Home
Prosecution had said that driver couldn't see for around three seconds prior to fatal collision...

A jury in Leeds has failed to reach a verdict in the case of a driver charged with causing the death through careless driving of a female cyclist. The motorist, who may face a retrial, had said at his trial that he had been blinded by sunlight for approximately three seconds before the fatal incident in South Heindley, near Wakefield, in January 2012.

The prosecution had told Leeds Crown Court that Jeffrey Walton, aged 51 and from Ryhill, should have either slowed down or stopped altogether due to the conditions before his Ford Focus struck and killed 36-year-old Barnsley midwife Maria Micklethwaite, reports the Rotherham Advertiser.

Sophie Drake, speaking for the prosecution, stated that Mrs Micklethwaite was a keen cyclist and went on to describe the conditions at the time of the fatal collision.

“The weather was bright and dry but significantly the sun was sitting very low in the sky and was very bright, and because of its position restricted a driver’s view,” she said.

Walton had said in his defence that he had been shielding the sun with his arm for approximately three seconds prior to the impact, adding: “I looked up the road and I couldn’t see anything coming.”

 

Mrs Drake said because of the weather conditions Walton should have slowed down or stopped his vehicle.

She added: “The crown say it was due to the defendant’s careless driving that the collision occurred. In other words the defendant was driving without due care and attention, below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver.”

The jury began considering its verdict on Tuesday afternoon but was unable to reach a majority verdict and was discharged 24 hours later.

Prosecutors have seven days from yesterday to apply for a retrial.

Poor visibility due to sunlight was cited as a factor by defendants in two court cases reported upon here on road.cc last year.

In March 2012, 46-year-old Andrew Mylrea from Derby was banned from driving for 12 months and was ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work after being convicted of causing the death through careless driving of record breaking cyclist Pat Kenny.

Mylrea had said that he had been blinded by sunshine as he drove along the slip road of the A38 at Claymills near Burton-on-Trent in January 2011, striking and killing him.

Days earlier, Harrow Crown Court had sentenced 51-year-old Paul Luker to perform 100 hours’ unpaid work and banned him for driving for 12 months after he had been found guilty of causing the death by careless driving of Group Captain Tomas Barrett in March 2011.

The RAF officer died when he was hit by a van driven by Luker whilecycling home from work at RAF Northolt. The driver said that he had not seen the victim as a result of the low sun being in his eyes.

The sentences handed down in those cases received widespread condemnation from many who perceived them as unduly lenient, and were among the cases that led to British Cycling and others launching a campaign last year calling for a review of sentences in which cyclists are the victims.
 

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.

19 comments

Avatar
doc [167 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Quite a defence "I was blinded by sunlight but kept going anyway". Not being aware of what was ahead. Where does " being able to stop in the within the distance you can see to be clear" come in"?
Still, it seems to work, according to the other cases, so that's all right then!

Avatar
PhilRuss [352 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

[[[[ Yes, Doc, but the driver in this case will have to wait a whole year before having the chance to slaughter anyone else....
P.R.

Avatar
bikecellar [268 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Whenever I go out on the bike on a day on which the sun may cause vision problems, I will either have anti glare lenses on my cycling spec's and or a peaked hat under my helmet. Surely this defense should be unacceptable, motor vehicles are fitted with visors and having some sunglasses to hand whilst motoring is just normal sensible behavior. Blinded by the sun is an admission of guilt not a defense
.

Avatar
kylemalco [37 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Really sad and frustrating stories. How many lives could sunglasses have saved.
I'm not saying they are perfect but they would help.

I've drafted my comment such is my anger at this story we get "winter sun" every winter in the UK, it's not like it was a freak occurance

Avatar
kylemalco [37 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Really sad and frustrating stories. How many lives could sunglasses have saved.
I'm not saying they are perfect but they would help.

I've drafted my comment such is my anger at this story we get "winter sun" every winter in the UK, it's not like it was a freak occurance

Avatar
kie7077 [833 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

A big Thank You to the jurors the stuck to their guns and said that this was indeed careless driving  41

Avatar
ubercurmudgeon [169 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

Prosecutors have seven days from yesterday to apply for a retrial.

I'm not saying it won't happen, but I'm not going to hold my breath for a whole week. Although, if I did, I could presumably kill someone and use oxygen-starvation as an excuse.

Avatar
notfastenough [3661 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Funny how all this low sun doesn't make the cyclists themselves blind.

As noted above, it's not unusual either.

Avatar
Bez [587 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
notfastenough wrote:

Funny how all this low sun doesn't make the cyclists themselves blind. As noted above, it's not unusual either.

It's because the problem isn't just the sun itself, it's (often primarily) the condition of the windscreen.

(And re another comment, IME sunglasses actually make low sun and windscreen glare much harder to see through. YMMV, I guess.)

Avatar
CraigS [129 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I might just try driving full speed ahead with my eyes shut and use that as a defence for whatever damage I cause.

The cyclist should have been in his view for a lot longer than 3 seconds. She didn't just appear out of nowhere.

Avatar
Tour Le Tour [87 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
bikecellar wrote:

Whenever I go out on the bike on a day on which the sun may cause vision problems, I will either have anti glare lenses on my cycling spec's and or a peaked hat under my helmet. Surely this defense should be unacceptable, motor vehicles are fitted with visors and having some sunglasses to hand whilst motoring is just normal sensible behavior. Blinded by the sun is an admission of guilt not a defense
.

Sometimes even with sunglasses and a visor it can be impossible to see where you are going. And that is when a responsible adult pulls over. Your last sentence sums it up perfectly.

Avatar
JonD [389 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Bez wrote:

It's because the problem isn't just the sun itself, it's (often primarily) the condition of the windscreen.

And in particular, whether the inside of the windscreen's clean - if it's not that makes a *huge* difference.

Avatar
TheSpaniard [89 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
CraigS wrote:

The cyclist should have been in his view for a lot longer than 3 seconds. She didn't just appear out of nowhere.

Depends how fast he was going when he couldn't see, it doesn't sound like he slowed down at all.

Avatar
fatbeggaronabike [757 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Looking into my cynical crystal ball I can see the CPS dropping the charge of causing death by careless to a lesser charge (in order to secure a prosecution) and the Murderer walking away with a paltry fine and possibly not even getting a driving ban.  20

Avatar
stumps [3184 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Whilst i dont condone what the driver did there is a road in the town where i live and at certain times you can be driving in perfectly clear conditions and as you turn the corner you get hit by the sun.

Its not pleasant and 3 secs at 15 - 20 mph you cover quite a distance.

I dont know the road this driver was using or the speed limits or road conditions so i wont comment further.

Avatar
PhilRuss [352 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
TheSpaniard wrote:
CraigS wrote:

The cyclist should have been in his view for a lot longer than 3 seconds. She didn't just appear out of nowhere.

Depends how fast he was going when he couldn't see, it doesn't sound like he slowed down at all.

[[[[ Ah yes, theSpaniard, but cyclists DO often "appear out of nowhere", and so do cars/buses/lorries/motorbikes/skiptrucks etc....in fact anything smaller than a Pickfords Removal Pantechnicon can appear out of nowhere, as any policeman or magistrate or incompetant driver will tell you. Till you're blue in the face.
P.R.

Avatar
BBB [295 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Being blinded by the sun, sniffing uncontrollably, having momentary seizure etc etc. Quite a number of things going on in cars of people causing accidents.

Maybe it's time for compulsory cameras and black boxes in every single car...

Avatar
JonD [389 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
stumps wrote:

Whilst i dont condone what the driver did there is a road in the town where i live and at certain times you can be driving in perfectly clear conditions and as you turn the corner you get hit by the sun.

Its not pleasant and 3 secs at 15 - 20 mph you cover quite a distance.

I dont know the road this driver was using or the speed limits or road conditions so i wont comment further.

As I wrote - clean the back of yer effing windscreen ! - it makes all the difference.

Avatar
stumps [3184 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
JonD wrote:
stumps wrote:

Whilst i dont condone what the driver did there is a road in the town where i live and at certain times you can be driving in perfectly clear conditions and as you turn the corner you get hit by the sun.

Its not pleasant and 3 secs at 15 - 20 mph you cover quite a distance.

I dont know the road this driver was using or the speed limits or road conditions so i wont comment further.

As I wrote - clean the back of yer effing windscreen ! - it makes all the difference.

B0llocks does it. If the sun shines in your eyes then it shines in your eyes thats why people wear sunglasses or does a spotlessly clean windscreen automatically stop all bright sunlight.