Driver given £95 fine for incident in which cyclist's back broken in four places and he almost died

"You would get a longer sentence if you nicked some Mars bars" says victim

by Tony Farrelly   November 1, 2012  

Gavel

Magistrates in Bolton have fined a motorist £95 plus £35 costs and a £10 victim surcharge and six penalty points on his licence for an incident in which he hit and seriously injured a cyclist, his victim, John Drake labelled the sentence "disgusting".

Mr Drake whose life was saved by a quick thinking off-duty fireman who managed to clear his airways suffered a horrific catalogue of injuries in the incident last May.

His back was broken in four places he suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury resulting in memory loss, in total he had 30 broken bones - including his cheek bone, and his right ear was torn. As a result he spent six weeks in hospital, much of that time on a life support machine, and his family were twice told to say their goodbyes.

This week the driver responsible, 84-year old driver Ronald Finney  pleaded guilty in court to a charge of careless driving  (driving without due care and attention), and driving a vehicle on the road with defective eyesight. Following the incident Finney voluntarily gave up his licence and will not drive again. The maximum penalty that magistrates could have imposed is a heavy fine and/or disqualification or 7 to 9 points on the driver's licence.

Commenting on the sentence to the Bolton Evening News Mr Drake said:

The sentence does not act as a deterrent to somebody. You would get a longer sentence if you nicked some Mars bars.

“The fine isn’t a week’s pay on minimum wage. The system is dreadful.

“I would have thought he would get a suspended prison sentence or something far greater, such as a ban from driving.

“If it hadn’t been for off-duty firefighter Darren Collier at the scene, who opened my airways, I wouldn’t be here.”

Mr Drake also claimed that magistrates had passed sentence without seeing his victim impact statement which detailed the effects the incident had had on his life.

“Every day I wake up with pain in my back. My memory is worse. I can’t remember my kids growing up, I can’t remember getting married.

“I can remember being a kid, my memories are very vivid, but nothing from my teenage years. It’s upsetting.”

Last week we reported on the case of Surrey cyclist, Nigel Barclay who called for harsher sentencing for careless drivers when the teenage driver who seriously injured him,  costing him his livelihood, was given a £300 fine and four penalty points on his licence.

The issue of lenient sentencing for drivers who kill or seriously injure cyclists has long been a bone of contention for cyclists and cycling organisations. Recently all Britain's major cycling organisations backed a call by British Cycling for a Government inquiry in to the issue of sentencing guidelines and the lenient sentences often handed down by the courts to drivers who kill or injure other road users.

Last month Justice Minister, Helen Grant confirmed that she would meet with a delegation from British Cycling to discuss a review of sentencing in such cases.

The Drake and Barclay cases again highlight the two crucial issues that any sentencing review will have to address - firstly the perceived leniency of the sentencing guidelines themselves - the Bolton magistrates sentence is in line with the current guidelines for the offence - and secondly the apparent tendency of prosecuting authorities to opt for a lesser charge perhaps in the hope of gaining an easier conviction.

In the case of Mr Drake there would, on paper at least, appear to have been a case for bringing a charge of dangerous driving given that one of the criteria in the CPS charging guidelines is:

"driving when knowingly suffering from a medical or physical condition that significantly and dangerously impairs the offender's driving skills such as having an arm or leg in plaster, or impaired eyesight. It can include the failure to take prescribed medication; "

While most people, including it would seem his victim, would not think it productive to send an 84 year-old man to prison, such lenient sentencing in cases resulting in such serious injury does once again send out a damaging signal as to the value put on the lives and health of vulnerable road users by the law. It also underlines the pressing need for review and reform of sentencing guidelines in this area.

33 user comments

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Actually for once, I think the authorities might have got it right. The driver will never drive again.

It is those cases where people get back in their cars after a short ban that are most appalling. And what would be the point of punishing an 84 year old man?

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [158 posts]
1st November 2012 - 12:50

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If an 84 year old man uses equipment he is not safely capable of doing so and causes injury to another he deserves to be punished exactly as a 24 year old man would.

Or do I just need to wait until I am that age before settling old scores?

posted by Mountainboy [71 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:11

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Are all judges Anti-Cyclists?? This is a joke. I had a larger fine when I accidentally drove on expired insurance
!

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posted by Angelfishsolo [104 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:13

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The driver obviously had a high enough income to keep a car on the road. Surely he could have been fined the monetary equivalent of two or three full tanks of petrol, rather than just one? Careless driving seems to be much cheaper than the "normal" expenses incurred by all drivers - fuel, insurance, tax etc.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:14

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Edgeley wrote:
Actually for once, I think the authorities might have got it right. The driver will never drive again.

It is those cases where people get back in their cars after a short ban that are most appalling. And what would be the point of punishing an 84 year old man?

to act as a deterrent to other drivers. unfortunately this is commonplace. something needs to change.

posted by richteebis [23 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:15

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This ISNT a joke?

the driver wont drive again because he volunteered his license - not because the courts took it!

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [322 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:16

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Edgeley wrote:
Actually for once, I think the authorities might have got it right. The driver will never drive again.

It is those cases where people get back in their cars after a short ban that are most appalling. And what would be the point of punishing an 84 year old man?

Half the reason for punishing a criminal is to act as a deterrent to others. The justice system is saying commit this crime and this is what will happen to you. In this case the offender has been let off far too lightly.

There are many cases where people kill/seriously injure others due to their impaired ability to drive. The justice system is failing to provide a deterrent. If the guy got put away then maybe it would hit the headlines and a load of other half blind octogenarians would reconsider whether they want to put others at risk.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:22

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I would have to take my own action then end up getting jail....

posted by leedgreen [28 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:24

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what the F is the point. I really give in.
there really is very little incentive to drive carefully.
wave a loaded gun at a crowd and you'll get done quickly enough, drive with total disregard for other road users and its all part of the game.
time to mount the machine guns on my bike.

posted by mrchrispy [282 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:38

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Why not jail an 84 yr old?

posted by mbrads72 [117 posts]
1st November 2012 - 13:46

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Remember that incident in July 2011 where a cyclist hit a guy on a pedestrian crossing in Holborn, causing him serious injuries (including brain injury) so very similar to the story above.

The cyclist was fined £850 plus £930 costs.

So why has an 84 year old driving illegally (driving with uncorrected/defective vision is illegal) been given a £95 fine?

The courts in this country really do beggar belief sometimes...

posted by crazy-legs [489 posts]
1st November 2012 - 14:19

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The issue of old people driving after they should really hang up their driving gloves is something that needs looking at IMO. It's a desperately difficult judgement to make for the OAP in question, for whom driving might be the last vestige of personal freedom that remains to them.

My recently deceased dad wrestled with the issue for months before finally stopping, aged 83. He'd always been an excellent driver (proud Institute of Advanced Motorists badgeholder, never had an accident as far as I can recall, always careful and considerate to others etc etc) but in the last few months he just didn't inspire the same confidence he always had. Eventually he asked me what I thought and I told him I didn't think he should be driving any more. He stopped there and then. It was a hugely difficult conversation and a big decision for him because it effectively made him fully dependent on others for the first time. I can easily see others avoiding that conversation and delaying that decision til it's too late. I think it's a decision that should be made by someone without any skin in the game. I don't know what the formal situation is but it's not strict enough if you ask me.

And how do you decide on the penalty for something like this? I have huge sympathy for the cyclist but hammering an 84 year-old man is completely pointless except, arguably, as a deterrent - and deterrents don't work anyway (death penalty as a deterrent against murder in the US anyone?)

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posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
1st November 2012 - 14:50

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Martin Thomas wrote:
The issue of old people driving after they should really hang up their driving gloves is something that needs looking at IMO. It's a desperately difficult judgement to make for the OAP in question, for whom driving might be the last vestige of personal freedom that remains to them. - and deterrents don't work anyway (death penalty as a deterrent against murder in the US anyone?)

Martin, i completely agree with you here, what is the point in sending an 84yr old man to prison - none. We dont even get burglars sent down. He has handed in his licence and therefore there will never be a chance of this happening again.

Whilst i feel sorry for the cyclist and hope he one day makes a full recovery the sentencing that was passed is in line with the guidelines for careless driving. Sometimes people let their heart rule their head when adding comments to the forum (i, myself have done it).

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2675 posts]
1st November 2012 - 15:22

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ragtag wrote:
For all we know he could have been the CEO of a major company with a pension of millions. He could always sell his car.

Minimum should have been to retake his driving test and lose license IMO. Without being too heartless, being old is no excuse under the law - we all need to take responsibility.

I think we know enough from the report that I can state he doesn't have a high income nor a huge pension, as these things are taken into consideration when fines imposed on people, its about their ability to pay and not just slapped with a fine for the sake of it.

He's already surrendered his license, no point in forcing him to resit a test. He won't be driving again.

As others have said above, in this case, I think the judge has shown a good head.

1, There is NO point in putting an 84 year old in jail, not only would it not act as a deterrent, but it would cost even more to look after someone of that age inside prison as he would be classed as vulnerable.

2, The judge has also showed some bottle, as inevitably this will get bad press from all sections of society, especially the cycling communities.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
1st November 2012 - 15:47

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What is wrong is the system;

1. Enforce a driving re-test at retirement age and every five years after
2. Any person with a known medical condition that would affect their driving, then automatically this gets reported to the DVLA - isn't this already the case as it seems so obvious?
3. Make offending drivers cycle themselves for a given period as part of the sentence, to help them become more aware of cyclists issues. I have only been cycling 6 months but it has made me a more aware and considerate driver. That said, you will always get someone who doesn't want to play by the rules.

It seems there is a prevailing attitude within the justice dept that if cyclists want to go out and get themselves killed then let them. As long as these sort of sentences are allowed to happen then there will always be motorists who have the same attitude. How can a cyclists be fined 10 times the amount for knocking over a pedestrian?

Accidents will unfortunatley always happen, all we want is an equal amount of protection and a message that goes out to all that using the roads is for all means of transport

posted by Andyd64 [13 posts]
1st November 2012 - 16:34

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The driving law with older drivers needs to change! Separate stringent laws for the over 75s needs to be introduced, a fresh driving test every year imo, time and time again we are seeing the older driver endangering other road users. Ridiculous!

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
1st November 2012 - 17:04

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It seems to me that the Court imposed the fine it thought appropriate. However, now that the driver has been found guilty under the criminal burden, I should think that the victim could relatively easily pursue the driver for a civil claim for damages for pain and suffering. The driver must have had 3rd party insurance cover for exactly this purpose. You would think there would be lawyers crawling all over the victim by now!

posted by SimpleSimon [109 posts]
1st November 2012 - 17:47

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Interesting - I just looked up the rules and found - here http://www.directline.com/motor/driving-tips-for-older-people.htm - that there aren't any!

When you're 70 your licence expires but you can just renew it every 5 years after that for as long as you think you're fit to drive.

This advice is presented under the heading 'You know best', which is very empowering and all that but I don't think it's necessarily true, for the reasons I give above.

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posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
1st November 2012 - 17:51

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SimpleSimon wrote:
It seems to me that the Court imposed the fine it thought appropriate. However, now that the driver has been found guilty under the criminal burden, I should think that the victim could relatively easily pursue the driver for a civil claim for damages for pain and suffering. The driver must have had 3rd party insurance cover for exactly this purpose. You would think there would be lawyers crawling all over the victim by now!

My understanding and limited knowledge say that his insurance won't be paying out or admitting liability because as soon as the court declared that he was unfit to be driving, his insurance would be void

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8699 posts]
1st November 2012 - 18:07

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If age is an excuse for this crime, its an equal excuse for any other crime.

On that basis, 84 year olds should be allowed to steal from shops and homes, commit fraud, murder people... all because they're too old to go to prison.

Why isn't it age discrimination to let an old person off with a crime when a younger person would be sent to prison??

Ticktock

posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
1st November 2012 - 20:11

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Gkam84 wrote:
SimpleSimon wrote:
It seems to me that the Court imposed the fine it thought appropriate. However, now that the driver has been found guilty under the criminal burden, I should think that the victim could relatively easily pursue the driver for a civil claim for damages for pain and suffering. The driver must have had 3rd party insurance cover for exactly this purpose. You would think there would be lawyers crawling all over the victim by now!

My understanding and limited knowledge say that his insurance won't be paying out or admitting liability because as soon as the court declared that he was unfit to be driving, his insurance would be void


I think you are mistaken, if for no other reason than the accident occurred before the courts judgement!

posted by alun [44 posts]
1st November 2012 - 20:12

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Surely the answer is to impose a top level harsh sentence consistently across the board regardless of the guiltys circumstances then have a separate appeal process that follows that can take into consideration personal circumstances.
As an example , sensible to this crime (not the guilty party) might be removal of the driving license for ten years , and a suitable prison sentence That could be applicable to all comparative offences

Then the guilty part in this example could subsequently apply for appropriate sentencing to his personal circumstances, forgoing his license and reducing internment ???

The headlines would potentially read very differently and the punishments would offer a clearer deterrent ????

posted by scrapper [60 posts]
1st November 2012 - 20:13

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It is true, there is little point in sending an 84 year old to jail. But the fines imposed is paltry and this sends entirely the wrong message. The victim's statement was not read, also a major error by the magistrate. In cases such as this where a prison sentence is perhaps not appropriate, the perpetrator should still have to carry out community work and also have to pay extensive damages to the victim.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 9:35

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Whilst magistrates and Judges make some extraordinary decisions that can never be justified the real problem lies partly with sentencing guidelines (for all offences not just road traffic related) but mostly with the ineffectual and incompetent CPS.
From a police point of view they are a daily struggle and should be referred to by their alternative name (Can't Prosecute Shi*). They are bad enough when you are dealing with assaults, burglaries etc but when it comes to road traffic law they are useless. I can confirm they are utterly unwilling to take anything to court unless they are sure they can win it. I have lost count of the number of times we have told them a court needs to hear this case even if its a 60/40 chance of success but been overruled.
Unless there is a fatality involved I have never managed to get a charge of Dangerous Driving to court. It is always dropped to Due Care. The CPS constantly want to drop it for a guilty plea. This is partly to do with their figures but also appears to be a reflection of the low priority they put on driving offences. The lawyers appear to view it as bellow them and are not really interested. In fact there often seems to be a complete lack of basic knowledge of traffic law and procedure.
Whilst I agree that there is little point of sending an 84 year old to jail this should clearly have been prosecuted as a Dangerous Driving offence. There are a huge number of elderly (and some younger drivers) thinking it is acceptable to drive with uncorrected vision and other medical conditions. This is clearly dangerous and just because they look like your gran it doesn't mean that they are not a lethal weapon behind the wheel. A clear and unequivocal message is needed that this is not acceptable. A prosecution for Dangerous driving would have given the option of a custodial sentence that could have been suspended to take account of the drivers age. Therefore providing the necessary deterrent.

posted by mike78 [7 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 12:39

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Sentencing and (to an extent) fining is a thorny issue and I'm not going to get into it.

However, waht really does need to change in these instances is removal of public risk - that is, taking licences away. I'm not an advocate of harsh punishments and prison-for-all, but I do think that politicians do now need to seriously think about mandatory supensions, rather than penalty points, for dangerous driving and drink driving offences, particularly where damage to property or person has been caused.

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posted by Ghedebrav [1032 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 13:46

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If the 84 yr old couldn't be sent to prison why couldn't they stuck him in a home? That'll learn him.

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posted by Joselito [133 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 13:46

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I take it the cyclist had insurance?

I seriously hope he did and that his solicitors are suing the idiot driver's insurance company for MASSIVE damages. Again the point is made - British Cycling or CTC insurance is a MUST HAVE if you ride on Britain's roads. You've got the law to protect you and seriously skilled people like Leigh Day & Co fighting for you - and they won't give up.

Nothing can take away John's suffering, or ease the nightmare for him, and I feel for him and every rider who suffers any similar fate at the hands of incompetent drivers and useless Judges. But you have to protect yourself and look out for yourself because bad things happen to us all.

In the end, the law can only do what the law is allowed to do and it is legal people that you need to fight your corner and get the proper measure of compensation and reparation. Don't ever take chances. Get properly insured.

Get well, John. Every cyclist everywhere is wishing you all the very best in your fight back to health.

posted by comm88 [72 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 18:39

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Putting people in prison for behaving in a way that shows they have no idea the level of responsibility they should have been taking doesn't seem helpful. Putting people in for longer when they might have had a shorter time in doesn't seem helpful.

Permanent bans for all drivers who exhibit an ability to hurt people through their own carelessness might be helpful though. Points on a license is a bit of a joke.

Also, possibly there should be some sort of automatic/assisted compensation case system. Making reparations for injuring someone carelessly (and being found guilty of such in court) shouldn't rely on the victim having to mount a potentially expensive civil case.

posted by MxQueen [5 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 10:27

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A lot of people seem to be spending a lot of time defending a 84 old man that just ruined someones life. He should go to jail for a minimum of 5 years, his car should be taken from him and sold and he should be fined at least £5000. Then he will understand that nearly killing someone is wrong. The judge should be struck off for being clearly out of touch.

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
12th November 2012 - 14:18

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Just today a prostitute murderer oops sorry a truck driver almost crushed me!!!!!!! I called out a warning and he had a go at me saying "what the fuck you doing in my way." I invited him to get out of his cab and say it to my face. You have to be VERY defensive to the point of being aggressive or you don't survive the journey!

tired old fart

posted by tired old fart [82 posts]
19th July 2013 - 19:32

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