South Yorkshire: Retired detective walks free after road-rage attack

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A FORMER detective inspector left a cyclist with a displaced jaw after repeatedly punching him in a road-rage incident.

David Beckett, 63, was said by a judge to have launched a “brutal, bullying, violent attack” on cyclist Frank Cunliffe.

Mr Cunliffe was left suffering headaches and needed dental treatment after the incident which has left him fearful of taking to the roads again.

Beckett, who retired from the police force in 1997, narrowly escaped prison when he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court.

He was convicted of common assault after a trial at the city’s magistrates’ court and appealed unsuccessfully against his conviction and an abuse of process at the crown court.

The court heard Beckett, of High Street Mews, Mosborough, was “tailgating” other drivers when he came behind Mr Cunliffe, 60, a keen cyclist who was riding his new £2,500 Protec bike at Tinker’s Corner, Sheffield, on March 6 last year.

Beckett was alleged to have “cut up” the cyclist as he went round a corner and an altercation ensued. Beckett drove on, then got out of his car and stopped the cyclist in the middle of the road before punching him repeatedly.

Prosecutor Michael Jowett said Mr Cunliffe was taken to hospital with bruising and reddening and sent home but started getting headaches.

Two months later he went to the dentist who found his jaw was displaced and his teeth not properly aligned. He had to have a tooth ground down to ease pressure.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Mr Cunliffe said he was still angry about the incident. He has been forced to cycle on a machine at home and said: “I no longer get any enjoyment from cycling.”

Richard Barradell, for Beckett, said he was an intelligent and proud man.

He told magistrates: “He was a distinguished police officer for 30 years and rose to the rank of detective inspector without a mark against his name.

He said the case had “taken over his life” and he was suffering ill-health because of it.

Delivering his sentence, Judge Peter Kelson, sitting with two magistrates, said it was “clearly an act of road rage” and they viewed the matter as “a very serious crime”.

Beckett had hit Mr Cunliffe several times to his head, shoulders and body causing him to fall backwards against another vehicle. He had “tailgated” another driver and overtook him before “cutting up” the cyclist.

“You took that corner so sharply you inconvenienced him badly, it was a dangerous manoeuvre. That was the reason for what happened next.”

He said Mr Cunliffe was so upset he made a gesture at Beckett who saw it in his rear view mirror and stopped his car. Mr Cunliffe also stopped and the attack then took place.

The judge added that Beckett had not shown a “shred of remorse” and he clearly suffered from anger management problems. “The only person who doesn’t see it is you,” he said. “You think the whole world is against you.”

In a letter to probation staff, Beckett claimed he had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and he was even prepared to go on hunger strike to highlight his case.

The judge said reports showed he had an “aggressive and provocative” character and found it difficult not to be the person in control. He had even tried to persuade the probation officer he was innocent.

“It is that sort of disquiet we have seen from start to finish at various points in these proceedings,” said Judge Kelson.

The judge said custody would have been “entirely appropriate” but added that six days Beckett had already served in jail after his appeal against conviction failed “must have had a very profound effect upon a man of good character”.

Beckett was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid community work and pay £1,035 prosecution costs. He was also made subject to a restraining order not to contact Mr Cunliffe or a witness to the incident.

After the hearing, Beckett said: “There has been a miscarriage of justice and I will be pursuing it through the European Court.”