Van driver convicted of killing RAF officer as he rode home on A40 escapes jail

Judge had earlier warned him that he could face custodial sentence

by Simon_MacMichael   March 26, 2012  


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.”

28 user comments

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posted by sam_smith [57 posts]
27th March 2012 - 0:25


Utter joke

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
27th March 2012 - 0:41


Pathetic, yes. If however the judge ordered him to do 100 hours community service aimed at cycling safety, talking to young drivers etc. That may be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately he will just be cleaning graffiti from the streets.

The time of heroes is dead: the christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs, fear and shame!

Vikeonabike's picture

posted by Vikeonabike [58 posts]
27th March 2012 - 7:15


why does the word ' bollocks' keep coming into mind.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1108 posts]
27th March 2012 - 9:20


another case of a cyclists life being worthless in the eyes of the law...when will it ever change?

posted by Bigpikle [84 posts]
27th March 2012 - 9:21


How driving when you can't see in front of you at speed is not 'dangerious driving', rather than 'careless' I don't understand.

The driver's comment about the lane is interesting though, it should be looked at, I'd suggest its the useless junctions arrangements that detered Mr Barret from using it (see,-0.45022...). With the campaigns for more segregation - and the current tendancy to build not-a-motorway-but-nearly roads we need to get this stuff right...

posted by jamesup [3 posts]
27th March 2012 - 10:18


Yet another slap on the wrist for a killer with a lame excuse.

If you can't see where you're going, slow down and stop, it says in the HC.

I despair.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
27th March 2012 - 10:20


"I weren’t even looking for a cyclist..."

After admitting that he can be on the road again in 12 months, great piece of work by the judiciary!

Also to admit that he wouldn't expect a cyclist to be on the road when there is a cycle lane is worrying and shows a lack of knowledge as the highway code clearly states:

"Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer."

posted by meves [8 posts]
27th March 2012 - 11:08


it's an absolute joke. and makes a mockery of the justice system.. his remorse does nothing for the family left without a Dad.

Bigcog's picture

posted by Bigcog [21 posts]
27th March 2012 - 11:17


"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 ...."

This shows that the driver doesn't know the highway code, he doesn't pay proper attention. He also didn't adjust his driving to cope with visibility problems.

How then can the judge say he was "quite satisfied that this offence arose out of your momentary inattention"?
This was clearly not momentary inattention it was this driver's normal driving behaviour.

The sentence is pathetic and should be appealed!


posted by shay cycles [305 posts]
27th March 2012 - 12:12


As Ive said time and time again - if you want to pop someone off just follow these steps:

1 Make sure you are in the UK
2 Make sure they ride a bike
3 Get in your car
4 Run them over
5 Say the sun was in your eyes or there was a bike lane so you weren't expecting a cyclist and are deeply sorry.
6 Do a bit of community service

I'm so proud of the justice system in the uk aren't you?.

posted by NeilXDavis [118 posts]
27th March 2012 - 12:21


words fail me

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1898 posts]
27th March 2012 - 12:29


Crazy. Wonder if the judge rides in the back of a car, or the front. Can't see him on a bike.

Bring me sunshine, and dry roads

MalcolmBinns's picture

posted by MalcolmBinns [114 posts]
27th March 2012 - 13:17


Vikeonabike wrote:
Pathetic, yes. If however the judge ordered him to do 100 hours community service aimed at cycling safety, talking to young drivers etc. That may be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately he will just be cleaning graffiti from the streets.

No he won't. He will be pretending to clean graffiti. Comminty service is a joke. His community service 'minder' will have no real authority or compulsion to make sure he does any work. This idiot should be in prison. He didn't expect a bike to be on the road? What a moron.

posted by Coleman [331 posts]
27th March 2012 - 13:19


it is very sad.


posted by OldRidgeback [2588 posts]
27th March 2012 - 14:01


I must admit I'm a bit torn here

On one hand this sends no signal to drivers to take their driving responsibilities seriously - every slap on the wrist is another group of drivers sure they can drive any old way - and I'm not neglecting the poor grieving family either

On the other hand *if* the driver is genuinely torn up about this - I'm not sure that demanding a custodial sentence can be called "justice" rather than "revenge" - I know I never drink at all when driving - even one shandy would mean that if I had an accident I'd never forgive myself (slightly O/T example I know)

As I say - torn

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [586 posts]
27th March 2012 - 14:16


I would take no pleasure in banging up anyone - it wrecks families and costs the state an absolute fortune, for a start - but you have to ask whether we are sending the right signals by imposing a mere 12 months driving ban.

We need to get across to people in general that motor vehicles are lethal weapons in the hands of people who mishandle them. If someone walked around with a loaded shotgun and inadvertently set it off killing someone, we they would no doubt suffer more serious sanction, so what is so different about a car?

The ban should be much longer and should be followed by a full formal re-test at its end if you want ever to have a licence again.

posted by Paul M [345 posts]
27th March 2012 - 15:11


It is quite shocking,
especially in light of the person who got 8 weeks in Jail for racist twittering. Not condonding what he did in any way but I think the sentences
are totally about face, Yes what he did was shocking and deservered to be punished but 8 weeks in jail for twittering compared to 100hrs community service for killing somebody.

posted by Denzilwood [27 posts]
27th March 2012 - 15:21


Just read about the Twitter racist.

Is a few vitriolic tweets on the internet somehow worse than the careless loss of a life? Perhaps the same will apply to the type of abuse cyclists get first-hand every day. If so then it's time to shop for a helmetcam...

I have to wonder what the families of road death victims like the office above and the 20 cyclists killed so far this year think of it all.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2421 posts]
27th March 2012 - 15:40


Longer ban and retest would be my wish too.

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

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1224 posts]
27th March 2012 - 16:32


"I was struggling to see the brake lights of the car in front of me, so I decided I needed to slow down,”

"At that point I was in the middle lane and the sun got worse, so I put a cap on but it didnt help much.

"The sun was as low that day as I have ever known.

"The only way I could get the sun out of my eyes was to put the sun visor fully down, but I would have been blinded by that, so I put it on an angle.

"I could see people flashing me for going too slow so I decided to go into the inside lane and remember looking in my mirror for motorcycles.

"All of a sudden I felt a bump.

much much longer ban and retest.
couldn't cope with conditions or didn't want to? - changed lanes - was that because cars in front braking to allow cars out to pass cyclist and opted to undertake them

speculation yes - likely yes

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [259 posts]
27th March 2012 - 19:04

1 Like

I hope the family gets a good civil lawyer and sues the pants off this remorseful driver. It seems the law doesn't want to protect cyclist, so let's bankrupt dangerous drivers.


posted by Tripod16 [144 posts]
28th March 2012 - 10:33


As I have said before, why do we have this offence of careless driving. You are either in complete control of your vehicle (by this I mean driving at the appropriate speed for the conditions and looking where you are going) or you are a dangerous driver.


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [736 posts]
28th March 2012 - 11:21


I wonder if sometimes the Judiciary doesn't consider cycling on the highway to be some kind of extreme sport. Cyclists are practically asking for it, therefore the poor souls who wipe them out deserve some sympathy.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [353 posts]
28th March 2012 - 14:53


This absolutely beggars belief!

If you can't see - you stop! Who the hell drives blind? And what court says it's okay to drive blind? STOP! Or take measures so that you CAN see. I'd bet everything I have that if he was tied naked to the bonnet without the benefit of a cocoon of metal around him, he'd damn well stop then if he was plunging into the blind unknown at 40+ mph!

And what the f@#k is 'causing death by careless driving'? Oops - I'm awfully sorry, I seem to have killed you. How careless of me!

That comment about the cycle-path really winds me up too - he's not saying 'poor innocent me - I just didn't expect him to be there'. What he's making is a snide remark to imply fault with the cyclist - ie, he shouldn't have been there. Aside from the fact that cyclists have a right to use the roads, anyone who rides knows that cycle paths are simply unusable - they end without warning or pitch you straight into a kerb at a junction.

What, exactly, has to happen before a cyclists life is worth a driver's license? Let alone a custodial sentence.

posted by Lacticlegs [124 posts]
29th March 2012 - 17:35


If the cycle path along the A40 is anything like the cycle paths around here (Telford), ie. strewn with broken glass and with ridiculous junctions and routes, I can understand why this rider was not using it. Maybe this death will be another reminder for the councils and government to think harder and plan better for the safety of all road users.

I love the smell of cleats (mexican accent, you do the jokes)

posted by paulfrank [95 posts]
2nd April 2012 - 21:23

1 Like

Agreed. Nuff said.

posted by BigBear63 [79 posts]
28th September 2012 - 15:57


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 - 12:27