Family and friends of dead cyclist unhappy with justice system

30-year old woman crushed by tipper truck, driver not liable

by Mark Appleton   October 13, 2010  


The family and friends of a woman who was crushed beneath the wheels of a tipper truck and subsequently died have expressed their dismay at the level of punishment handed down by the judicial system in cyclist death cases.

Television producer Eilidh Cairns was just 30 when struck by the vehicle while cycling to work through the Notting Hill area of London in February 2009, reports the Evening Standard. She remained conscious while pinned underneath the truck but despite being taken to hospital she succumbed to her injuries a short time later.

The driver was 54-year old Joao Lopes from Dagenham in Essex. Lopes was cleared of any liability over Ms Cairns's death, despite claims his mirrors were not properly adjusted. However, three months after the incident Lopes was required to undergo an eyesight test which he failed.

As a result his licence was revoked but he was cleared to drive again in April of this year and is back behind the wheel, now wearing glasses. He initially entered a not guilty plea to a charge of driving while unable to comply with the requirements of a prescribed eye test but on Monday changed that plea to guilty just before a court hearing got underway.

He was ordered to pay £150 costs and a £15 surcharge but did not receive the discretionary driving ban the magistrates could have imposed.

Emma Chesterman, 33, Eilidh’s former housemate, told the Evening Standard: "He has admitted his eyesight was not good enough and gets £200 and three points on his licence.

"It does not seem fair. We are bewildered by the whole system that treats cyclists' deaths in this way. It seems to be the attitude that you are putting yourself in the way of danger and therefore it is your own fault if it happens to you, which is not the same as if it were a pedestrian killed."

Eilidh’s sister Kate Cairns told the paper: "This shows the inadequacies in our justice system. We still don't know what happened and it leaves you with a sense of hopelessness."

A Facebook page celebrates the memory of Eilidh.

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I wonder if Eilidh had been a police officer on a bike whether the police would have been so understanding of this gentleman's bad driving?

There seems to be an attitude in the UK that if you kill someone on a bike with your vehicle, not seeing them is a valid excuse.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
13th October 2010 - 12:43


I am going to stop visiting this website as everyday there are articles about cyclists getting injured and being killed. If I want to read about that, I will buy the local rag. Whilst I know it happens and is very sad for all involved I don't want to be constantly reminded of it. Goodbye Road CC...I'm off to Bikeradar to read about bikes........not tragedies! Sad

posted by sdiggle [1 posts]
13th October 2010 - 13:46


wow, one post and you're off, eh? how will the site survive without you? Plain Face

purplecup's picture

posted by purplecup [233 posts]
13th October 2010 - 13:51


£165 fine and 3 points on your licence is about the same punishment you get for doing 35mph in a 30mph speed limit, so this sort of sentence seems to suggest that causing someone's death is no different in the eyes of the law than simply making a camera go flash.
As long as that person is riding a bicycle, that is.

Bad driving is bad driving, but when someone loses their life as a result then the sentence should reflect that seriously.
There wasn't even a driving ban imposed!
I doubt it will take long for this careless trucker to slip back into not paying enough attention behind the wheel, even if he has got new specs.

Chris's picture

posted by Chris [127 posts]
13th October 2010 - 13:58


ooooh... i'm angry reading this. it really does send the message that it's them against us. i got more points for parking bash once in my car. these magistrates are out of touch and should be clubbed a few times with d-locks.

Adios Amigos

posted by BigManLittleHair [32 posts]
13th October 2010 - 14:27


And I don't blame her family either, yet again do we see the british cycling public let down by this country's far too leniant judicial system


posted by Karbon Kev [683 posts]
13th October 2010 - 14:53


I don't think anybody disputes this is awful but we don't know the whole story, a family member states they don't know all the facts. We are being led by the media who choose to print whatever the wish to get a public reaction. Sdiggle makes a fair comment print some positives items please.

posted by IPFreely [32 posts]
13th October 2010 - 15:12

1 Like

Re sdiggle's post (not that he's going to read this, apparently) we don't run stories about every cycling fatality in Britain. However, last weekend was a particularly tragic one for cyclists on UK roads - 4 deaths, couple of very serious injuries - and given that we often address safety issues on we felt that this toll was worthy of note.

As for this item, it is not about the accident per se - tragic and harrowing though it was, it occurred some time ago - but more about the reaction of Eilidh's loved ones to the way in which the justice system seems to operate in relation to cyclists killed on our roads.

In the absence of CCTV footage or any witnesses, the driver was found not liable for the accident but was later shown to have been driving with inadequate eyesight, as per HGV regs.

The issue seems to be that in the eyes of the law, the accident and his deficient eyesight have been treated as two entirely separate matters.

posted by Mark Appleton [554 posts]
13th October 2010 - 15:34


You'll find plenty of positive cycling stories on this site IPFreely… all the drug ones for a start.

Joking aside, there's loads to celebrate in cycling and we do that all the time, but we also try to reflect cycling in Britain as it is, some terrible things happen on our roads which are both sad and depressing and that should also make people angry. If we close our eyes to them and pretend everything is just fine they will just keep on happening.

We didn't publish this story to get a reaction, we published it because it's news and worthy of comment a young woman lost her life needlessly and whether the driver of the tipper lorry was at fault to a greater or lesser degree the due process of the law does seem to have let her, and her family down. That's something we think it's worth telling people about.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
13th October 2010 - 15:59


There are plenty of positive stories on here. Of 70 stories currently on the News page only 6 cover accidents or deaths. That's undoubtedly 6 too many but what can be done about it? While I find these stories somewhat distressing what it should do is prompt people to campaign for better driver training and awareness.

However, if you prefer a site that doesn't report some of the issues facing cyclists on the roads then go ahead. But bear in mind that nothing ever gets improved by turning a blind eye.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2413 posts]
13th October 2010 - 19:04


The system seems to have failed the family in this instance.


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
13th October 2010 - 21:03


Its good to raise awareness and it certainly makes you think more when your out on the road. And for that I applaud you.

posted by IPFreely [32 posts]
15th October 2010 - 15:15

1 Like