Home
Family furious after learning case was abandoned four months ago

The inquest into the death of cyclist Paula Jurek yesterday ruled that she was crushed to death by a lorry with a faulty indicator at a busy junction.

Paula Jurek, a travel and tourism student at London Metropolitan University, was hit by a lorry driven by Barry Roe as he turned left  at the junction of St Pancras Way and Camden Road, London on April 5 2011.

Witnesses said they did not see the lorry indicate before turning, but CCTV footage was unclear.

The vehicle was later found to have a loose bulb in one of its indicators. Road traffic collision investigator Paul Deneyes told the inquest: “The bulb wasn’t fitted correctly.”

He told the inquest that the fault was intermittent and it could have been working when the driver checked it. He also said it was possible Paula Jurek had been in the vehicle’s blind spot when Barry Roe turned into her.

Barry Roe told the inquest: “I did not see [Paula] prior to the collision. I checked my mirrors. I indicated. I did not know about the defect with the indicator. I checked it that morning.”

Recording a verdict of death by road traffic collision, Deputy Coroner Selena Lynch said: “I have come to no conclusion about whether or not the indicators were activated by the driver.”

She said: “I am sorry for the family’s loss and that it has taken so long to come to this conclusion.”

CPS dropped case in February

It emerged at the inquest that Barry Roe had been charged with causing death by careless driving, but the Crown Prosecution Service had dropped the case in February.

Days before the trial was due to start the case was discontinued because the CPS offered no evidence, and new witness testimony emerged about Paula Jurek’s position on the road.

Her mother Iwona, father Zbigniew and sister Magda travelled from Poland to be at the inquest. They said they only found out there that the case had been dropped.

Iwona Jurek said: “We’re shocked and angry. There has been no communication. We have been waiting for two years. We want to take this further. Justice would make the matter easier to take.”

The CPS said: “Due to new evidence coming to light very shortly before the trial we had to make the decision extremely promptly. We wrote letters to the parents and sister explaining our reasons. These were sent to police to send to the family on 23 February.”

The Metropolitan Police said: “We have continued to liaise with the family to keep them updated with the status of our inquiries. We apologise for any distress the drawn-out nature of this investigation may have caused.”

Delays

The inquest into Paula Jarek's death was originally scheduled for November 10 2011 but was delayed while authorities decided whether or not to charge Barry Roe.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

18 comments

Avatar
rJD [12 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Very sad for the family but this seems to be one of the very few cases where the CPS may be justified in dropping the prosecution. We'll never know for certain whether the driver's assertions about earlier checking the light and his mirrors at the time are true but there are enough "reasonable doubts" to make a conviction unsafe and unlikely.

If only the CPS' previous record made me confident the decision was taken for good reasons...

Avatar
arfa [852 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

This is just astonishing. If a person dies at your hands, the only complete defense is that it was self defense. However if you are driving a vehicle, there is no case to answer. Where is the deterrence for poor driving ?

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
arfa wrote:

This is just astonishing. If a person dies at your hands, the only complete defense is that it was self defense. However if you are driving a vehicle, there is no case to answer. Where is the deterrence for poor driving ?

Or poor cycling? The assumption always seems to be that the cyclist is not culpable on this site. I see cyclists doing stupid things like this everyday (cutting up on lorries, buses etc. at lights) without thinking about the coincidences.
The problem is ultimately education. I do scuba diving and you don't just pick up a pair of air canisters and dive into the ocean, but yet from an insurance point of view cycling and diving are in a similar bracket because both are dangerous without some understanding of the risks. Go figure! And yet you can launch yourself into confrontation with 5 tonne trucks without so much as a by-your-leave.....I wasn't there, but in my mind I can see this happening everyday of the week and it wouldn't necessarily be the drivers fault.

Very sorry for her family - sorry that justice cannot give them the closure they need.

Avatar
Kestevan [79 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I can see the justification for dropping this case, as said above, we'll never know the truth, but there's enough doubt about exactly who was at fault - we've all seen enough dangerous drivers, and idiots on bikes putting themselves at risk.

The problem with perception however is that the CPS default attitude (and sentencing) so often leans towards leniency/benefit of the doubt to the driver that cyclists now automatically assume any decision is flawed.

Until we get a re-balancing in the prosecution/sentencing of drivers to protect the more vulnerable this will continue to be the case.

Avatar
A V Lowe [614 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

This is a case where the delivery of an independent report on the crash to the standards established for rail, air and maritime crash investigation is needed.

From the information to hand it is difficult to draw any clear sequence of events, and even to determine any potential liability of those responsible for maintaining the truck in failing to fit a direction indicator bulb correctly, such that witness statements suggest that it failed to work, and may have been a factor leading to the fatal outcome. There is also a reference to the victim's road position which is unexplained, but would appear to be a factor in the sequence of events.

Do reports of such incidents get fed back to VOSA and the Traffic Commissioners? In air, rail and maritime transport a detail such as the incorrect fitting of bulbs which potentially lead to a fatal choice of action or non reaction when the indication from that bulb is absent would generate an alert to check that this condition does not exist for other indicator bulbs. So has there been any alert?

Avatar
John Stevenson [299 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

If you take on the responsibility of piloting a lethal weapon through the streets, then, yes, it IS your fault if you kill someone. No ifs, no buts, no special pleading.

If your vehicle has 'blind spots' then the inadequacy of its design is your responsibility. Don't like it, don't drive it.

And don't give me some crap about people just doing their jobs. 'Just following orders' wasn't a defence at Nuremburg, and isn't here.

Drivers of death-vehicles should be right at the forefront of demands for dedicated cycle infrastructure. In a sane world, victim-blaming nonsense like "I see cyclists doing stupid things like this everyday" would be moot, because it would not happen.

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Kestevan wrote:

I can see the justification for dropping this case, as said above, we'll never know the truth, but there's enough doubt about exactly who was at fault - we've all seen enough dangerous drivers, and idiots on bikes putting themselves at risk.

The problem with perception however is that the CPS default attitude (and sentencing) so often leans towards leniency/benefit of the doubt to the driver that cyclists now automatically assume any decision is flawed.

Until we get a re-balancing in the prosecution/sentencing of drivers to protect the more vulnerable this will continue to be the case.

The problem here is that part of the argument that can be made is that drivers receive training and have to pass a test (or tests as in the case of HGV drivers - some of whom are very skilled). Most drivers will go around without having an accident and many without incurring the black mark of points on their license.
Cyclists on the other hand have no training and from what one observes in London, many would soon be banned if they required a license. Irrespective of that, I'm not blaming cyclists for being hit - just pointing out that part of the perception is of the 'qualification' as a road user. I do think that road education should be what we as a community press for (both for cyclists and for drivers). Awareness on both sides improves our position - people would therefore be more qualified in they're stance to talk about road positioning or the likelihood that they would move into a poor position, and that they would not find themselves in a blind spot in any case.
But as it is every hoon who jumps a red light, undertakes a bus, sits in a blind spot, cuts across traffic and rides on the pavement build a picture of a population that are a law unto themselves.
As to the comment that cyclists are always the victims ignores the responsibility that cyclists have as road users to themselves and to others. Cycling does not exist in a bubble and cyclists can be victim of their own stupidity - excusing them of responsibility for their actions does not help move cycling forward (from a legal perspective or any other perspective). And having a victim mentality is hardly a grown up way of viewing the world.

Avatar
kie7077 [923 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

This shows that better cyclist education is needed, you can't rely on a vehicles indicators, at a junction, you do not cycle at the left of HGVs. This message clearly hasn't gotten through to the mass population and more cyclists are going to die until it does.

Fault lies with gov't for not getting the message out clearly.

And with cycling proficiency organisations because they should sit you down and make you watch a video that makes you want to cry because that is the way to get you to remember that those 20 ton vehicles can't see you and will crush you to death.

Avatar
IHphoto [119 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

It's a very unfortunate case and it does seem on the face of it that the CPS were justified in dropping it. I'd still like to know who ultimately is responsible for the upkeep of such a vehicle though and knowing what drivers put on statements to police I find it hard to buy the line the driver checked the indicators that morning.

As for the cyclist's road position: far too many people make unwarranted assumptions on the road IMO.

Case in point: I was passed by a car only yesterday - both of us were doing well over 20mph. The car driver then shaped up and indicated to pull into a side road, but, however perhaps realising they shouldn't have bothered overtaking me in the first place, waited as if to let me pass on the inside. I braked and gesticulated that they should go. There's no way I would have passed that way.

Seen on a truck some time back:

http://www.mobypicture.com/user/IHphoto/view/11249621

Avatar
arfa [852 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Colin Peyresourde wrote:
arfa wrote:

This is just astonishing. If a person dies at your hands, the only complete defense is that it was self defense. However if you are driving a vehicle, there is no case to answer. Where is the deterrence for poor driving ?

Or poor cycling? The assumption always seems to be that the cyclist is not culpable on this site. I see cyclists doing stupid things like this everyday (cutting up on lorries, buses etc. at lights) without thinking about the coincidences.
The problem is ultimately education. I do scuba diving and you don't just pick up a pair of air canisters and dive into the ocean, but yet from an insurance point of view cycling and diving are in a similar bracket because both are dangerous without some understanding of the risks. Go figure! And yet you can launch yourself into confrontation with 5 tonne trucks without so much as a by-your-leave.....I wasn't there, but in my mind I can see this happening everyday of the week and it wouldn't necessarily be the drivers fault.

Very sorry for her family - sorry that justice cannot give them the closure they need.

If it was poor cycling then the CPS should have established it, that's the point in a justice system.

I cycle alot in London London and there is plenty of poor cycling but there is also some pretty appalling driving. I have nearly been taken out by badly driven HGV' s where they've forced themselves through too narrow a gap and quite frankly the drivers have shown complete disregard for anything other than their schedule. Until there is some form of deterrence there will be no change and the raft of recent court decisions is not helping

Avatar
stealth [254 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Isn't there a tell-tale on the dashboard when an indicator bulb has failed/not working?? Either a rapid flash on an older vehicle or a message on the dash-panel on a modern, computerised one. Much like the "I couldn't see you in my blind spot, terrible excuse with the array of mirrors on the kerb-side. Poor excuse for poor driving practice.

Avatar
pdw [64 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

It does seem that the CPS may have been justified in dropping this case. What is unjustifiable is how it is legal and normal to operate vehicles with such large blind spots on busy city streets. Given the low cost of CCTV these days, blind spots must surely be a solvable problem, even on articulated lorries.

Avatar
vbvb [620 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Blind spots? Couldn't-be-arsed-spending-£300-on-cameras spots, more like. Imagine how quick they'd fix this if the people getting killed were lorry drivers not cyclists. Really incredible these "blind spots" are legal.

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde [1819 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
arfa wrote:

If it was poor cycling then the CPS should have established it, that's the point in a justice system.

I cycle alot in London London and there is plenty of poor cycling but there is also some pretty appalling driving. I have nearly been taken out by badly driven HGV' s where they've forced themselves through too narrow a gap and quite frankly the drivers have shown complete disregard for anything other than their schedule. Until there is some form of deterrence there will be no change and the raft of recent court decisions is not helping

I think the point in this case is that they couldn't be sure that it wasn't poor cycling. You're right about poor driving too. I come across a heap of that, but it sounds like you, like me, are aware of the potential for it. This is where education and experience come in. You spot the tight gaps and notice the HGV and you decide discretion is the part of valour and avoid seeing who gets squeezed out first. I eyeball every HGV driver at a junction (actually cars too), and every car trying to join the main road. The point being that if I can anticipate the action I can take a reaction. A lot of cyclists in London are very blithe about that (and some of that can be seen in the way people drive their cars too). My friend once posted a video on Facebook because he was indignant at the driving of a bus. When a bunch of us friends pointed out that he had no right to expect the bus to cede the space he learned a valuable lesson. When I rode down my road the other day and some Nigerian driver pulled out into the flow of traffic from the right and slowed my progress I had anticipated the shitty manoeuvre. I made it clear to him that he was wrong. I don't he liked that, but at least he knew I was there and displeased. The point is that just as good drivers drive defensively, so do good cyclists. And that's about understanding the risks around you, not undertaking buses and HGVs, not always making the mad dash to the cyclists box (I think these actively encourage people to move through traffic when they are safer to wait - if you are caught in a tight spot when the lights change you are in trouble), checking to see if motorists and pedestrians have clocked you.....

Avatar
cidermart [500 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
stealth wrote:

Isn't there a tell-tale on the dashboard when an indicator bulb has failed/not working?? Either a rapid flash on an older vehicle or a message on the dash-panel on a modern, computerised one.

In short yes but judging by the amount of vehicles you see regularly with fast flashing indicators it is ignored. I pointed it out to one once at traffic lights and was promptly told to 'f**k off and mind my own business'.

Avatar
racingcondor [236 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I sort of agree with the CPS if (and it's a great big if) the intermittent fault is true and it genuinely is a responsible driver etc involved.

However... That would suggest that the company should be sued for some form of corporate manslaughter because their vehicle wasn't fit for purpose and caused a fatal incident as a direct result.

Avatar
arfa [852 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

If a vehicle can not see some of the most vulnerable categories of road users it shouldn't be on the road, there are no excuses in this day and age with technology costing less than a tank of diesel . The French have reduced lorry fatalities to zero in Paris because they have taken a strong line. Why any of us might think it acceptable that a young woman is dead (even if she made a mistake) is beyond me. If HGV drivers can argue I wasn't able to see him/her then plenty more will die needlessly.

Avatar
A V Lowe [614 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Kestevan wrote:

I can see the justification for dropping this case, as said above, we'll never know the truth, but there's enough doubt about exactly who was at fault - we've all seen enough dangerous drivers, and idiots on bikes putting themselves at risk.

The problem with perception however is that the CPS default attitude (and sentencing) so often leans towards leniency/benefit of the doubt to the driver that cyclists now automatically assume any decision is flawed.

Until we get a re-balancing in the prosecution/sentencing of drivers to protect the more vulnerable this will continue to be the case.

There is one way that we might get a proper level of confidence in the decisions taken by CPS and Coroners, and that is to get impartial and professional reports on dangerous road incidents to the same standards as those produced for air, rail and maritime incidents. These reports would take no stance on liability or guilt of any party involved, but simply identify "causal factors" which lead to the incident, along with the prevailing conditions which would have affected the outcome of actions taken.

At the end of such report there is usually a list of specific actions which need to be taken and recommendations to eliminate conditions which can increase the potential for similar events.

In this instance the route from Camden down to St Pancras was a key way to bring in the vehicles for construction work at the Francis Crick and King's Cross Central sites.
At one stage around 150 truck trips per day were running to clear the spoil excavated from the Francis Crick site plus other deliveries and traffic for Kings Cross Central. St Pancras Way and York Way would be 2 main routes for thos concentration of HGV traffic, being especially focussed on the substantial construction activity. To mitigate the enhanced risk options might have included moving the bulk materials by rail (1 train = 50-75 trucks off the road) of on the canal (1 barge = 4 trucks) This would also reduce carbon footprint and road damage at the same time. If the loads cannot go by rail, the the key road route needs to be identified and planned for safe operation.