Road-safety review announced in response to Freddie's Law petition

ROAD safety for cyclists and pedestrians is to be reviewed as part of the Island’s Sustainable Transport Policy, the Infrastructure Minister has said in response to calls to introduce ‘Freddie’s Law’.

Deputy Kevin Lewis. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30252753)
Deputy Kevin Lewis. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30252753)

Deputy Kevin Lewis has said that safe road spaces for cyclists, consistent speed limits and the prioritisation of road users not in cars were all being examined as part of the STP.

Joanna Dentskevich has been campaigning for presumed-liability laws which offer increased protection to vulnerable road users such as cyclists. She launched a petition, calling for what has been dubbed ‘Freddie’s Law’, after her 14-year-old son was seriously injured in a road traffic collision while cycling last year. She said that the driver initially drove away from the scene, allegedly claiming they had not been aware that they had hit a person. No criminal charges were brought.

Mrs Dentskevich said she was told that simply driving away 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.

In response to the petition, which has garnered nearly 3,700 signatures, Deputy Lewis said: ‘It is always traumatic when someone is injured on our roads, and my thoughts are with Freddie and his family. The purpose of the petition is to seek to initiate a review of Jersey’s laws governing the rights and protections of all vulnerable road users with a view to making it safer to cycle, walk and horse ride on Jersey’s roads.’

In his response, Deputy Lewis also outlined that the government’s Sustainable Transport Policy would include consideration of how new liability laws ‘could encourage change’.

‘In response to a question in the States Chamber on 19 January 2020, the Solicitor General said that to incorporate presumed liability into criminal law would run contrary to the fundamental principle of criminal justice that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty,’ said Deputy Lewis. ‘This centuries-old principle is enshrined and confirmed in the European Convention on Human Rights, which is given effect in Jersey by virtue of the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000. While the UK and Jersey road traffic laws are worded differently, they place the same duties on drivers and, in effect, provide for the same offences and defences.’

Deputy Lewis said that because of this there was ‘no reason to believe’ that Jersey’s current legislation was deficient.

Mrs Dentskevich said: ‘It is encouraging to hear about the work already being undertaken to make our roads safer through the Sustainable Transport Policy and hopefully the public’s recognition will strengthen this.

Freddie Dentskevich (14) and Joanna Dentskevich. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30026885)

‘It is important to mention that the UK looks likely to introduce hierarchy in to their Highway Code later this year anyway and, from what I understand, the wording of the law currently in place in the UK would have seen a prosecution for failing to stop in Freddie’s case.

‘So, hopefully, with the Highway Code being a big focus of the proposal being discussed at the beginning of March, and the review of the liability laws, the outcome will be a move towards safer roads and protection for the most vulnerable.’

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