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Text exchange with girlfriend preceded fatal collision

A driver who admitted exchanging texts with his girlfriend before his van hit and killed an 18-year-old cyclist has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving, and of causing death by careless driving.

Philip Sinden was driving the Vauxhall Vivaro that hit and killed 18-year-old triathlete Daniel Squire on the A258 at Ringwould in Kent at around 8:40am on September 7 2013.

After the verdict, the family of Daniel Squire shouted at the jury: “Were you not listening?”, “What a waste of time” and “I can’t believe that”, reports Kent Online's Paul Hooper.

During the trial the court heard that Sinden had sent 19 texts and received 22 from his girlfriend between 6.07am and 8.32am. He and his girlfriend continued texting until she sent a message at 8.39.49. He was alleged to have composed a message at around 8.40am which was never sent.

Prosecutor Dale Sullivan said: “The defendant had been using his mobile phone either just before or at the time of the impact and he failed to react to the presence of Daniel who was in front of his vehicle until the very last moment.”

But Sinden claimed that he had not been distracted by using his phone.

“I was texting just using my left hand. When I pulled out onto the road I was trying to keep my attention on the road, so I typed without looking at the phone.”

He claimed Daniel Squire had unexpectedly joined the carriageway from the pavement.

“I realised it was a cyclist on the pavement on my left hand side. He started to come off the pavement and I started to react. I started to brake and steer around the cyclist.

“It was all very quick but it seemed to me he had adjacened [sic] out slightly from the lane he should have been on.”

Sinden told the jury that Daniel had turned around and looked behind him “just before it [the van] struck the bike”.

“He just came out more than I expected. I spiked my brakes," he said.

Members of Daniel Squire's family attended every day of the trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

Judge Heather Norton expressed her “profound sympathy” for Daniel's family.

She told them: “I appreciate that is not the verdict you were expecting and was not the verdict you were hoping for.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

80 comments

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vonhelmet [848 posts] 2 years ago
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Honestly, what is the point. Just get rid of these offences, there's seemingly no point charging anyone with them.

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AWu-Tang [22 posts] 2 years ago
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Its so depressingly absurd, and even more depressingly common place.

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mikecassie [69 posts] 2 years ago
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Soooo, he admits using his phone whilst driving and still no conviction. I think the jury should have an IQ test  14 14 14

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arowland [171 posts] 2 years ago
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He was texting, which means he could not have been concentrating 100% on the road. He was composing a message, picturing what it looked like as he typed (if indeed he was capable of doing so without looking at the phone). So he was in no position to think about what he was seeing or anticipate. So when something happens, it is all down to his subconscious ringing an alarm, his being dragged back to the real world and starting to react.

I wasn't there, so cannot say to what extent he might have anticipated the cyclist's wishing to rejoin the carriageway and thus have given him room before he did so; but in my opinion, texting or using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous driving. That is why they are illegal (except talking using a hands-free kit, which IMHO is also dangerous). On my commute I pass a nursery and primary school, at a time when parents are dropping off at the roadside and entering and leaving the school driveway. It is very busy and hazardous, but incredibly I see people on their phones as they drive past, seemingly oblivious to the danger and the consequences of any slowness to react to a toddler deciding to give their mother's hand the slip. If their mind was on the job, they would slow right down and be obviously vigilant. The fact that they aren't shows how distracting using a phone is.

I haven't seen the court transcripts, but is it not a huge coincidence that the driver's use of a phone immediately preceded the death of another road user in a collision with his vehicle that he failed to avoid? If the judge regarding the charge of death by dangerous driving to be unproven, why was he not convicted of dangerous driving?

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mrmo [2096 posts] 2 years ago
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texting in left hand but not distracted? can he text without looking???? WTF!

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Bob'sbikes [856 posts] 2 years ago
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Words fail me

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STiG911 [285 posts] 2 years ago
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Wow. So the Police provide evidence of phone use prior to and right up to the incident, AND the driver admits it, but the Jury still find him not guilty?!
What if he'd hit and killed a child - this sends an awesome message 'Texting while driving, it's okay by us' FFS

Book me a ticket off this rock.

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Wardy74 [43 posts] 2 years ago
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Time to take cases like this out of a jury's hands. The evidence is obvious, there was no disputing what he did or what he was doing. It should be just a technical summing up of what happened. Guilty forever!!!

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levermonkey [681 posts] 2 years ago
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Something puzzles me. To quote the article above...

"He claimed Daniel Squires had unexpectedly joined the carriageway from the pavement.
“I realised it was a cyclist on the pavement on my left hand side. He started to come off the pavement and I started to react. I started to brake and steer around the cyclist."

...My puzzlement is this - What pavement?

As far as I can remember there is NO pavement on the A258 anywhere near Station Road. How can a cyclist come off a pavement that isn't there? I am of course making the assumption that by pavement they mean footway beside a road. More importantly, why wasn't this challenged in court?

This has to be appealed!

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therevokid [1016 posts] 2 years ago
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when this kind of tragedy happens to someone with some
power then things will change ... until then we are, apparently,
expendable ...

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Jamminatrix [187 posts] 2 years ago
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This is what happens when you have a jury that hates cyclists and sees them as a nuisance who should not be on the road.

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enigmaman [24 posts] 2 years ago
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As Wardy74 says, the problem is the jury system in UK courts is farcical. Time and again we have nonsensical outcomes from trials. The anniversary of Magna Carta is the right moment to consign juries to history and allow panels of judges to determine the outcome of trials. It won't be perfect, but it will surely be better.

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Legin [143 posts] 2 years ago
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Sober killer gets let off!

Alcoholic Arsonist jailed for 7.5 years.

The arsonist made the drunken mistake of only potentially killing people but definitely damaged property. We hate kids in this country and we value wealth over people.

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11870218.Alcoholic_arsonist_gets_7_5_yea...

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Housecathst [621 posts] 2 years ago
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Honestly WTF.

I would be nice to know it there were any other witness to the classic motorist suggestion of a "suicide swerve" by the cyclist.

Other than that It would be dreadful if the members of the jury were to loss somebody close to them in simular circumstances and they receive same "justice". I'd feel so sorry for them.

The message seams to be, it open season on cyclists.

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Arthur Scrimshaw [68 posts] 2 years ago
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When the only witness is dead a defendant can make up any story to minimise their responsibility. I hope their conscience makes them pay but I suspect it won't.

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gb901 [157 posts] 2 years ago
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Words fail!

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AJ101 [278 posts] 2 years ago
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Unreal outcome, his poor family. I hope there is some sort of avenue to appeal but I fear there isn't.  102

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fenix [872 posts] 2 years ago
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Awful. I feel so sorry for the family and depressed that we let idiots like this off after killing a person.

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sean1 [177 posts] 2 years ago
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Unbelievable verdict. Obviously no cyclists on the jury then.

As well as the blatant breach of the law regarding mobile phones, Highway Code has plenty to say about drivers and cyclists such as ;

213

Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

There is an onus on the driver to be give space, anticipate and be prepared to move or brake.

I am not sure how you can do this if you are busy texting. And to claim you can text without looking at the phone!! And the jury agreed!!! Gobsmacked....

Maybe the Cyclists Defence Fund and CTC can pursue this further, this is farcical.....

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mikesean mcc [14 posts] 2 years ago
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time to deal with things your self cos the law wont

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rich22222 [166 posts] 2 years ago
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I didn't murder him, ha swerved into my knife while I was vaguely distracted by trying to load my gun.

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Jonny_Trousers [277 posts] 2 years ago
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I know it's been said before, but, if ever I want to murder someone, I'm going to buy them a bike.

A disgrace! I'm not saying, hang the driver for texting, and maybe a custodial sentence would do no good, but at least let it be known he was largely responsible for the death of that poor boy.

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Plasterer's Radio [347 posts] 2 years ago
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To the jury....SHAME ON YOU

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Hamster [109 posts] 2 years ago
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What direction did the judge give the jury? Was m'lady asleep and missed the admission of the offence of using a hand help mobile telephone while driving?

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teakay [7 posts] 2 years ago
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[quote=arowland

I wasn't there, so cannot say to what extent he might have anticipated the cyclist's wishing to rejoin the carriageway and thus have given him room before he did so;[/quote]

This is the drivers story the foot path (if you can call it that) actually starts where the accident occurs, it is a foot wide a most covered in dirt and debris and in the couple of metres between is start and the accident there I'd no dip to mount the pavement. If you saw the crash site believe me you would not believe this event - shocked if no photos were shown to disprove the drivers story.

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Ramuz [319 posts] 2 years ago
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So what is the justice system trying to say? Vigilante justice is the only way?

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mrchrispy [496 posts] 2 years ago
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I know we dont have all of the facts and I really hate to feel like this, I also probably dont mean it but....right at this moment....I really do hope the jury loose someone to a texting driver.

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teakay [7 posts] 2 years ago
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A pavement of sorts starts right where Dan was treated, but it is not rideable no dip to mount, probably less than a foot wide and is covered in debris and mud. Given the short distance I wouldn't be surprised if the impact was before it's start where there isn't even a verge. Seems the drivers story changed a number of times with nothing he said adding up which makes the verdict extremely hard to take. Cannot begin to understand what his family must be feeling.

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felixcat [486 posts] 2 years ago
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It does sound like a classic SWSS, Single Witness Suicide Swerve.

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catfordrichard [25 posts] 2 years ago
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Another shuddering reminder of the completely f+@ked situation we find ourselves where a driver having carried out those actions can be found not guilty.

As far I can see the following needs to happen..

1) A massive, and I mean far beyond the scale of the current one running for drug driving media campaign needs to take place to stigmatise driving whilst using your phone in the same way that drink driving is seen now. If the van driver had been drunk he'd have been found guilty by the jury. Of that I have no doubt. The issue is that drink driving is the only road crime that is seen as a crime by the general public.

2) Unmarked police motorbikes need to be used to activly go out and catch people doing this. Bring a fear (and i chose that word carefully) to drivers that they are going to get caught if they don't change their behaivior. Not PCSO's looking at green boxes where the drivers lower their phones by the time they get to them. The police must start putting resources into this.

3) As a London rider I'm going to make it my business to press any candidate for the next mayor position for if they would back the above. We have vast resources poured into stopping terror attacks, kettling student protests, policing areas around football grounds. If this many people were getting killed by football violence then there'd be uproar.

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