Cyclist fails in first UK private prosecution against motorist for dangerous driving

Former driving instructor Aslan Kayardi denied he was travelling at more than 50 mph on the 30 mph stretch

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The Independent Online

Britain’s first private prosecution of a motorist accused of dangerous driving by overtaking a cyclist too close and too fast has failed.  

Former driving instructor Aslan Kayardi was acquitted by a jury at Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday.

Mr Kayardi, 33, who denied the charge, said he overtook the cyclist to 'protect his life' not endanger him, the court was told. Café owner Mr Kayardi, of Feltham, west London claimed cyclist Martin Porter was cycling in the middle of the lane holding up cars behind him. Drivers behind were becoming frustrated at the delay and were tailgaiting him. One driver sounded his horn, he claimed.

He feared one of the drivers might try and overtake him and the cyclist together and put other drivers at risk. Instead he carried out the overtaking manoeuvre himself when he judged it was safe to do so.

He denied he was travelling at more than 50 mph on the 30 mph stretch of the A315 Hounslow to Staines road in West London in February 2015.

He insisted he was a regular cyclist himself with two bikes as well as a motorcyclist and appreciated the difficulties of being on two wheels on the roads.

Mr Kayardi said he was very familiar with the road and had been along it 'millions of times' as it was close to his home. He described himself as a "careful and competent driver who overtook Mr Porter "in accordance with the Highway Code."

The court heard Mr Kayardi, a cafe owner, was previously a qualified driving instructor who had passed a difficult instructors course first time and had gone on to teach nearly 100 people how to drive. He said he had never been convicted or cautioned by police and had a clean licence.

He denied passing so close that the cyclist “could have reached out and touched him” and described expert evidence that his car was travelling more than 50mph in a 30mph zone as "wrong" and based on "an estimate not what really happened." The expert evidence was based on a video of the incident shot by a camera on the cycle handlebars.

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Barrister Jake Taylor, defending him, suggested to the jury the reason for the prosecution was that the cyclist Mr Martin Porter, was a senior barrister who represented victims of cycling accidents. Mr Porter saw an opportunity for publicity if Mr Kayardi was convicted. He said the Metropolitan Police had rejected prosecuting the case and had not referred it to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Ellis Sareen, prosecuting, told the jury the truth of the matter was that Mr Kayardi, who was driving his "dream car", an Audi R8 Spyder, was "playing with his big boy's toy." "He was only really interested in the thrill of his speed," he said. 

Afterwards Mr Porter, a QC known as the ‘cycling silk’ said: “Whilst I respect the verdict of the jury, I believe it is only right that Mr Kayardi was required to justify his driving before a Court of Law. Every Defendant is entitled to the benefit of any doubt and my assessment of his driving has to bow to that of the jury.

An acquittal does not imply that a prosecution was not properly brought, although there are of course a number of lessons which I shall endeavour to draw from this experience and which I hope may also benefit others.

My hope is that lessons can be learned from this prosecution with benefit to all those interested in reducing road danger."

Roger Geffen, Trustee of the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, who helped fund the case said the verdict "highlights the huge challenge we face in raising driver awareness of the need to respect the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users."