Lorry driver's 'good character' sees him spared from jail sentence over cyclist's death

Food service delivery driver had earlier been warned by judge to expect custodial sentence

by Simon_MacMichael   November 15, 2011  

road.cc news

A lorry driver who killed a cyclist on the A308 near Ashford, Middlesex, has escaped a jail term due to his previous good character, despite the judge in the case having earlier warned him that he was likely to receive a custodial sentence.

The victim, 54-year-old Denis Peachey, who lived nearby, died after being struck from behind by a lorry driven by Michal Mikolajczyk, aged 30, who was finishing a six-hour night shift, reports the website Get Surrey.

Mikolajczyk, who lives in Slough, was sentenced last Friday at Guildford Crown Court to 36 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. He had earlier been convicted by a jury of causing death by careless driving following a trial that lasted four days.

The driver, who lost his job with Slough-based Medina Food Service due to the interim driving ban imposed on him after that guilty verdict had been returned, was also ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and pay £500 costs, and was banned from driving for 18 months.

Sentencing Mikolajczyk on Friday, Judge Neil Stewart said: "This offence certainly crosses the custody threshold. It was more than a mere momentary lapse of attention.

"This incident had dreadful consequences. Mr Peachey suffered devastating injuries from which he died."

However, as a result of the driver’s previous good character and an unblemished driving record prior to the fatal incident, which the prosecution maintained was due to his leaving insufficient space for the cyclist, he escaped jail.

Prosecuting counsel Rachel Davies had told the court that Mr Peachey, described as an experienced cyclist, had been thrown from his bike after Mikolajczyk’s delivery lorry hit his rear wheel at around 6am on the morning of 16 August 2009.

"As a result of the impact, Mr Peachey was knocked off his cycle and died shortly afterwards from the injuries that he sustained," she maintained.

Luke Blackburn, in the driver’s defence, said at Friday’s hearing: "Not a day goes by without him thinking of Mr Peachey. My client will live with the consequences for the rest of his life."

In passing sentence, Judge Stewart commented that there was no sentence that the court could pass that would compensate for Mr Peachey having lost his life.

The judge was given an impact statement from Mr Peachey's partner, Linda Hought, which was not read out in full to the court.

Paraphrasing, the judge stated: "Ms Hought says that Mr Peachey was a very private person. He was an admirable man whose life was tragically cut short that morning. The court can only extend its condolences to his family and those who loved him."

30 user comments

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I have a good character, does that mean i can get behind the wheel of a vehicle and mow down a cyclist? after all, i don't need a license as has been proved recently and it seems you don't get any harsh penalty's for killing someone with a vehicle as long as they are a cyclist

Really really really getting sick of hearing about these cases and its about time something was done IN LAW, to make sure that people pay for causing deaths on the roads, no matter if its car on car, lorry on cyclist it needs to be sorted

Another thing, on that link, he's got a smug grin, i want to take a lorry and wipe it right off

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8905 posts]
15th November 2011 - 15:37

3 Likes

Gkam84 wrote:
I have a good character, does that mean i can get behind the wheel of a vehicle and mow down a cyclist? after all, i don't need a license as has been proved recently and it seems you don't get any harsh penalty's for killing someone with a vehicle as long as they are a cyclist

Really really really getting sick of hearing about these cases and its about time something was done IN LAW, to make sure that people pay for causing deaths on the roads, no matter if its car on car, lorry on cyclist it needs to be sorted

Another thing, on that link, he's got a smug grin, i want to take a lorry and wipe it right off

+1 absolutely shameful decision.

posted by viveLaPants [93 posts]
15th November 2011 - 15:48

2 Likes

If anything the driving ban is even more insulting - you could argue why waste taxpayer's money feeding the guy in prison, but allowing him ever to drive a truck again is mad.

As far as I can tell from the DfT website, anyone with an ordinary driving licence can drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes with trailers which take the combined weight to 12 tonnes. No need for a specific HGV licence. It should be possible to impose a lifetime ban on larger vehicles (Category C or C1, 3.5-7.5t) or on driving altogether.

We don't permit sex offenders to work with children, ever again. Similar should apply to driver-killers.

posted by Paul M [312 posts]
15th November 2011 - 16:15

2 Likes

Ah but then there is the other side Paul, If the only "skill" he has is lorry driving for work, he'll just go onto benefits, get his rent paid, fortnightly money from the benefits office and serve his 18 month ban while living off the state

Not that i'm saying he's going to do that, but if he did, that would cost alot more than just banging him up inside for a few years, also, is he a native of this country? If not and this is just guessing by his name, he's polish, he could quite easily, pay the fine and leave the country, even not pay the fine and still leave, plus he'd get X amount of his tax back when leaving like all foreign nationals do, then go home and drive on his countries roads with a driving license from his own country

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8905 posts]
15th November 2011 - 16:24

1 Like

Playing driver's advocate here, he was convicted of careless driving not the more serious offence of dangerous driving.

None of us has seen all the evidence but there doesn't appear to be a suggestion that the CPS took the easy route.

So assuming the charge was appropriate it is reasonable to have their previous record taken into account. Clearly the judge gave serious consideration to a custodial sentence (which was in fact imposed, but suspended).

I'm all for serious sentences on dangerous drivers, and agree the ban could have been longer, but we can't always assume that drivers deserve the worst punishment. Sometimes the law works in certain ways for good reasons.

Sadly none of it will do anything to bring back the poor victim.

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [536 posts]
15th November 2011 - 17:30

2 Likes

"Not a day goes by without him thinking of Mr Peachey. My client will live with the consequences for the rest of his life."

I would think he would think even harder about it from a cell.

posted by lolol [118 posts]
15th November 2011 - 17:36

2 Likes

Exactly and thats why the law in my view should be changed, there should be one charge for all who cause a death while driving, i'm not in favour or the careless or dangerous ones

It should just be made simple, Causing death on a public highway, I don't care how its caused, there is no need for deaths on the roads apart from in extreme weather conditions or something where the driver can take NO blame, if there is any blame attached to the driver, then the law should be one and the same whether it was careless, reckless, dangerous or purposely

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8905 posts]
15th November 2011 - 17:45

1 Like

absolutely disgusting, the law in this country is indeed an ass ...

posted by Karbon Kev [677 posts]
15th November 2011 - 18:20

1 Like

"Not a day goes by without him thinking of Mr Peachey. My client will live with the consequences for the rest of his life." yes but probably not as much as the family he has destroyed will. why wasn't her statement read out in full? was it because his partner was vitriolic about the court, the murderer or the cps? or was it because "its only a cyclist so who really cares".

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [465 posts]
15th November 2011 - 19:00

3 Likes

It should be like knife crime is supposed to be. It's all about genuine mandatory sentencing. If a driver is found guilty of causing a death through reckless or careless driving ( what is the distinction btw?) then a simple 5 year sentence (without 50% parole for good behaviour) and a 5 year ban following release should apply. As a nation we can't encourage consideration of others unless the ultimate penalty for not showing consideration is unequivocal. You are banged up for 5 years and off the road for 10.

A simple solution such as this is often met with a 'yeah but what if..' or a 'our current system doesn't allow..' but to me it really is that simple. Until recently politicians were terrified of upsetting Murdoch. I hope they're pandering to the great British motorist changes as well.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1060 posts]
15th November 2011 - 20:12

3 Likes

Thats just the kind of thing i was thinking MercuryOne, There should be a "minimum" limit, a bit like when the judge sentences a murderer to a minimum for 15 years on a life sentence. The law should be in place where someone found guilty of "causing death on a public highway" should be getting X amount of time and thats that.

Lets just say a cyclist was riding along carelessly and happened to hit someone crossing the round, knock them down and kill them, what would be the charge? I bet you anything it would be a harsh sentence, but knock someone down while behind the wheel of a vehicle, then you don't seem to get anything near enough because they think banning you from driving for a certain time is better than jail

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8905 posts]
15th November 2011 - 20:37

1 Like

Shame on this country's judiciary system.

As cyclists in the eyes of judges our lives are worthless that do require being protected.

I say get these stupid old cronies out on a bike for a week. They'll soon change their attitude.

posted by gazzaputt [181 posts]
15th November 2011 - 21:12

1 Like

Wonder if theyll bring in a charge of careless shooting.....I fancy a gun.
Going by the standards set out for drivers, I can shoot in randomly, as long as I don't actually mean to kill someone i should get off if someone happened to walk into the path of one of my bullets???

posted by mrchrispy [298 posts]
15th November 2011 - 22:51

3 Likes

Disgusting - His community service should be to ride a bike during rush hour

posted by fiftyacorn [91 posts]
16th November 2011 - 12:18

3 Likes

So what should be done to increase the pressure on the legal system to change the way those responsible for deaths due to driving are judged?

Letters to MP's?

E-Petitions?

Angry forum posts? Wink

In all seriousness, what is the best route to raising the priority of this?

posted by acjim [29 posts]
16th November 2011 - 13:48

4 Likes

Actually, it is a very heavy sentence for UK Courts.

The guy who drove too fast on icy roads with bald tyres (and remember tyres don't suddenly become bald, they take a long time) and killed the 4 cyclists at Rhyl a few years ago was only fined £60 per life. He never even bothered to go to court. He just pleaded guilty to driving with defective tyres.

The senior copper who was interviewed at the scene didn't seem to think it was even unreasonable to drive that speed in those conditions on bald tyres.

We are a long way off where we need to be in terms of punishment/deterrence, but look where we started from!

I feel so angry about this attitude that the motor car is king.

Binky

posted by davebinks [126 posts]
16th November 2011 - 16:21

2 Likes

MercuryOne wrote:
... If a driver is found guilty of causing a death through reckless or careless driving ( what is the distinction btw?)...

According to CPS guidance on prosecuting cases of bad driving:

"The difference between causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving lies in the standard of the driving. For causing death by dangerous driving, the standard of driving must fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. For causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, the standard of driving must fall below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver."

Source: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/road_traffic_offences_guidance_on_pro...

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8167 posts]
16th November 2011 - 16:26

2 Likes

So, Simon;
no difference at all then. Just an opportunity for a judge to pass a lower sentence.

I have been emailing politicoes on behalf of 38degrees. Heard of them? I'll have a word with them to see if they are interested.

posted by matthewuniverse [17 posts]
16th November 2011 - 17:50

1 Like

Trouble is these ****'s know they can get away with it so take no care around cyclist's. Yesterday some **** with an oversized lorry with the hugest trailer I have ever seen, (frankly looked an illegal length) cut right in on us when we were out on a training ride. I was at the front of the group and had I not "held my line" it could have spoiled what was otherwise a really nice ride. The driver would've got £150 costs and two weeks community service. Until the law changes nothing will get any better, drivers need to know they will be held accountable or they will continue to treat us with no more respect than they would a rabbit. I'm moving to Holland, shame its a bit flat but as I get older thats probably no bad thing

whizz kid

posted by whizzkid [62 posts]
16th November 2011 - 18:16

1 Like

mrchrispy wrote:
Wonder if theyll bring in a charge of careless shooting.....I fancy a gun.
Going by the standards set out for drivers, I can shoot in randomly, as long as I don't actually mean to kill someone i should get off if someone happened to walk into the path of one of my bullets???

Totally agree with your seemingly absurd but sadly very relevant and accurate illustration. I have often wondered if I were to go out practicing shadow boxing in the street and accidentally hit a few careless drivers with sufficient force to maim or kill how the courts would view it. Maybe my previous good character would save the day....

whizz kid

posted by whizzkid [62 posts]
16th November 2011 - 18:22

2 Likes

matthewuniverse wrote:
So, Simon;
no difference at all then. Just an opportunity for a judge to pass a lower sentence.

I have been emailing politicoes on behalf of 38degrees. Heard of them? I'll have a word with them to see if they are interested.

Didn't read through when I cut and pasted because, rather naively, I assumed the CPS would have got the definition correct.

Surprise

Thanks for pointing out that they didn't.

[EDIT] Ah wait, there is the word 'far' added in dangerous driving.

Here's [the correct] another, clearer version (not from CPS this time):

What is the difference between dangerous driving and careless driving?

The key differences are that the standard of driving for careless driving is simply "below that" of a prudent motorist, and there is no obligation to establish any actual or risk of injury/damage. For dangerous driving, the standard has to be "far below" and it has to be obvious that there was a risk of personal injury or serious damage.

Source: http://www.motorlawyers.co.uk/offences/dangerous_driving.htm

I hadn't personally come across 38 Degrees before. Looks interesting, I'll check it out.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8167 posts]
16th November 2011 - 18:44

2 Likes

Yet another example showing that, in the UK at least, if you really want to kill someone just get in your car and run them over. So much easier to get away with a lenient sentence than shooting, stabbing or use of any other offensive weapon! Don't know why more haven't cottoned on to it......

Maybe there should be a requirement that all judiciary undergo rigorous cycle-commuting experience in our congested cities before they are allowed to sit on any form of legal bench. I'm convinced most of these people's real life experience in such matters is minimal, hence the derisory sentences regularly handed out.

Why aren't we seeing ferocious lobbying by the likes of the CTC, LCC etc to change the law?

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [93 posts]
17th November 2011 - 11:49

2 Likes

I don't understand. What's being an 'experienced' cyclist got to do with anything?

Katja Leyendecker
kleyendecker.co.uk
newcycling.org.uk

Katsdekker's picture

posted by Katsdekker [12 posts]
17th November 2011 - 15:29

1 Like

acjim wrote:
So what should be done to increase the pressure on the legal system to change the way those responsible for deaths due to driving are judged?

Letters to MP's?

E-Petitions?

Angry forum posts? Wink

In all seriousness, what is the best route to raising the priority of this?

Probably all of those, plus joining an campaigning organisation. Ultimately, I think only weight of voter opinion will change anything, so writing to your MP would seem sensible.

We might have a long wait though Sad

posted by don_don [149 posts]
17th November 2011 - 17:14

1 Like

Killed a pesky cyclist? Ah well I'm sure you didn't mean to old chap, goodness knows they are like flies buzzing around, no wonder the odd one might get squished under your 18 wheels.

Here's a wee fine and on you go. Now, do try not to do it again if you can.

Angry

posted by moonbucket [55 posts]
17th November 2011 - 18:00

3 Likes

This bit amazed me:
Factors that are not relevant in deciding on level of charge
The following factors are not relevant when deciding whether an act of driving is careless or dangerous:

  • the injury or death of one or more persons involved in a road traffic collision, except where Parliament has made specific provision for the death to be reflected in the charge. Importantly, injury or death does not, by itself, turn a collision into careless driving or turn careless driving into dangerous driving ;
  • the age or experience of the driver;
  • the commission of other driving offences at the same time (such as driving whilst disqualified or driving without a certificate of insurance or a driving licence);
  • the fact that the defendant has previous convictions for road traffic offences; and
  • the disability of a driver caused by mental illness or by physical injury or illness, except where there is evidence that the disability adversely affected the manner of the driving.

    I find it unbelievable that the offence leading to the death of an individual is irrelevant!

  • posted by MikeWall [3 posts]
    17th November 2011 - 18:25

    3 Likes

    The law is indeed an ass and insults public highway users who fall foul of dangerous lunatics. The **** who almost killed my wife in a hit & run appeared in court on his 7th driving offense with previous drug offenses, he was already banned from driving, he got some community service, a £120 fine which he was allowed to pay £10 per month and another ban, gosh that will really put him off driving illegally again. My wife is physically and psychologically scarred for life and is due a fourth facial operation but is lucky to be alive. I think if I ever see the **** I will just run him over, what's the worse that could happen I have a good character?

    posted by stephogg [31 posts]
    23rd November 2011 - 0:27

    1 Like

    Some really good points & opinions on here, but no one has picked upon the one fact that as far as that court was concerned the cyclist's life was "worth" £500 That is the most disgusting thing as far as I am concerned.

    FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

    posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [592 posts]
    17th December 2011 - 10:55

    2 Likes

    when I encounter dangerous driving if possible i make like I want to remonstrate with the driver and when the prick pulls over I simply make like I am about to punch him and whilst he is focused on my fist i am removing the ignition key. By the time he has noticed I have his key I am down the road with it looking for a drain or a ditch to throw it in unless of course they accept my generous offer of a reasonable 'fine' to have it awarded back to them. It is suprising how often these people pull over and even more suprising how many drivers give me a lot of room on the road if any driver wishes to use his vehichle as a weapon I wish to dissarm the fucker

    tired old fart

    posted by tired old fart [82 posts]
    31st October 2012 - 12:46

    4 Likes

    I stumbled accross this and have to comment as its close to my heart. My mum was Dennis Peachey's girlfriend. They lived together. 16th August, 3 years ago, on my poor mum's birthday, I get a phonecall from mum clearly distraught I could barely understand her. She had just got to work and two policemen had to give her the news that Den had been killed. By a lorry. She was devastated. She couldn't bare to live in flat they shared anymore, she's had alot of councelling and she still misses him. This polish lorry driver may feel bad every day for the rest of his life but my mum lost her best friend, her soulmate, her home and every birthday she has she feels she can't celebrate as the tradegy happened on that day. Can you imagine having the police giving mum his pocessions back that he was wearing. His watch that had deep scratches on it from the collision? Heartbreaking...... That polish c*** should rot in hell for what he done to Den and the effects its had on my mum. Angry

    posted by connie1508 [2 posts]
    14th August 2013 - 10:35

    2 Likes