Home
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.