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Prosecution rejected delivery driver's claim he was unable to pull over or slow down...

The driver of an Argos delivery lorry who said he was unable to pull over or slow down before he struck and killed a cyclist near Stockton-on-Tees in May last year - an assertion challenged by the prosecution - has been given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two and a half years.

Joseph Reed, aged 50 and from Willington, County Durham, had pleaded guilty at Teeside Crown Court to causing the death by careless driving of 61-year-old father of four Sean Ruff on the evening of 21 May 2013, reports the Northern Echo.

Mr Ruff, who worked as a finance director for demolition specialists Able UK, had been making his usual post-work bike ride before driving home to Cleadon, South Tyneside, when he was struck from behind by Reed’s lorry.

The court was told that he suffered multiple injuries and that death would have been almost instantaneous.

Christine Egerton, speaking for the prosecution, said that the victim would have been visible to the driver for a minimum of 9 seconds and a distance of 227 metres prior to the collision at 6.20pm on the A66 at Elton, near Stockton-on-Tees.

She said: "Witnesses said he did not brake or deviate, even after the collision. Some witnesses feared he was not going to stop, although he did do so.

"An accident reconstruction found he was travelling at 55mph on the 70mph limit dual carriageway."

She rejected claims made by Reed when he was interviewed by police that although he had seen Mr Ruff, traffic in the lane outside him meant he could not pull out, while vehicles behind meant he was unable to stop.

"Witness accounts do not support that, they say lane two was empty,” she said. "In any case, there was room for Mr Reed to pass safely while remaining in lane one."

Christopher Dorman-O'Gowan, speaking in mitigation on behalf of Reed, said: "He does not seek to blame Mr Ruff in any way.  A thoroughly decent man died that day, and a good man was at the wheel of the wagon."

Passing sentence on Reed, Judge Peter Armstrong said: “Cases such as this are a tragedy for all concerned.

"Nothing I can say will provide comfort or recompense for the family of Mr Ruff, any life is priceless.”

Addressing Reed, who was also banned from driving for 30 months, he added: "The effect on you has also been great, you have lost your job and your home, and you will have to live with the fact you have taken a life.

"Your inattention to the road that day was not momentary, but neither was it a prolonged period of inattention.

"In passing sentence, I am bound to follow the guidelines for judges in such cases,” he added.

Commenters on this story should please keep in mind that the families of those involved may be reading.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

60 comments

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levermonkey [664 posts] 2 years ago
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Case Law bites again!

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colinth [191 posts] 2 years ago
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Scandalous. Someone was sentenced today in Liverpool for hitting someone in the face with a bottle, he got 9 years and quite right. 9 years for that and walking for killing someone, pathetic

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oldstrath [617 posts] 2 years ago
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The claim that he couldn't slow down is so obviously bonkers I can't believe anyone could possibly make it without the rest of the court bursting into hysterical laughter. It beggars belief that anyone prepared to lie so blatantly can be described as a 'good man'.

I cannot understand why he can't simply be banned from driving forever.

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kie7077 [877 posts] 2 years ago
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Christine Egerton, speaking for the prosecution, said that the victim would have been visible to the driver for a minimum of 9 seconds

"Your inattention to the road that day was not momentary, but neither was it a prolonged period of inattention.

9 seconds / quarter kilometer is a prolonged period.

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BarefootBrian [20 posts] 2 years ago
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What does he mean, "I couldn't slow down" because of traffic behind him? It is his duty to do so, even if it means the vehicle behind hits him. He has no responsibility for what happens to road users travelling too close behind him, only for those vulnerable ones in front.
"In passing sentence, I am bound to follow the guidelines for judges in such cases”? Six months is an absolute insult! A suspended sentence just componds the insult! British law is an ass and needs to be changed.

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mrmo [2077 posts] 2 years ago
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first i suppose he has been found guilty, so at least that is right, but WTF is it with the sentence!!!! This is a man who should NEVER be allowed to drive again. Someone who can claim that he had no choice to run someone down must be borderline psychotic. Do we really want that sort of person on the roads?

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [380 posts] 2 years ago
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I do not see why this man is not banned from driving for the rest of his life.

Oh wait, yes I do. Driving is, apparently, a human right.

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seven [150 posts] 2 years ago
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If any good at all is to come from this poor man's death it will almost certainly be as a case in point when society finally gets round to reviewing sentencing for driving offences.

I am generally against custodial sentences though. Lifetime driving ban is the only real answer. In this case however I personally think he should have gone to jail. No doubt he sincerely regrets his actions (or lack thereof) however he was culpable in his negligence, and somebody died as a result of it.

My thoughts are with Mr Ruff's family.

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Paul_C [464 posts] 2 years ago
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He still has his freedom, and he still has his driving licence...

this is SO WRONG...

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pz1800 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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The more I hear about this sort of accident and the more I read about the excuses and the justification from the bench in such cases the more I am convinced that being involved in an accident while behind the wheel that causes death should be punished with a lifetime driving ban.

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MikeOnABike [58 posts] 2 years ago
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"and a good man was at the wheel of the wagon."

- What utter rubbish. An idiot was at the wheel of a death machine.

"The effect on you has also been great, you have lost your job and your home."

- And the family have lost the love of a brother, a father and a husband. Tell me Judge Peter Armstrong which one is more valuable?

I am so fed up of cyclists being treated like 3rd class citizens in our green and unpleasant land.

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davkt [41 posts] 2 years ago
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So hang on, isn't claiming he couldn't take avoiding action due to traffic conditions admitting he was aware the cyclist was there and he made a concious decision to run down the cyclist? And isn't that murder?

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mrmo [2077 posts] 2 years ago
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davkt wrote:

And isn't that murder?

Does sound rather pre meditated. Driver you have 9 seconds a) use the brake b)run down the cyclist and keep on driving.

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TedC [39 posts] 2 years ago
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"An accident reconstruction found he was travelling at 55mph on the 70mph limit dual carriageway."

Depending on the type of delivery lorry, the relevant speed limit would have been either 60mph or 50mph.

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BBB [410 posts] 2 years ago
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Hitting someone while driving on a straight road with plenty of time to react is just beyond my comprehension. So is the sentence.
The driver is a dangerous functional idiot and should be banned from driving and operating any commercial machinery.

As a foreigner (many years in the UK) it really makes me wonder what kind of people the judges in this country are and how they get to their positions. Are they soft bleeding heart lefties like many of their colleagues in a public sector?
Can someone shed some light on it, please?
The reason I'm asking is that my overwhelming impression is that it's a very "special" bunch who are more concerned about the well-being of the perpetrator than a victim and often trying to find mitigation where there isn't one. There is also a strong sense of taking away responsibility from individuals for their actions.

Or is it just nothing more than politically driven discrimination of cyclists? Would the sentence be the same if the guy slammed into a family car or run over a child on pedestrian crossing?

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bedethe builder [7 posts] 2 years ago
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This is just awful. My thoughts are with Mr Ruffs family. RIP

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Gus T [254 posts] 2 years ago
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Sorry but this was no accident, it was avoidable, we all need to move away from Road Traffic Accident to Road Traffic Incident. As long as we keep using the word accident we give bad drivers a get out.

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Ush [693 posts] 2 years ago
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seven wrote:

If any good at all is to come from this poor man's death it will almost certainly be as a case in point when society finally gets round to reviewing sentencing for driving offences.

I am generally against custodial sentences though. Lifetime driving ban is the only real answer. In this case however I personally think he should have gone to jail. No doubt he sincerely regrets his actions (or lack thereof) however he was culpable in his negligence, and somebody died as a result of it.

My thoughts are with Mr Ruff's family.

Agreed with all your points. Lifetime driving ban should be without question in such a case.

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jacknorell [966 posts] 2 years ago
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Lost for words... but steam is coming out of my ears!

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Northernbike [229 posts] 2 years ago
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I found this case chilling when I read about it in the Echo, firstly because someone has lost their life, in my local area, and doing something I love and do alot of too, but also because it really brings home the very wide gap between the values of most ordinary people to whom life is so very precious and the 'values' of police, lawyers and judges to whom a human life is worth almost nothing and I can't see how we will ever get those in power to reflect what is important and dear to the society they claim to serve.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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I can't help noticing that the BBC has a link entitled,
"Cyclist killed in crash with lorry".
A more neutral phrase might have been more appropriate..
RIP.

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racyrich [254 posts] 2 years ago
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BBB wrote:

Or is it just nothing more than politically driven discrimination of cyclists? Would the sentence be the same if the guy slammed into a family car or run over a child on pedestrian crossing?

Yes, everyone on the roads is fair game. Except policemen. Run one of them over and it's 9 years. Alright for some.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

I can't help noticing that the BBC has a link entitled,
"Cyclist killed in crash with lorry".
A more neutral phrase might have been more appropriate..
RIP.

What? You mean like "Cyclist manslaughter caused by negligent idiot of a lorry driver"?

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Critchio [176 posts] 2 years ago
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Dear oh dear, where will it end. Judges who offer the obligatory "Nothing I can say...." line make my blood boil. As soon as you hear that you just know that the sentence is going to be a joke. Judges really do have stop saying this at the sentencing point its said so much on 'auto-pilot' these days its an offence to the family concerned.

It would not suprise me if the driver was eating/smoking and was distracted with food or dropped his cigarette, or was fatigued and had one of those micro-sleeps. Hell of an assumption to make but something that could never be established by Police unless seen by a witness/es and I also assume phone use was ruled out, the Police would not overlook that and they can check easily enough.

How else do you hit someone on a dual carriageway having seen them for 9 seconds. You stop. Even on a motorway you stop. You just stop.

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levermonkey [664 posts] 2 years ago
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Why do we persist in using this word 'accident'? There is no such thing!

Accident implies that nothing could be done. This was not an accident as the impact and resulting death was totally avoidable.

Sorry, anger is making me a little incoherent! I work in the construction industry and I'm sick of hearing "It was a terrible accident!", "No-one could expect this would happen!"

'Accidents' do not exist, only 'Unforeseen Events'. If it's unforeseen, then why? What had you missed? Why were there no safe-systems of work in place? What could have been done to prevent this happening?

Something can always be learnt from an unforeseen event. Mainly how to prevent it happening again. Accidents teach you nothing other than how to say "It was just one of those things".

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe we should all be starting to think:

1. Do we really want car licence holders driving vans up to 7.5t?

2. Should we really be allowing such vehicles to drive at up to 60mph on dual carriageways, when HGVs are limited to 50, especially when "hi cube" 7.5t vans can be so enormous?

3. Isn't it about time we had compulsory cameras in commercial vehicles, pointing not only forward but rearwards as well, so that the behaviour of the driver can be more readily evaluated in a court of law?

4. And shouldn't we be starting to appreciate that if a lifetime ban was mandatory, for any "at fault" incident that involved loss of life, the number of collisions (major and minor) would fall dramatically?

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AWPeleton [3330 posts] 2 years ago
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We use the word "collision" now not accident. Not meaning to ruffle feathers but it was the prosecution who said 9 seconds.

However regardless of this its a bloody disgrace he was done for careless and not dangerous after admitting he saw him but kept on going in anycase.

The whole sentencing system needs to be overhauled massively though.

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vagabond23 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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I just read about this on BBC website and was so incensed that I felt compelled to post on here. It is utterly outrageous reading the mitigating circumstances, if you can call it that, how the driver walks away after such a crime.
As somebody said previously, what sort of planet do these judges live on.

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TheSpaniard [98 posts] 2 years ago
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Down with this sort of thing

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georgee [162 posts] 2 years ago
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An utter farce again, I'm always shocked that a victims family in these situation haven't reacted more strongly given how appallingly the courts let them down.

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