A former Cambridgeshire county council leader who smashed off a car’s wing mirror while riding her bike has been found guilty of cycling without due care and attention – but cleared of causing the damage deliberately.
Shona Johnstone, a serving councillor and Cambridgeshire Police Authority member, was fined £350 and ordered to pay £140 costs by magistrates yesterday.
Last night the 50-year-old said she was “disappointed” by the verdict, but confirmed she would not be reviving her bid to become Cambridgeshire’s first police commissioner.
Her attempt to be selected as the Conservative candidate for the post ended in failure after the allegations emerged.
Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard the collision happened on a cycle lane in Station Road, Over, on February 23.
Johnstone was riding towards her home in Lowburyholme Road when she fell off while attempting to squeeze past a red Ford Fiesta which had been illegally parked with two wheels on the cycle path.
The wing mirror was knocked off and scuff marks were left on the car, which belonged to a builder working on a site next door.
Afterwards she did not stop but cycled home – claiming she did not see the damage or people nearby – and did not call police.
Moments later she was confronted at her home by car owner Bradley Singleton, who called police.
Chairman of the bench David Bredin said Johnstone’s cycling had dropped below the required standard.
He said: “In leaving the scene at pace having had a collision, she didn’t take responsible action appropriate of a person of good character to look around for people or damage, nor did she take appropriate action to report the incident, knowing Mr Singleton had called police.
“In a known hazard area she didn’t take appropriate action to avoid a collision and showed poor judgment.”
Magistrates cleared Johnstone of criminal damage after rejecting claims she had stopped riding to punch the mirror off.
Richard Peters, the building site manager, alleged this had happened at the end of a long-running dispute over parking in the cycleway.
Mr Peters said Johnstone had shouted foul-mouthed abuse about the parking on numerous occasions previously – to the extent the builders nicknamed her “Tourette’s”, or the “village idiot”.
But Michael Magee, defending, said the allegations of aggression were an “utter fabrication” and that the collision was an accident, caused by “poor parking” which Johnstone had previously reported to police.
Mr Magee said that when Mr Peters witnessed the crash he “saw an opportunity to make trouble and to keep her off your back”.
Mr Bredin said magistrates were unconvinced that Johnstone was strong enough to break the mirror off with one arm – or that she had intended to do so.
Afterwards, Johnstone, who led the county council for six months in 2007, said she would consider an appeal.
She was suspended from the Tory group when she was charged, but deputy leader Cllr Mac McGuire said he expected this would now be lifted, describing the conviction as “nothing more than a misdemeanour”.
Johnstone, who has represented Willingham since 1993, came to prominence by pushing through the guided busway scheme but quit as leader in a row over the appointment of council chief executive Mark Lloyd.