The van driver convicted last month of causing the death by careless driving of a senior RAF officer on the A40 last year has been banned from driving for 12 months and given a 12-month community order that will require him to perform 100 hours’ unpaid work. Group Captain Tomas Barrett, aged 44 and station commander at RAF Northolt, died of injuries sustained when he was struck by a van driven by Paul Luker.
Last month, when 51-year-old delivery driver Luker was convicted at Harrow Crown Court of the offence, which carries a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment, he had been told by Judge John Anderson that he might receive a jail sentence. In light of that warning from the judge, today’s sentence seems particularly lenient.
During his trial, Luker had admitted that he had been blinded by the low sun prior to the incident, which happened on the A40 on the afternoon of 10 March last year as Group Captain Barrett rode home. The prosecution maintained that he should have adjusted his driving to the conditions.
The Bucks Free Press reports that prior to sentencing, a statement prepared by Group Captain Barrett’s widow Sophie was read to the court. “Not having Tomas anymore has been a complete loss to me. I feel as if my life has been turned upside down and I don’t have any direction,” she revealed, adding that his loss had left a “massive gap” in the lives of their two daughters, aged 10 and 11.
His father, Anthony, added that Group Captain Barrett had been his family’s “driving force” and that “a very special light has gone out in all our lives and it can never be rekindled.”
The fatal collision took place on a three-lane section of the road that has a cycle path running alongside it, although the court was told that the victim was “perfectly entitled” to be riding on the A40 itself.
When he was interviewed by police after the incident, Luker, of Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire, said: "I lay in bed thinking night after night is there anything I did see or didn’t see. I weren’t even looking for a cyclist...I thought there’s no way there would be a cyclist on the road when there’s a cycle lane."
Passing sentence, Judge John Anderson told Luker: “The consequences of your driving were terrible as the heart-rending impact statements show.”
However, he said that he was “quite satisfied that this offence arose out of your momentary inattention without any aggravating factors and falls into the lowest category”.
The judge went on to say that Luker had previous good character, and added: “I’m satisfied that the deep remorse that you obviously feel, has had, and continues to have, a profound effect on your mental well-being.”
Speaking to reporters as he walked free from the court, Luker commented: “I agree with the sentence and I’m going to do it.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.