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240 hours and a 12-month ban for killing father of two

Paul Brown, the driver who was eating a sandwich at the time he hit and killed cyclist Joe Wilkins, has been sentenced to 240 hours community service for causing death by careless driving.

He is also required to perform four sessions of restorative justice within 12 months and was also disqualified for driving for 12 months.

Wilkins’ partner, Nicci Saunders, told the Oxford Mail: “The fact the judge put this case in the lower level of careless driving is just a joke really. For what he has done, and generally for people who do that, there needs to be a prison sentence. A year ban is just no punishment.”

Miss Saunders said that drivers found guilty of causing death by careless driving should be banned for at least five years.

“At the end of the day he can carry on with his life almost as normal. It is for life for us,” she said, adding that their two children wake up crying and can’t remember what their dad looked like.

“These girls will never have their dad around – their lives and mine will never be the same. How do you keep the memory alive when they are that young and are forgetting already?

“It is hard work dealing with all this. I do not have many happy days but I try to be happy for the kids. Today I feel numb and just really let down.”

Careless driving

Mr Brown admitted causing death by careless driving, but was acquitted by a jury of causing death by dangerous driving.

In passing sentence at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday, Recorder Andrew Burrows said that although Mr Brown had been holding a sandwich at the time of the crash, his eyes had been on the road.

Recorder Burrows said: “In my view this falls significantly below that of dangerous driving.

“You simply did not see Joseph Wilkins in the darkness until it was too late, albeit you ought to have seen him before you did and then taken the simple evasive action necessary to avoid him.

“You broke down sobbing in the witness box in the trial and express deep remorse for what you have done and deep sympathy for Joseph Wilkins’s family.”

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.

Sentencing review

Causing death by careless driving carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment. 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.

Representatives of British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace last year met 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 left 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 its largely disappointing response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report, the Government said it will initiate a review of sentencing in cases involving cyclists and pedestrians in the new year.

The review of sentencing guidelines, which will be accompanied by a consultation, will be carried out by the Sentencing Council, an independent non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice. It 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 announcement of the sentencing review, 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.

"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.”

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.

37 comments

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cidermart [502 posts] 4 years ago
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Crikey they really can’t like him if they sentenced him to that much he must have really annoyed the judge. FFS when will this bollocks end? Maybe a judge or ministers child or family member will be the only way for change.  14

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PJ McNally [592 posts] 4 years ago
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how is this not dangerous driving? A man is dead!

Could that sandwich not have waited til he got to his destination?

I had a sandwich recently, on a long drive to North Wales. I had it in a service station, because i'm not an idiot.

The scary thing is, I ride Eaton Road quite often, and think of it as a nice safe country road, which I enjoy riding. Yet someone being "careless" could kill me, because "mmm sandwich" is more important to them.

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sfichele [140 posts] 4 years ago
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Eating a sandwich: How does that impair eyesight and impair ones ability to use a brake pedal?

Is the sandwich really that relevant? When one considers by his own account his "eyes were on the road", and the investigation states the cyclist was visible for at least 174m in front of him?

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cat1commuter [1422 posts] 4 years ago
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Oh well, the driver was really sorry, so that's alright.

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Karbon Kev [693 posts] 4 years ago
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ridiculous sentence yet again, the carnage goes on. I read another report which said the cyclist didn't have any lights on his bike in the dark. Is that true?

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jollygoodvelo [1682 posts] 4 years ago
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Dangerous driving implies a recklessness and an inevitability of an accident, careless merely suggests that his driving was not up to standard (you're not f#cking kidding). In this instance 'careless' is correct IMO - but it's the sentence for the 'death by' part that is insulting.

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Nzlucas [128 posts] 4 years ago
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Eating a sandwich means you have to concentrate on 2 things at once, takes your hand away from being able to control the car and limits your reaction time when something does occur.

If not concentrating 100% while controlling a 2 tonne lump moving at at 100kmph things can go badly wrong quickly as this cyclist found out by paying his life.

Any other than concentrating on the road is dangerous because the consciences are lethal. So so sad the law doesn't agree....

also
"Forensic collision investigator PC James Henderson told the court visibility was “good” and tests showed the bike would have been first seen from 174 metres, giving 6.5 seconds reaction time."
174m sounds like a lot but 6.5sec is not that long...

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rich22222 [166 posts] 4 years ago
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At risk of being beaten to death by cyclists...
Yes the driver admitted to eating a sandwich while driving and not fully concentrating but it was after dark and the bike had no lights on it.
If I ever get caught out without lights I ride back slowly on the pavement/very carefully on the road when no vehicles are around.
This may sound like victim blaming to some, but using the road in the dark with no lights is surely in 99% of people's no no book.

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sfichele [140 posts] 4 years ago
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"Forensic collision investigator PC James Henderson told the court visibility was “good” and tests showed the bike would have been first seen from 174 metres, giving 6.5 seconds reaction time."
174m sounds like a lot but 6.5sec is not that long..."

Actually that's only valid if the cyclist was travelling at zero speed.

Cyclist 0 mph : 6.5 sec
Cyclist 12 mph : 8.1 sec
Cyclist 18 mph : 9.3 sec

6.5+ seconds is a loooooong time....

8 seconds not enough time to react? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8pX52v_yNA

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Ridgebackrambler [16 posts] 4 years ago
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My driving instructor taught me that even a slow speed like 30mph is 44 feet per second so even 2 seconds inattention at 30mph means you travel 88 feet before reactions, brakes etc kick in. To take your eyes off the road to eat a sandwich is unforgiveable and this sentence is far too light. Rather than community service, the motorist should be given cumpulsory cycle training so that he realises how vulnerable cyclists can be.

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Nzlucas [128 posts] 4 years ago
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rich22222 wrote:

At risk of being beaten to death by cyclists...
Yes the driver admitted to eating a sandwich while driving and not fully concentrating but it was after dark and the bike had no lights on it.
If I ever get caught out without lights I ride back slowly on the pavement/very carefully on the road when no vehicles are around.
This may sound like victim blaming but using the road in the dark with no lights is surely in 99% of people's no no book.

It was bang on sunset so by no means 'dark'. Yes he had no reflectors but it was inconclusive whether the lights were on because of crash damage(or not?) or maybe it was still enough light he had decided not to put them on yet. If the driver had not put his lights on yet then reflectors were not going to be a big help and it is the drivers word vs a dead mans whether his lights were on.

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benb [81 posts] 4 years ago
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How do you know he didn't have lights on?
That wasn't the view of the police investigator, who said

"the bike’s light had probably been on at the time of the crash but was faulty because it had been damaged. He could not be sure if the damage was caused before or after the crash"

So we only have the word of the person who killed him that he didn't have lights. Even if true, he should have spotted him in time to take evasive action.

But nice victim-blaming there, well done.

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farrell [1946 posts] 4 years ago
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rich22222 wrote:

At risk of being beaten to death by cyclists...
Yes the driver admitted to eating a sandwich while driving and not fully concentrating but it was after dark and the bike had no lights on it.
If I ever get caught out without lights I ride back slowly on the pavement/very carefully on the road when no vehicles are around.
This may sound like victim blaming to some, but using the road in the dark with no lights is surely in 99% of people's no no book.

I've yet to come across a kerb that was lit up, yet most motorists manage to keep their cars on the road. Very very few pedestrians wear lights, drivers don't just drive in to them (usually).

If there was something in the middle of the road like a bollard or similar and you just drove straight into it there is no way you could excuse it away by saying "but it didn't have lights on" but for some bizarre reason people seem to think that as soon as you throw your leg over a bike you suddenly become invisible.

It's a brilliantly flawed logic that is spouted by some "I see cyclists all the time riding with no lights on".

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sfichele [140 posts] 4 years ago
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^What rich22222 just said. So many drivers are able to see the road with a badly defined verge and keep the car on the road, but cant see a cyclist.  39

I've driven on country lanes many times in these conditions and *seen* pedestrians walking on the road, no lights, and in dark clothing....

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Saratoga [43 posts] 4 years ago
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It wasn't mentioned in the road.cc article, but I believe the crash occurred at 9:15pm on 24th May. Sunset on that day in Oxford was 9:05pm. Under ideal weather conditions, it wouldn't have been completely dark and a cyclist would have been visible even without lights.

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rich22222 [166 posts] 4 years ago
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It was ~20 mins after dusk, I seem to remember from earlier investigation.
Yep, driver should have been paying more attention but how can a court be expected to give a verdict more in favour of the cyclist than they did?

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rich22222 [166 posts] 4 years ago
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Yep Stan, but unlit ped's on country lanes look out for their own safety, by walking contra to traffic and moving out of the way when it comes.
I'm not saying it was the cyclists fault but how can a court be expected to give a harsher sentence in this case...
Use lights ffs.

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sfichele [140 posts] 4 years ago
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rich22222 wrote:

Yep Stan, but unlit ped's on country lanes look out for their own safety, by walking contra to traffic and moving out of the way when it comes.
I'm not saying it was the cyclists fault but how can a court be expected to give a harsher sentence in this case...
Use lights ffs.

Sensible drivers know that people walk on country lanes and make allowances for it with how they drive

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mrchrispy [495 posts] 4 years ago
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prision clearly wouldnt have changed anything and the driver was obviously remorseful but a message needs to be sent, drivers have to go to prison for killing a vunerable road user with a car. its the only way we'll see attitudes change.

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Mostyn [400 posts] 4 years ago
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Well, I'm disgusted at the level of justice in the UK. You get more of a sentence for not paying a parking fine.

The justice who-ever he was; should be sentenced to a term of imprisonment himself for being too lenient.

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rich22222 [166 posts] 4 years ago
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Agreed but for the idiot drivers, we know exist.
"Be Visible" (I don't mean colouring yourself up with a fluorescent marker) is the safety strategy I adopt and I'm still alive.

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flobble [127 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm not normally one to comment on the sentencing debate, but I'm getting a little hacked off with the lynch mob mentality. [Ascends soap box...]

I ride a bike every day, in London traffic, to and from work. I ride in the countryside most weekends, in good weather and in bad weather. I've been hospitalised by a thoughtless driver, and most days on the bike I see or am threatened by the thoughtless behaviour of pedestrians and other road users alike. And sometimes I cut it a bit fine at the lights, or wobble around while putting my sunglasses on, turning on my lights or looking at my Garmin.

I'm also a car driver. Sometimes I go too fast. Sometimes I eat or drink while at the wheel. Sometimes, perhaps even often, I 'tune out' while driving and find myself unable to recall details of what happened on the road around me in the last few minutes. Sometimes I don't notice the car in my blind spot, or the car approaching fast behind me on the motorway. Sometimes I don't notice the pedestrian, the horse or the cyclist either.

It is a simple fact that road users are people. People that are all imperfect and will make mistakes. Inevitably, when motorists and cyclists mix, accidents will happen. That's reality.

Yes, the results are sometimes ugly, traumatic and painful for the victims, their friends and their families. But the seriousness of the outcome does not necessarily mean that the person causing the accident deserves to be strung up.

Yes, we should investigate accidents and punish those that are unduly careless or reckless. Yes, we should seek to build roads & paths in ways that separate different traffic types. Yes, we should improve driver education and encourage safer driving.

But my philosophy on these things is that outrage and whingeing achieves nothing and is frankly rather boring. What matters is what we actually do, to acknowledge that the problem is not just 'out there', but also 'in here'.

Today, I rode my bike rather than taking the car. I stopped at the red lights. I held back a little to give myself more time when the pedestrians looked uncertain about what they were going to do next. And years ago, I re-learned how to use a road better by taking an Advanced Institute of Motoring course.

So, fellow road users, what did you do today to make things better for us all?

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mrmo [2096 posts] 4 years ago
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Ridgebackrambler wrote:

My driving instructor taught me that even a slow speed like 30mph is 44 feet per second so even 2 seconds inattention at 30mph means you travel 88 feet before reactions, brakes etc kick in.

I know when i learnt to drive a 5-6 years ago i was told always leave a 2 second gap, MINIMUM, between myself and the car infront. From the experience i have since gained i would say very few drivers give that much gap.

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koko56 [330 posts] 4 years ago
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flobble wrote:

I'm not normally one to comment on the sentencing debate, but I'm getting a little hacked off with the lynch mob mentality. [Ascends soap box...]

I ride a bike every day, in London traffic, to and from work. I ride in the countryside most weekends, in good weather and in bad weather. I've been hospitalised by a thoughtless driver, and most days on the bike I see or am threatened by the thoughtless behaviour of pedestrians and other road users alike. And sometimes I cut it a bit fine at the lights, or wobble around while putting my sunglasses on, turning on my lights or looking at my Garmin.

I'm also a car driver. Sometimes I go too fast. Sometimes I eat or drink while at the wheel. Sometimes, perhaps even often, I 'tune out' while driving and find myself unable to recall details of what happened on the road around me in the last few minutes. Sometimes I don't notice the car in my blind spot, or the car approaching fast behind me on the motorway. Sometimes I don't notice the pedestrian, the horse or the cyclist either.

It is a simple fact that road users are people. People that are all imperfect and will make mistakes. Inevitably, when motorists and cyclists mix, accidents will happen. That's reality.

Yes, the results are sometimes ugly, traumatic and painful for the victims, their friends and their families. But the seriousness of the outcome does not necessarily mean that the person causing the accident deserves to be strung up.

Yes, we should investigate accidents and punish those that are unduly careless or reckless. Yes, we should seek to build roads & paths in ways that separate different traffic types. Yes, we should improve driver education and encourage safer driving.

But my philosophy on these things is that outrage and whingeing achieves nothing and is frankly rather boring. What matters is what we actually do, to acknowledge that the problem is not just 'out there', but also 'in here'.

Today, I rode my bike rather than taking the car. I stopped at the red lights. I held back a little to give myself more time when the pedestrians looked uncertain about what they were going to do next. And years ago, I re-learned how to use a road better by taking an Advanced Institute of Motoring course.

So, fellow road users, what did you do today to make things better for us all?

You better geet out before you are torn to pieces for daring to have reason.

Too much misguided anger in all these articles... and is it me or has there been much more of it lately on road.cc?

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Simmo72 [672 posts] 4 years ago
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As much as I would like to personally beat the idiot who caused this crash, Education is the only true way of improving the situation.

How about a campaign to get cyclists to donate towards a safety campaign. I think the majority of us would chip in. It shouldn't be necessary but lets face it, the government as normal is not doing enough, the police don't really give a damn, they are too tied up in paperwork or being laid off, and the legal system is useless.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 4 years ago
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Instead of harsher sentences why can't people just learn to drive? I am a cyclist but I drive to and from work every day and have never come close to hitting a pedestrian or cyclists. What is so difficult about operating a motor vehicle???

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StantheVoice [117 posts] 4 years ago
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Have to say that flobble has written perhaps the most sense on here I've seen on one of these threads for a long time.

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wrevilo [108 posts] 4 years ago
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I put a more detailed comment in the comments section for another story, but my personal opinion is that prison is not the right place for someone who kills by accident.

This man is not a danger to the public. A lifetime driving ban and service to the greater community would be more appropriate in my personal opinion.

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Edgeley [513 posts] 4 years ago
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I ride that road frequently. It is straight as can be for about a kilometre. The collision happened right in the middle.

It was not night when my fellow villager was killed.

And no I am not one who wants vengeance, and I am sure the criminal was genuinely contrite, but I do want drivers to be obliged to take proper care when driving their tonne of metal around.

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racyrich [305 posts] 4 years ago
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fatsimonstan wrote:

Have to say that flobble has written perhaps the most sense on here I've seen on one of these threads for a long time.

No, I'm sorry. Driving 2 tons of steel at up to 70mph (and often more) is not some trivial task. That the task has been so trivialised by removal of most of the personal consequences, in terms of personal risk, and legal retribution, hasn't diminished the risks involved to those outside. If anything it's increased them.
As I said on the satnav death thread, taking on a driving licence means taking on responsibility for other people's lives. Take that responsibility seriously. 'Tuning out' is not acceptable. In any other environment where someone had control of a deadly weapon, tuning out would be personally deadly.

An RAF pilot clubmate of mine won't drive for more than 2 hours as he doesn't feel he can sustain the necessary attention. Yet everyone else feels they're a better judge of the risks and reduce their concentration levels. Remarkable.

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