Driver who crushed cyclist spared jail after victim's family forgive him

Driver handed suspended eight-month prison sentence, 240 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for three years.

by Sarah Barth   October 14, 2012  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

A driver in his seventies who crushed a female cyclist with his cement mixer was handed a suspended sentence after his victim's family pleaded with the judge to show mercy.

In August we reported how 75-year-old Stephen Bateman was found guilty of careless driving that killed Joanna Braithwaite, 34, as she cycled to work on October 28 last year.

But after Joanna's family intervened. Judge Harold Persaud handed down a suspended eight-month prison sentence, 240 hours of unpaid work and banned Bateman from driving for three years.

He said: "They [the parents] do not seek retribution and have recognised how this has affected you."

Bateman had driven more than two million miles without incident before hitting Joanna.

Prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson told the hearing in Oxford: "In reversing the defendant should have been aware of Miss Braithwaite at the junction. In interview (with police) he admitted he did not see her at all.

"The carelessness is the double failure to see her when he went backwards and then forwards."

Charlotte and Paul Braithwaite, Joanna's parents, told the Daily Mail: 'There is really no way to express in words our sadness at the death our daughter Joanna.

'She was full of joy and hope and our world is a darker place without her.

'We are and have always been quite certain that he in no way intended to hurt her in any way and so we bear no personal grudge towards him.

'We would see no useful purpose in a man of his age being given a custodial sentence.

If Bateman chooses to return to driving following his three-year ban, he will have to take an extended driving test.

Reverend Charlie Cleverly of St Aldate's Church, Pembroke Street, where Joanna worked as an assistant, told the BBC at the time of her death: "She was full of life, laughter and wisdom.

"It's a terrible tragedy, one of those chaotic events that comes into a groaning world.

"She was an amazing girl. We're all devastated."

Lorries account for a disproportionate number of cycling fatalities given the proportion of traffic that they make up. Construction vehicles - tipper trucks and cement lorries account for a disproportionate number of the cycling deaths caused by HGVs and are by far the most dangerous vehicles to cyclists on Britain's roads.

10 user comments

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I notice that "road tax" turned up in the comments on the Daily Mail site. You can set your watch by it.

Simon Mason, Kingston upon Hull

posted by swldxer [34 posts]
14th October 2012 - 12:19

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absolutely disgusting to let him off so damn lightly. What the family was thinking I don't know, and the driver is his seventies obviously gave everyone a good sob story too.

Well done judge, you bloody fool ...

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
14th October 2012 - 13:02

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Reading the report, the lorry driver made an error of judgement in attempting to reverse his lorry on a major road, especially as it's near a school.

With no rear visibility to speak of and no-one guiding him back he was acting irresponsibly. He should have continued on and found a safe route back to the turning.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
14th October 2012 - 14:51

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Karbon Kev wrote:
absolutely disgusting to let him off so damn lightly. What the family was thinking I don't know, and the driver is his seventies obviously gave everyone a good sob story too.

Well done judge, you bloody fool ...

The victim's family were convinced that the driver did not intend to hurt her, so what would be gained by jailing him?

Why is he any more morally culpable than the thousands of other drivers that day who sped, ran a red light, drove whilst inebriated or whilst using their mobile phone, etc?

Of all of those drivers who didn't take enough care that day which one is the least likely to ever do so again? Which one now likely poses less danger to other road users than any of the others?

What's to be gained by locking him up?

byke.com.au's picture

posted by byke.com.au [16 posts]
14th October 2012 - 15:08

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I'm glad I'm not a judge actually.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
14th October 2012 - 21:27

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You know what, I'm going to give a different view, I am a cyclist obviously, but I also drive a car and ride a motorbike, I find cyclist in general so damn patronising, why we are always the ones getting hurt by these horrible motorists who don't pay attention !

Now don't get me wrong, I've been knocked off my bicycle twice and off my motorbike once by car drivers, and you know what, not once has it been deliberate, I know that sometimes motorist can do it deliberately, but most don't (hopefully).

What I find patronising is this... how many of you who post bad things about motorist drive ?, and I'm sure you all have 100% clean driving records, oh but perhaps it wasn't your fault that you had a crash ?, really ? talk to the IAM (institute of advance motorists) or RoSPA and see what they think about accidents that were not your fault !, bottom line, EVERY single motorist at some point in their driving lifetime has made a mistake, luckily a vast proportion of these mistakes don't result in an accident, but you know what, sometimes they do, does this make them a bad driver that should never drive ? I think not.

One last point, sometimes the motorist drives like an idiot, in these cases the whole law book should be thrown at them and they should be locked away and never allow to drive again, I can't make a judgement if this was one of those cases or not, however the family believes it wasn't, well done to them.

posted by mikeprytherch [204 posts]
14th October 2012 - 21:52

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People make mistakes, but when you are in charge of a two ton metal box moving at upwards of 30mph you need to be aware that your mistakes can have disastrous consequences for other people and drive accordingly. That simple fact doesn't seem to penetrate most people's heads - until they make a mistake and kill someone.

And, as I've said on here before, cyclists as a group tend to own more cars then the general population - so it's not as if they are commenting on the situation from a position of ignorance.

As to this case I'm with OldRidgeback plus I'd add that if Joanna's family could find it in their hearts to forgive the man responsible for her death it's really not up to us to question that - the judge could after all have set aside their views if he thought Bateman was likely to pose a continuing danger to other road users.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
14th October 2012 - 22:55

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Total respect to Joanna's family. It would have been far too easy to want to throw the book at him, but would that have brought Joanna back? Would that have saved anyone else? Is this guy really going to go out and get another driving job? No.
The guy made a mistake, we all make mistakes. The only difference is that the consequence of his mistake was unimaginably bad.

My thoughts go out to the driver and Joanna's family.

Collett73's picture

posted by Collett73 [14 posts]
15th October 2012 - 11:19

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Commenting as a driver who made a mistake. I got a speeding ticket for the first time ever in 30 years clean driving last year: doing 67 in a 60mph on the Greenodd to Newby Bridge road in the Lakes.

I attended a speed awareness course rather than take the points and out of a room of 32 people I was one of only two not caught speeding in a 30mph zone and 5 of the people there were second time attenders on the course....

I thought it was illegal to back into a major road from a minor road? See it all the time.

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

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1026 posts]
15th October 2012 - 11:32

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mikeprytherch wrote:
Now don't get me wrong, I've been knocked off my bicycle twice and off my motorbike once by car drivers, and you know what, not once has it been deliberate, I know that sometimes motorist can do it deliberately, but most don't (hopefully).

What I find patronising is this... how many of you who post bad things about motorist drive ?, and I'm sure you all have 100% clean driving records, oh but perhaps it wasn't your fault that you had a crash ?, really ? talk to the IAM (institute of advance motorists) or RoSPA and see what they think about accidents that were not your fault !, bottom line, EVERY single motorist at some point in their driving lifetime has made a mistake, luckily a vast proportion of these mistakes don't result in an accident, but you know what, sometimes they do, does this make them a bad driver that should never drive ? I think not.

I think the fact that it's not deliberate means some motorists are therefore unwilling to take responsibility for their own dangerous bad habits. If they always drive like that and most of the time it doesn't result in a collision they conclude that the collision was an 'accident' when really it was a foreseeable consequence of the way they were driving.

I'm not a perfect cyclist. I've had collisions with other cyclists that were in part my fault. I'm willing to take responsibility for the damage my bike can do, which includes anticipating what other more vulnerable road and path users are doing, even if they're in the wrong.

If you choose to drive you accept a much higher level of responsibility. Many motorists don't seem to accept this. Some sadly even espouse 'might is right' on the roads. This has to stop. 'It wasn't deliberate' is not an excuse.

posted by HKCambridge [108 posts]
15th October 2012 - 12:36

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