sitting in London, the judge said: “The manner of his driving plainly fell below an acceptable standard.

“His speed was high and consistent with a desire to get to the rendezvous point as his priority rather than safely.”

Mrs MacLeod said her husband can communicate through smiles, nods and shakes of the head, but was unable to speak and had to be moved in a wheelchair.

She added: “I threw my arms round him when we got the message from the court.” However, she added: “I don’t know if he fully grasped how important the announcement is.”

The MacLeods’ solicitor will oppose any appeal and is preparing a claim for damages.