Joanna Dentskevich said that on 26 March last year, her son Freddie (14) was hit by a van while he was cycling in St Martin but that the driver did not stop and ‘neither the driver nor the driver’s partner dialled 999’.
She says that the family has been told by prosecuting authorities that the decision was taken not to charge anybody because the driver had claimed that they did not realise they had hit and caused injury to a person and that therefore, in the act of driving away, there was no intention of doing anything unlawful.
Simply driving away, Mrs Dentskevich was told, did not in itself constitute a crime and, as there were no witnesses to the collision, it could not be determined whether the driver had been driving carelessly.
Instead, Mrs Denstkevich claimed that Freddie was discovered by three passers-by at the scene of the incident – on the junction by Grande Route de Faldouet and La Longue Rue – ‘lying unconscious in a pool of blood’.
She said that once the emergency services were called, Freddie was taken to hospital, where he remained for two days as he underwent treatment for two fractures to his arm, had an operation on his knee, stitches around his eye, and false teeth put in to replace two front teeth which had been knocked out during the incident.
‘We have been told that there was blood on the windscreen of the vehicle where Freddie’s head had cracked the glass, the wing mirror had been broken off by his body and his knee was deeply lacerated from the shattered glass from his impact with the headlight. But nobody has been prosecuted,’ said Mrs Dentskevich.
‘We were told by witnesses that, over 20 minutes [after the accident], the driver of the van returned to the scene but did not make themselves known or offer assistance. The outcome of the investigation was that there was insufficient evidence to convict the driver of the vehicle.’
Mrs Dentskevich said she understood that accidents could happen but was upset about the way the situation had been handled.
‘If the driver had stopped, helped, apologised or phoned the police, we wouldn’t be where we are now,’ she said.
‘Serious-injury cycling accidents aren’t that common but when they do occur – because the victim is usually unconscious or dead – very few of the drivers on hit and runs get prosecuted, as there are no witnesses.
‘Freddie is not the only one this has happened to. So many people have come forward and said “this has happened to me”. The system in which we trust has no respect for the unconscious, seriously injured victim. It allows someone to leave the scene having caused injury, of which they must have been aware, and evade prosecution or sanction.
‘The system has let my husband and me down, it’s let our son down and it’s let other victims down. In a lot of countries in Europe, the driver is always guilty if they hit a cyclist, end of story. That’s quite extreme, as sometimes people can be foolish, but something must be done so the system respects the victim more and the roads are made safer. I want the system to change so that responsibility is duly important. How can it be right that somebody can be injured to that extent – where they are unconscious – but the perpetrator has no responsibility?’
Mrs Dentskevich added that the impact of Freddie’s accident had been long-lasting, as it was discovered he had also suffered a traumatic brain injury, which caused severe post-concussion syndrome.
‘He was signed off school straight away and limited to 30 minutes of remote learning a day,’ said Mrs Dentskevich. ‘Freddie was exhausted – he would get up after 12 hours’ sleep and he looked like he hadn’t really been to bed.’
She added that Freddie went back to boarding school in September but was unable to carry out a full day of schooling until December due to the level of his exhaustion.
‘The full effects of concussion can take two to three years to recover from. He’s missed a good part of a term and a half of school. He’s just started his GCSE course but has missed out on a good part of it. He’s also been told he should never play rugby again because of the injuries.’
In addition to the long-term physical effects, Mrs Dentskevich added that the incident had taken a mental toll on her family. ‘We see the van regularly,’ she said. ‘You’ll be having quite a good day and you see the van and it sets you back. It creates a real nervous response and makes you feel sick. If that’s what I’m feeling, what does Freddie feel? Jersey being a small place makes it difficult and brings it all back. We’ve seen the driver twice while out for walks over Christmas.
‘With Jersey being such a small community, it’s even more important that people do the right thing. If anything is to come out of this, something needs to change so this doesn’t happen to another person, especially another child. Our roads need to be safer.’
A police spokesperson said that, after examining the evidence and speaking to the individuals involved, the police had reached the conclusion that the incident was an unfortunate accident and that it was not in the spirit of the law to prosecute either party.