The cyclist who made Belgian headlines at the end of December after a video emerged of him knocking over a five-year-old-girl appeared before the Verviers Criminal Court on Wednesday, saying he did so whilst ‘rebalancing himself’.
The 60-year-old man, who has been accused by the prosecution of deliberately knocking the young girl over in order to pass through on a path in the High Fens (Hautes Fagnes) on December 25, had presented himself to the police after a call for witnesses following the event.
He was questioned before the Court for the intentional assault and battery to a minor, based on evidence from a video posted on Facebook, in which a man on a bicycle rounds the bend and, as his path is blocked by the child, extends his knee to knock the child to the side, allowing him to pass.
During the hearing, the cyclist explained that he had no intention of hurting the girl. “When I left my home and set off, there was hardly anyone there. There was one stretch of the route of about 1 km, near Baraque Michel, where there were a lot of pedestrians,” he explained during the hearing.
“I braked, I adapted my speed and I activated my 120-decibel horn,” said the defendant.
He went on to explain that he felt his rear wheel slipping when passing the girl, and had to rebalance by performing a knee movement to avoid the fall.
“I felt that I had touched the little girl but I did not immediately realise that she had fallen,” the cyclist continued. “Her father grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted. I apologised and told him I hadn’t seen her. As he was threatening me, I continued on my way when I saw that the little one had got up and that she was not injured.”
Prosecution remains unconvinced
The prosecution, however, does not share the belief in this side of the story, saying the cyclist deliberately knee-butted the child.
It highlighted the descriptions in the defendant’s testimony of pedestrians being nonchalant and generally paying little attention to cyclists.
This led the deputy public prosecutor to believe that the cyclist, “annoyed by the fact of having had to avoid several obstacles during his route,” which was particularly busy because of the festive holiday and the snow, “was exhausted and had decided to bring a knee to the child to clear one of the countless obstacles that were in his way.”
“This gentleman has been subpoenaed today for assault and battery on a minor and for his attitude. Had he not denied the charges against him, alternative measures could have been considered,” stressed the public prosecutor.
The parents of the girl claim the cyclist did not take the necessary precautionary action he should have, arguing he could also have chosen another day or another route for his bike ride.
From the defence’s side, the intention of the facts is contested, and the defence lawyer intends to prove the necessity of the rebalancing movement to avoid the fall.
The defendant’s lawyer also highlighted “the disproportionate and surprising manner in which the prosecution has handled this case,” arguing the child’s father presented himself to the police with a medical certificate attesting that his daughter had no consequences, but still wanted to file a complaint because the cyclist had not genuinely apologised.
“After contacting the father of the child who told him he had made a complaint, my client asked him if it was possible to remove the video posted on social media, but the family refused this. After this conversation, my client immediately called the police where he went to explain himself.
“He was deprived of his liberty for the duration of his hearing but also for a whole night for not having validly apologised,” said the lawyer, who is seeking the acquittal of his client.
The judge’s ruling is expected on 3 March.
The Brussels Times