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Driver missed stop sign as he checked device; British Cycling welcomes news of sentencing review

A driver who admitted causing the death of a cyclist through careless driving while distracted by his sat-nav device has escaped jail, and will instead serve a community sentence – one that was handed down the same day the government confirmed it has ordered a review of sentencing in traffic cases where a cyclist or pedestrian is the victim.

Steve Conlan, aged 51, missed a stop sign near Consett, County Durham on a day trip with his wife and children on Easter Monday because he was looking at his sat-nav screen, which did not show the junction he was approaching, reports Express.co.uk.

His Saab struck 55-year-old cyclist Grahame McGregor of Pelton, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, who would die in hospital from his injuries five days later.

At Peterlee Magistrates’ Court, the motorist received a 12-month community penalty which will see him have to perform 240 hours of unpaid work, and was banned from driving for two years.

District Judge Roger Elsey said: “I don’t believe the accident would have occurred if the satnav had been switched off.”

Causing death by careless driving carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, while the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving can result in a maximum jail term of 14 years.

The case is the latest in a long line in which drivers convicted of killing cyclists have received what many perceive as too lenient a sentence, with epresentatives of British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace last year meeting with justice minister Helen Grant to call for thorough investigation and tougher sentencing in cases where a vulnerable road user is the victim.

They also urged that improvements be made to the support provided to the families they leave behind. Also at that meeting was the brother of British Cycling employee, Rob Jefferies, killed on a training ride in Dorset in 2011 by a 17-year-old driver who had passed his test six months earlier and who already had a speeding conviction. He received a non-custodial sentence.

In one of the few potentially positive pieces of news for cycling to emerge from yesterday’s response from the government to the Get Britain Cycling report published by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, it was confirmed that a review of sentencing in cases involving cyclists and pedestrians will be initiated in the new year.

The review of current sentencing guidelines, which will be accompanied by a consultation, will be carried out by the Sentencing Council, which is an independent non- departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice, and will cover the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving. Proposals will be subject to a formal consultation.

Reacting to the news, Martin Gibbs, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at British Cycling, said: "We need everybody to feel properly protected by the criminal justice system when travelling on the road.

“The lenient sentence handed out to the driver responsible for the death of our colleague Rob Jeffries was a glaring example of the failure of the system.

"We’ve been asking the government for months for a review of sentencing guidelines so I’m glad to see that confirmed, though it should form part of a comprehensive review of the criminal justice process, which all too often fails people on bikes by not prosecuting or by returning sentences which don’t reflect the seriousness of the crime.

"We have been meeting with Ministry of Justice and the Department for Transport to push for improvements but progress has been slow.

“This announcement means that positive steps are being taken and is a victory for British Cycling and its members.”

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.

37 comments

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mrchrispy [453 posts] 2 years ago
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f**k off.

so say there is a bloke on my street that for some crazy reason I feel has wronged me, I note that he cycles to work every tuesday. I decide its time to get even and set off along his route, all I do it just drive into him, oops! he's dead and his kids grow up without a dad. I get a slap on the wrists hey.....accidents happen!

Give it a year, maybe 2 and I get my god given right to drive a massive metal fecking box about with near total impunity!!!!!

All I really want to do is ride to work without having to fight for space every fecking day!

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bazzargh [152 posts] 2 years ago
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This must be a first; a defense that he drove badly because he *wasn't* distracted (by the GPS announcing a junction)? And the judge buys this?

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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I notice more and more new car adverts making a big thing about how many bright and shiny things you can now get on your dashboard to distract you.
Its almost as though they are encouraging you to look at a big touch screen instead of the road.
But who cares if there is a cyclist or small child in the road when you could instead be checking your twitter account from the comfort of your dashboard?

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sean1 [175 posts] 2 years ago
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Compare that with this lorry driver who killed two people in a car when texting.....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-23876320

He got a five year jail term.

Is it me or is sentencing when cyclists are involved always watered down?

Not looking where you are going when driving, is dangerous, not careless....

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zanf [837 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely this can be referred to the AG for reconsideration because its too lenient?

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mrchrispy [453 posts] 2 years ago
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ah but the couple in the squashed Audi obviously had a right to be there as they paid road tax, the evil lorry driver stole their future due to his texting.

the poor chap using his sat nav clearly isnt at fault as he was distracted and how was he to know a cyclist was going to just appear in front of him!

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SteppenHerring [328 posts] 2 years ago
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It's an interesting defence: "I didn't see him because I was fiddling with my Satnav". AFAIK, fiddling with stuff when driving is illegal anyway. How about a defence of "I ran over the mother and baby because I was drunk".

Surely it should be an aggravating circumstance, not mitigating.

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A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
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We got nearly 7000 petitions to Scottish legal administration to appeal the sentencing of Gary McCourt, as being too lenient (and reports from those in the Court, of his demeanour at his first Court appearance suggest he expected such a light sentence).

Should individuals mobilise and petition on all such ridiculous bias in handling cyclists and pedestrians hit by motor vehicle drivers.

Example given to me on Sunday ride - bus hits cyclist through failing to stop at roundabout entry and coming through on nearside of car in outer lane which had stopped for cyclist ... and the Police car following. Police car had to brake hard to avoid hitting bus!

In claiming for crash the victim noted that had he been driving in his car the whole issue would have been settled far faster. Bike under bus but through appropriate positioning on impact/luck, cyclist sent flying several metres clear to land on roundabout.

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BBB [409 posts] 2 years ago
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Meanwhile a guy who killed a couple IN A CAR while texting, gets 5 years...
http://www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk/Lorry-driver-jailed-killed-couple-M62/sto...

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Osprey [19 posts] 2 years ago
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With my bike computer, I got a note saying it was illegal to look at while cycling. Obviously the whole purpose of it is to look down at, but if I'm unaware of my surroundings its my own fault and I'm in the wrong. Surely the same applies to satnavs?

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mrmo [2076 posts] 2 years ago
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FFS!

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ir_bandito [58 posts] 2 years ago
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That is truly shocking.

Even more so when you look at the junction:

http://goo.gl/maps/idgDd

There's a 50 yard warning for the stop sign, the sign itself, and the STOP painted on the road.

He deserves to be banned from driving for life, and jailed for the max term for causing death through dangerous driving. The judge was nearly right “I don’t believe the accident would have occurred if the satnav had been switched off.”, it wouldn't have occured if he hadn't been looking at it either. If you can't concentrate on your environment when in charge of a 1-tonne metal box moving at 30mph, then you can't be trusted to be in society.

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mrchrispy [453 posts] 2 years ago
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what worries me is I can do sod all about these idiots.
Left hooks, right hooks, muppets pulling out....hell I can ride defensively and pretty much avoid this flavour of idiot but the ones that just drive into the back of you!
this is what scares me most

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dave2041 [22 posts] 2 years ago
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What i don't understand is that someone lost their life here as a DIRECT result of another person. Accidents happen, sure, but someone still lost their life!

It just confuses me something aweful to think you can end someones life and face little-to-no consequence. 240 hours of unpaid work and two years of not driving a vehicle... So this person can have the pleasure of riding a bike now whilst someone else who was doing just that is no more  7 102

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mpdouglas [24 posts] 2 years ago
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Wait until Google glasses catch on and every muppet is driving around watching movies, reading email or living out some fantasy in an augmented reality world.

It's also about time that it became illegal for TV programme makers to have car drivers talking to camera while they drive on the public highway. Whilst Top Gear may be doing it on closed roads, I doubt very much that all the others are. Even John craven does it for Countryfile! Even if camera cars etc make it safe(ish) for them, it just says to the public that it's fine to do anything you like while you're driving.

Every time I watch a show with this going on I think - "What if I'm coming the other way on this country lane on my bicycle" and then I have one of those "someone walking over your grave" shivers!

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clayfit [81 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm going to disagree with y'all on the jail term and probably risk y'all's ire. He should be banned for a really long time, or life, and have to pay serious compensation to the victim's family. But probably not gaoled.

Keeping him out of jail means he can remain a productive member of society. Even a short gaol term will likely result in him losing his job and probably long-term unemployment. What did his family do to deserve punishment in that way? Why destroy another family to satisfy a lust for revenge? It won't bring the victim back.

Ban him from driving forever and make him hurt by paying money- unless he shows no remorse, in which case gaol will allow time for reflection and re-education.

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Simmo72 [603 posts] 2 years ago
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Education, its the only way
Sick of seeing idiots on mobiles whilst driving, sat navs are possibly even worse.

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gazza_d [460 posts] 2 years ago
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I would like to see a minimum of jail time for cases like these and the M2 truck driver.

At least as a minimum though the sentence should be:

A lifetime driving ban.
Large fine
At least 5 years worth of 14 hours minimum unpaid work per week
A long suspended sentence to drop ithe twat in jail for several years if he even so much as farts without permission.

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Cantab [93 posts] 2 years ago
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 41 I'm with you clayfit, if this man has any shred of human decency he's already torturing himself enough. Jail should be an option, for the outright dangerous, the ones who do things deliberately, but for the ones who do stupid things or make stupid mistakes, how does it make anything better? It's certainly not going to bring the victim back, and the severity of sentence is not the deterrent, it's the chance of getting caught.

Big community service tariffs, long term driving bans (ideally lifetime), compensation to make sure the bereaved are provided for, and suspended sentences. That way it's not so much a punishment, as much making amends and preventing repeats. And all the money we save on imprisoning yet more people could be spent on improved infrastructure and traffic law enforcement (haha with the current lot in charge).

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swelbo [33 posts] 2 years ago
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Wonder if this guy will ride a bike to get about for the next two years..

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mrmo [2076 posts] 2 years ago
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@Clayfit, whilst part of me wants to see real punishment and long gaol terms. I tend to agree, what we need is a real system of driving bans. starting with 12 points is a ban with no appeal. More serious actions are life bans again with no appeal*. We also need the CPS to actually push for the highest charge possible. Although i suppose if we swap it so that any dangerous driving offence carries a life ban, and the difference is whether you go to gaol or not, that would be progress.

*Just to clarify, no appeal means you can appeal the judgement, but if convicted you are banned and have no way of getting the ban overturned.

Driving is a priviledge and this must not be forgotten, the whole premise of the motoring legal system must be amended to reflect that single fact.

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Noelieboy [87 posts] 2 years ago
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ir_bandito wrote:

That is truly shocking.

Even more so when you look at the junction:

http://goo.gl/maps/idgDd

There's a 50 yard warning for the stop sign, the sign itself, and the STOP painted on the road.

He deserves to be banned from driving for life, and jailed for the max term for causing death through dangerous driving. The judge was nearly right “I don’t believe the accident would have occurred if the satnav had been switched off.”, it wouldn't have occured if he hadn't been looking at it either. If you can't concentrate on your environment when in charge of a 1-tonne metal box moving at 30mph, then you can't be trusted to be in society.

Well spotted, I totally concur with this. If you don't know what the road signs mean, what are you doing on the road?

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Noelieboy [87 posts] 2 years ago
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Cantab wrote:

 41 I'm with you clayfit, if this man has any shred of human decency he's already torturing himself enough. Jail should be an option, for the outright dangerous, the ones who do things deliberately, but for the ones who do stupid things or make stupid mistakes, how does it make anything better? It's certainly not going to bring the victim back, and the severity of sentence is not the deterrent, it's the chance of getting caught.

Big community service tariffs, long term driving bans (ideally lifetime), compensation to make sure the bereaved are provided for, and suspended sentences. That way it's not so much a punishment, as much making amends and preventing repeats. And all the money we save on imprisoning yet more people could be spent on improved infrastructure and traffic law enforcement (haha with the current lot in charge).

I agree with the harsher penalties but how do you know if it's done deliberately now? A lot of cases you hear about, the lawbreaker only has to agree to apologise to the victim or their family & a leaner sentence is given. I think people learning to drive should have to pass a cycle proficiency first & then progress onto driving & then drivers should be tested every 10 years, thus creating more jobs for people to become driving instructors & examiners. helping the economy as well  39

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AWPeleton [3323 posts] 2 years ago
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Mind you the comment "District Judge Roger Elsey said: “I don’t believe the accident would have occurred if the satnav had been switched off.”"

No sh*t sherlock. Lets all buy satnavs and keep them switched off.  102

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kie7077 [877 posts] 2 years ago
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'make amends' You can never make up for killing someone, but they should damn well pay for the funeral at the very least, Govt and judges just aren't thinking clearly abou this.

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rickallison [8 posts] 2 years ago
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Government full of shit
Its all to get a few votes

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gazer117 [26 posts] 2 years ago
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So what is the difference between this and involuntary man slaughter apart ? All he has shown is that he is unsafe to drive if he can't focus on the road, ignores a stop sign and ignores the markings on the road !

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SteppenHerring [328 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't understand the need for all these different laws. If I kill someone by recklessly throwing a fire extinguisher off a roof, owning an ill-trained powerful dog, firing my (licenced) firearm without checking whether there are people in the way or driving without paying attention then why isn't it all the same crime?

Why do we have the complication of difference offences: manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving, something about dangerous dogs etc. The offence is: you did something obviously stupid and killed someone (call it manslaughter for brevity).

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TeamCC [146 posts] 2 years ago
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Amazing you can kill a person with a car and be spared jail. Even by accident, the responsibility for this driver must not be waived due to this satnav issue.

I'm off to rob a bank with a satnav, say I was distracted if caught.

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mrchrispy [453 posts] 2 years ago
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I think we all call for such harsh punichment because its always so bloody lax, I want to see someone go down for at least 5 years, geta life driving ban and pay massive compensation to the family. It needs to be in the news and people need to think "feck me thats harsh....I better watch how I drive"

maybe only then will we be a little safer.

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