Jury fails to reach decision in cyclist death case where driver blinded by sunlight
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.