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CPS charge on a traffic offence rather than manslaughter; widow hits out at decision

A woman who opened her car door without looking, causing a cyclist to fall off his bike and suffer fatal head injuries, has been banned for driving for six months and fined £305.

Robert Hamilton, aged in his 70s, was riding along Linaker Street in Southport in January this year when mum-of-one Joanne Jackson, 44, opened the drivers door of her Toyota Avensis into the road, killing him.

Instead of manslaughter, however, the Crown Prosecution Service chose to pursue the lesser charge of opening a car door so as to injure or endanger a person, which Jackson admitted to, at Wirral magistrates’ court on Thursday.

Jonathan Egan, prosecuting, told how one witness said the door hit the cyclist, another that it caused him to swerve, but either way her act was “negligent” and caused him to fall.

Mr Hamilton was taken to Preston Hospital by air ambulance, but later died of his injuries.

Jackson, representing herself, told the court: “I’m very, very sorry. It was an accident. I have got to live with this as well.”

Robert’s widow, May, has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to prosecute Jackson with manslaughter, and instead charge her with a traffic offence.

Mrs Hamilton told the Liverpool Echo: “It’s been absolutely devastating. I am so disgusted with the way these sorts of deaths are trivialised with very minor charges.

“Robert wasn’t wearing a helmet, but I was told that was irrelevant [in terms of charges]. Robert cycled all across Europe for charity.

“He did wear a helmet on longer routes but not shorter ones. One thing you can be sure of, more people are going to die the way Robert did. I wonder how many more before the law takes these sort of deaths seriously?”

Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “The offence of manslaughter was very carefully considered by senior prosecutors, and a decision was taken that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for that offence.

"This is a tragic case, and our thoughts are with Mrs Hamilton and her family.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

45 comments

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zanf [898 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Jackson, representing herself, told the court: “I’m very, very sorry. It was an accident. I have got to live with this as well.”

It wasnt an 'accident'. It was a clear case of negligence caused but utter incompetence. She can whine all she likes but at least she got to live.

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Binky [116 posts] 2 years ago
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Could the widow take out a civil case against the woman? Would her chances be any good at winning?

I have known this to happen twice where a cyclist died from a incident like this and the driver only got fined.

A cyclist life has very little worth on the roads.

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seven [154 posts] 2 years ago
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I wonder what would've happened if it had been a pedestrian flinging a lump of metal which was merely the same shape and size as a car door onto the road, causing a motorist to swerve/crash and die?

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truffy [650 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

He did wear a helmet on longer routes but not shorter ones

So presumably he saw the value of wearing a helmet, but just didn't bother on this occasion. It may not have saved his life, but it may have done. Contributory negligence IMO.
<dons flameproof undergarments/>

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Das [243 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Mrs Hamilton told the Liverpool Echo: “It’s been absolutely devastating. I am so disgusted with the way these sorts of deaths are trivialised with very minor charges.

Well no one here is likely to disagree with that statement.

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jacknorell [969 posts] 2 years ago
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truffy wrote:
Quote:

He did wear a helmet on longer routes but not shorter ones

So presumably he saw the value of wearing a helmet, but just didn't bother on this occasion. It may not have saved his life, but it may have done. Contributory negligence IMO.
<dons flameproof undergarments/>

Stop trolling.

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Argos74 [433 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

“I’m very, very sorry. It was an accident.

No. It wasn't. It was negligence.

Quote:

I have got to live with this as well.”

Nice to have that choice, isn't it?

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cisgil23 [56 posts] 2 years ago
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When are we going to get the possibility to mark a comment "dislike", and not just the "like" choice.
I'm thinking of the comment by " truffy".
It's heartless, and malicious.

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indyjukebox [48 posts] 2 years ago
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Whilst the event itself is very sad, the tone of some of the comments is difficult to understand.

For the posters who call it clear negligence, are you telling me that you are such a saint, that you have never made an error in your life? You have never made an error whilst cycling/driving? Never had a drink and done something stupid? God forbid if such an error on your/your wife's part causes you/your wife to end up in a similar state as the woman in this case.

I am not defending anyone, but errors happen, its life. You also dont need to respond to this post, it is just my opinion and I am not looking for a lengthy argument either.

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portec [116 posts] 2 years ago
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indyjukebox wrote:

For the posters who call it clear negligence, are you telling me that you are such a saint, that you have never made an error in your life? You have never made an error whilst cycling/driving? Never had a drink and done something stupid? God forbid if such an error on your/your wife's part causes you/your wife to end up in a similar state as the woman in this case.

Of course. We all have. However most of the time the consequences are minor. That does not change the fact that it's negligence. When nobody is hurt then we all just get on with our lives and try to learn a lesson. It's a very different thing when somebody dies.

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racyrich [277 posts] 2 years ago
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In all fairness, if this had gone as manslaughter before a jury, they'd have found her not guilty. Because, as we all know, and is exemplified by indyjukebox's post above, people hate the idea of being held responsible for the consequences of their actions, so won't hold others responsible for theirs.

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Housecathst [574 posts] 2 years ago
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.

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Housecathst [574 posts] 2 years ago
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It doesn't matter how your do it, but if you kill somebody with a car no body in power gives a shit, do they.

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Brown dog [40 posts] 2 years ago
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Housecathst wrote:

It doesn't matter how your do it, but if you kill somebody with a car no body in power gives a shit, do they.

Err that's not exactly true

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ChairRDRF [350 posts] 2 years ago
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Three points:
1. This is actually an unusually high penalty for a dooring that hurts (or even kills) a cyclist.

2. One of the reasons for the "penalty" being a short ban is that the ACTION rather than the CONSEQUENCES of the action is what is supposed to count.

3...which suggests that if the ACTION is what is supposed to be penalised, since you can see people opening doors with using wing mirrors, looking behind or using rear-view mirror (you should actually do all three) on a regular basis, you could penalise literally millions of drivers. No need to go a high as a six month ban, but you could give some penalty points out on a regular basis to - as I say - literally millions of motorists.

Which might get the message over.

It should also be easier not to find yourself in the door zone - but that's another issue.

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Das [243 posts] 2 years ago
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indyjukebox wrote:

For the posters who call it clear negligence, are you telling me that you are such a saint, that you have never made an error in your life? You have never made an error whilst cycling/driving? Never had a drink and done something stupid? God forbid if such an error on your/your wife's part causes you/your wife to end up in a similar state as the woman in this case

Yes good point, we've all done things wrong, but id be surprised if 0.00000005% of people who have made such a mistake has lead to the death of someone. And TBH her remark of

Quote:

I have got to live with this as well

doesn't really show she is thinking of anyone except herself, which doesn't put her in any better a light imo.

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kie7077 [900 posts] 2 years ago
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cisgil23 wrote:

When are we going to get the possibility to mark a comment "dislike", and not just the "like" choice.
I'm thinking of the comment by " truffy".
It's heartless, and malicious.

It is better to debate rationally, down-voting is a bad system according to the boffins:
negative feedback leads to behavioral changes that are hugely detrimental to the community

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domthevom [13 posts] 2 years ago
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As far as I'm concerned, there is never an excuse for "dooring". While I admit that during normal driving, external things may cause you to momentarily lose concentration and cause an accident etc, when you open a car door the only thing going through your head should be "Is it safe to do so", both for yourself and other road users. Not checking is utterly negligent. Check mirror and blind spot first, open door a couple of inches, then fully once you have established the road is clear. It's not difficult.

More frustrating is the town planner habit of placing cycle lanes down the driver's side of lines of parking spaces along roads, creating situations whereby following traffic will then beep you if you stray outside of the cycle lane so you have the fun choice of do I risk being doored, or knocked off by an angry impatient driver.

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leyupab [14 posts] 2 years ago
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Punishment seems reasonable. Can't believe they would even consider manslaughter though - it was a momentary lapse and opening a car door ffs, rather than any of the far more serious examples of carelessness cyclists have to put up with on daily basis. A tragic accident but I imagine the driver has suffered enough anyway.

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Stumps [3456 posts] 2 years ago
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The old advert of "think once, think twice, think bike" springs to mind here. Although its not a motorbike as per the advert the adage remains the same.

If we went down the route of manslaughter it would have to be gross negligence manslaughter which, as someone already pointed out, a jury would find very difficult to prove. The lady would just have to say i looked in my wing mirror and at the time i did not see the cyclist. No one could prove otherwise and, rightly or wrongly, that is enough for her to get off.

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vanmildert [50 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd have thought and hope that there is a fairly substantial insurance claim being sought right now?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1553 posts] 2 years ago
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domthevom wrote:

More frustrating is the town planner habit of placing cycle lanes down the driver's side of lines of parking spaces along roads, creating situations whereby following traffic will then beep you if you stray outside of the cycle lane so you have the fun choice of do I risk being doored, or knocked off by an angry impatient driver.

Yeah, the problem for me is with the juxtaposition of the attitude shown in this case - that its unreasonable to expect drivers to always look when opening doors, and hence that dooring incidents are just 'one of those things' and not really anyone's fault - with this sort of thing

http://road.cc/content/news/127477-reading-cycle-campaign-slams-door-zon...

The powers-that-be really can't be allowed to continue to have it both ways. If cyclists have to accept they can be randomly knocked off in door zones, it should be made clear to all road users that cyclists should never be in them, and never, ever, should they be 'advised' to cycle in them. Doing so borders on criminal, if you ask me.

Also, it should be made crystal clear to all drivers as part of the test that they should expect cyclists to take primary and that there is never any basis for objecting to them not being in those door-zones instead.

(Better yet, solve the whole problem by getting rid of most on-road parking!)

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drfabulous0 [408 posts] 2 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos][quote=domthevom wrote:

(Better yet, solve the whole problem by getting rid of most on-road parking!)

Why not get rid of all of it? Every residential street where I live is reduced to a single lane due to rows of cars parked on either side, my father in law hasn't moved his car in months because he's afraid somebody will steal his spot if he does, why not just sell the sodding car and rent one if you need to? As I understand it councils have no obligation to provide road space for stationary vehicles. Store your cars on your own property or in car park, if you can't do this don't have a car...simples.

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Binky [116 posts] 2 years ago
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How is it 'Unreasnoble for drivers to look before opening a door!?'

Next it will be 'Unreasnoble for drivers to always stop at a crossing, drive in the correct lane etc'

I give up on this world!

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Northernbike [228 posts] 2 years ago
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seven wrote:

I wonder what would've happened if it had been a pedestrian flinging a lump of metal which was merely the same shape and size as a car door onto the road, causing a motorist to swerve/crash and die?

A young lad got three years in jail recently for throwing stuff from a road bridge over the A1. He did hit a lorry but nobody was badly hurt fortunately http://tinyurl.com/plvygln

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Northernbike [228 posts] 2 years ago
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Airzound wrote:

And the lesson from this sad story is - Don't ride in the door zone.

Get an Airzound as well.

considering how long the doors on some big cars are and how pressured by traffic folks riding on a lot of roads are there's always going to be times when riders are within range of a flung open door. you only need to be 'inside the door zone' by an inch to risk being hit - difficult to guarantee you're always going to be in the clear if it happens

not sure how the horn will help - do you beep it as you go along in the hope it will alert people to your presence or do you beep it in preference to trying to brake or swerve if someone opens a door right in front of you in the hope they'll shut it again before you hit it?

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Titivulus [12 posts] 2 years ago
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My sincere condolences to Mrs Hamilton. I hope she finds some comfort in the fact that at least her husband's death was deemed worthy of a court case.

James Darby, 44 was killed in identical circumstances in Beckenham and yet treated as roadkill. It was also inferred in the local press that he was culpable in some way as they reported 'he crashed into a stationery car'.

No arrests...

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Beaufort [270 posts] 2 years ago
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I was always taught to ride further away than door width of cars on a motorcycle and do the same on bicycle.

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jacknorell [969 posts] 2 years ago
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Beaufort wrote:

I was always taught to ride further away than door width of cars on a motorcycle and do the same on bicycle.

Yes, quite.

But then on a bike you have to deal with irate impatient drivers who think you 'block the road'...  2

Not so much of an issue with a motorcycle, as keeping up with traffic is very rarely an issue  3

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Anthony.C [221 posts] 2 years ago
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I reckon it is just as likely to happen on quiet roads where people open their doors without checking so I have to agree about always leaving a door's width, don't be complacent just because there aren't many cars parked and obviously be extra careful if a car has just stopped or you can see people in them. My dad {he's nearly 80) was doored recently, also in Southport and on a very quiet road, and one of the best cyclists in the Southport area was very badly injured the same way. It could have happened to me several times recently if I didn't always leave over a door's width. Where there is traffic it's better to risk annoying drivers a bit than to get doored, you do have to be a bit thick-skinned cycling on the road.

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