Pharmaceutical consultant who killed cyclist while driving on wrong side of road cleared of careless driving

“I can’t help it if a cyclist falls over as I’m approaching them"

by John Stevenson   October 3, 2013  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

A pharmaceutical industry consultant has been cleared of causing death by careless driving after she hit a cyclist while overtaking on a bend.

Dr Helen Measures, 51, was overtaking two other cyclists and on the wrong side of the road when she hit Denisa Perinova, 21 on the A415 near Henley-on-Thames on July 15 last year.

The court heard that Ms Perinova was riding with her boyfriend, Ben Pontin, and lost control of her bike when she saw Dr Measures’ Mini heading toward them.

Dr Measures’ car hit Ms Perinova at up to 50mph, flinging her 15 yards into the entrance of a nearby field.

Mr Pontin said he saw Dr Measures make a “stupid manoeuvre” on a curve in the road, leaving him just a “tiny gap”. He felt his girlfriend’s wheels touch his bike and when he looked round she had been hurled into the entrance of a field.

“I just couldn’t believe the person driving had overtaken at that point,” he said.

Ms Perinova’s helmet was smashed. She was taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and later transferred to a specialist neurological unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She died a week later from her injuries.

It was her first ride on a bike that Mr Pontin had recently bought her.

"I would expect cyclists to remain upright"

During the trial Dr Measures claimed that Ms Perinova had fallen into her path. Sandra Beck, prosecuting asked her, “You are relying on other road users avoiding you when you are on their side of the road?”

“I can’t help it if a cyclist, with all due respect, falls over as I’m approaching them and comes into my line of travel,” Dr Measures said. “I would expect cyclists to generally remain upright as the first cyclist did.

“You do not make a manoeuvre if you don’t think it is safe to do so. Had everyone stayed upright, there would not have been an issue,” she said.

Dr Measures admitted she had not seen the oncoming riders as she decided there was “sufficient room” to slow down and pass.

She said she was “surprised” to see Mr Pontin and Ms Perinova coming toward her as came round the bend at 40 to 50mph, but felt they had room to get past.

“I had to make a decision of what to do. I felt the safest decision was to continue straight ahead because they were in single file. If I had been concerned, I would have stopped suddenly.”

The jury deliberated for three hours before returning a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

103 user comments

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What Pedro's said.

Personally I wouldn't be at all suprised if victims decide to seek justice without involving the law.

posted by IanW1968 [152 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 20:18

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Jeez, blaming a cyclist on her first outing for panicking a bit when a car is speeding towards you round a bend at 40-50 mph. How do you practise the bike handling skills for that?

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 20:26

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It is endemic. I was on a Speed Awareness Course at the weekend (cheaper than points and increased insurance for doing 34 mph in a clear open 30 on a summer's day. Wrong I know but hey ho) and there were at least two off the cuff references by the AA instructor to the idiocy of cyclists on the road. Meantime there were 5 out of 24 in the room who were so stupid that they didn't even know the basic speed limits. Way, way too stupid to be driving a car. Should be an automatic retest every 5 years for all drivers. No pass, bye bye licence.
Less drivers = less traffic = less congestion and less worn out roads. What's not to like?

I

posted by CStar [12 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 20:28

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What a tragedy. I was dumbstruck. How? How? And, how?

OK, so this is a narrow road. The Henley Herald says it was the B480 in Stonor (not the A415 - the A415 is way the other side of Oxford. A4155? Anyway...). Take a look on Streetview.

Yes, it is narrow, but that does not take the responsibility away from the driver. They still have to drive within the limits of what they can see. If there had been a stationary tractor around the corner, would they have been able to stop. I suspect the answer to that is "No", since they could stop for someone on the other side of the road.

Furthermore, Ms Measures says both that she didn't have a chance to brake, yet also that she would have stopped suddenly if she had been concerned.

Mr Peyresourde, you're either trolling or have no idea. Yes, we're all entitled to our opinion, but sometimes that opinion is wrong. Even if the cyclist did fall over, a) it was because of the shock of seeing someone come toward her at great speed and b) see my paragraph above, it could have been anything in the road. The fact that she couldn't see it is immaterial. As I said above, you shouldn't be driving faster than a speed at which you will be able to stop your vehicle (that goes for cars, motorbikes, trucks, horses and bicycles). Having said that we all know what happened. She was driving along at 50, saw a couple of cyclists, couldn't be arsed to slow down or consider what might be around the corner, squeezed one cyclist, killed the next. Yes, Ms Perinova may well have veered, but like I have said, that does not matter, it could have been a tree, a tractor, a horse, a pedestrian, broken down car - shall I go on? Oh, just read the Highway Code.

The following from Simon Stacey, vice-chairman of the local parish council demonstrates how dangerous the stretch of road is. However, I'm still a little confused as to how a bicycle travelling at 25 mph is more dangerous than a car at 50 mph. But, hey!

He said: “The B480 suffers throughout its length with very fast-moving traffic, vehicles frequently reaching speeds of 50mph along some stretches.

“The residents of Lower and Middle Assendon, Stonor and Pishill all fought long and hard to have the speed limits within the hamlets reduced to 30mph but the fact remains that, on the unrestricted part of the road, the national speed limit is permissible.

“Cyclists are now arriving to practice along the triathlon route and reaching dangerously high speeds and they are frequently to be observed travelling more than two abreast and in lines of five to six, moving as a group.

“This road is not a cycle race track but a very busy and fast country road and it has a number of blind bends and the obstruction of cyclists travelling in this fashion is causing very considerable concern.

“The storm drains and the narrowness of the road are major factors governing the positioning of cyclists on the highway — they frequently are forced to travel in a central position, even when not overtaking one another.

“Motorised vehicles cannot see the cyclists until they are immediately ahead and local residents are becoming increasingly concerned at the narrow escapes that are now the norm.

“Bearing in mind the tragic accident last weekend it would seem imperative to re-evaluate the safety of the cyclists on this part of the route.

“I suggest that members of the organising committee, including yourself, visit the B480 section of the route during the weekend daytime to personally observe the frightening situation that we are now experiencing.”

posted by Jimbonic [107 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 20:43

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Simon Stacey, how about re-evaluating the behaviour of motorists or considering ways in which to make the road safer for all users?

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 21:10

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Quote:

“This road is not a cycle race track but a very busy and fast country road and it has a number of blind bends and the obstruction of cyclists travelling in this fashion is causing very considerable concern."

'The obstruction of cyclists'!

What an absolutely astounding statement. Cretin.

posted by dp24 [182 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 21:49

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Sick

posted by Arno du Galibier [24 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 22:25

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Angry Courts and Justice system in this country are all for drivers!!! If things dont start changing cyclist will have to take law into their own hands. Bloody ridiclous!!! If this was a cyclist who killed a pedestrian doing te other way, im sure they'll be no bloddy hesistation and the cyclist would be charged for manslaughter. Angry

posted by CyclingDan [39 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 22:48

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Its difficult to truly tell what I would do if this had been my partner. But I would be tempted to buy car and kill her with it.
I hope her children realise how vial she is showing no remorse.

posted by Mart [98 posts]
4th October 2013 - 7:25

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This is just appalling, though not sadly that surprising. As some of the other posts have mentioned, many motorists when faced with a choice of aborting their stupid and dangerous manoeuvre or putting a cyclist at risk invariably go for the latter option, forgetting the fact that cyclists don't have roll cages, airbags, seat belts or any protective features at all.
IMHO, this woman should be banned. She doesn't deserve to be on the road if she makes callous judgements like this. One wonders if she had been sampling her own pharmecutical products beforehand as surely no rational person would make such a judgement call!

posted by Ridgebackrambler [13 posts]
4th October 2013 - 8:36

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I have to say that it is far from clear that the Dr was negligent from the details of the case. We weren't there in the trial, we don't have the objective facts.

There are two points to make here: Firstly, a number of the known facts - which to the best of my knowledge I don't believe to be in dispute - are that (a) she overtook on a bend, (b) she overtook without sufficient visibility ahead to see even slow-moving road users who she would need to pass during her manoeuvre, (c) upon seeing that she would need to pass oncoming traffic during her manoeuvre, made a conscious decision to continue rather than to brake and pull back in. To my mind, these three facts (without doubt the last two) are all clear evidence of negligence.

The second point is that, whilst my opinion of what constitute matters little, the law - whatever its position now - should protect against this occurrence and should hold the driver responsible for their decision to place other people in clear mortal risk.

What I am saying is that I have no opinion on whether Measures was rightly or wrongly acquitted in the context of current law, because I wasn't in court to hear all the facts.

What I am saying, and what I will scream from the rooftops if need be, is that regardless of whether the failing was the law against which she was tested or a failure within these specific court proceedings, if this is the result the the law as it stands is not fit for purpose.

The law does not protect people like Daniela or you or me from the entirely avoidable actions of others who see fit to mortally endanger people through simple impatience. It has stated, clearly, that endangering people in this way to save a few seconds from your journey is just fine.

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
But from the brief information provided she clipped her own boyfriends bike and went into the path of the oncoming car. So it is very hard for a jury to say that she would have/wouldn't have clipped the wheel if the Dr. hadn't of been there, and in a criminal case like this it is beyond all reasonable doubt.

If Measures had not been there then it wouldn't have mattered. At worst she'd have fallen off her bike. She wouldn't have been hit by a car at 50mph.

Think about something next time you ride.

Stay to the left of the road. Find a massive pothole. Approach it at 20mph, and swerve at the last minute to avoid it.

Now do that with a car approaching you, on your side of the road, a foot to your right.

It doesn't matter what the cause of Daniela's error was. The same could happen to you. It could be a pothole, a puncture, a squirrel, a child's football, anything.

Set aside the details of whether this result is right or wrong in the context of existing law. You only have to read the statute to see that the law is not fit for purpose. Think instead of whether this result is right or wrong in the context of people making it home alive.

You can't change the laws of physics. You can change the law of the land.

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posted by Bez [371 posts]
4th October 2013 - 9:16

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I have to say that it is far from clear that the Dr was negligent from the details of the case.

Point of law - whether the driver was negligent or not isn't an issue here.

For the charge of causing death by careless driving, the test is whether the standard of driving fell below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [8002 posts]
4th October 2013 - 9:30

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
For the charge of causing death by careless driving, the test is whether the standard of driving fell below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

This is what makes this all the more astonishing/depressing. "Competent and careful" isn't a particularly high bar to clear. Essentially what's being said here is that overtaking when you can't see the road ahead to be clear is an acceptable standard of driving.

posted by David Portland [88 posts]
4th October 2013 - 9:43

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I think her standard of driving was pretty bad. Overtaking on a corner? Man, I see it everyday. The best ones are when I'm overtaken on a corner, going over a hill or hump backed bridge.

I don't see how she got out of this one... seriously, this makes me rather upset.

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posted by ragtag [154 posts]
4th October 2013 - 9:56

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posted by Dr.Galactus [18 posts]
4th October 2013 - 10:15

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Angelfishsolo wrote:
What the hell does a driver have to do in order to be found guilty of manslaughter? If he had killed another car driver I am 100% certain he would have been found guilty. Angry Angry Angry Angry Angry Angry Angry

She.

At least read some of the article.

posted by RPK [32 posts]
4th October 2013 - 12:18

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"Specialties:Therapeutic areas of experience include oncology and HIV."

...and terrible driving decisions.

posted by RPK [32 posts]
4th October 2013 - 12:22

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:

For the charge of causing death by careless driving, the test is whether the standard of driving fell below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

And this is the scary thing, 12 jurors have declared that overtaking on a blind bend is what competent and careful drivers do!!!!!!

It does then lead to the question, how can you have driving offences tried by drivers who have all done something equally stupid but have gotten away with it?

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posted by mrmo [1064 posts]
4th October 2013 - 13:21

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Attitudes need to change and until they do then the jury system will be biased towards the motorist. The ladies in our office were discussing cyclists on the road today. They were particularly mad about cyclists riding on a particular road that had a 'perfectly good cycle path' at the side of the road (not that any of the lazy gits had ever cycled themselves on said path). I explained why I don't use the cycle path on that road, and one of them (respectable married mother with young child) said that if she ever saw me she would have to knock me off!! When I responded to such a crazy thing to say, I got the usual road tax crap thrown back.

posted by daddyELVIS [386 posts]
4th October 2013 - 13:35

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mrmo wrote:
And this is the scary thing, 12 jurors have declared that overtaking on a blind bend is what competent and careful drivers do!!!!!!

It does then lead to the question, how can you have driving offences tried by drivers who have all done something equally stupid but have gotten away with it?

There's the rub - sort of.

The statutory definition does not allow for any specifics as regards what constitutes any given standard of driving: it is all defined as relative to a completely undefined baseline. The CPS guidance does have some examples but (a) they are far from sufficient and (b) as far as road-related offences are concerned, the CPS guidance may as well have been written on the side of a firework and then detonated 200ft in the air: they quite patently ignore it as a matter of course.

The problem, then, is not that jurors are crap at driving (and you can't randomly pick 12 people and then assess their level of driving - something for which you'd also need an absolutely-defined baseline for anyway), but that the law allows their crap driving to be the standard by which crap driving is judged.

As a tenuous analogy, imagine defining GBH as "something worse than you'd expect on a Saturday night out with your mates" and then filling the jury with football hooligans. The hooligans are not the problem. The problem is that the legal definition is not absolute, but relative to an undefined baseline.

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posted by Bez [371 posts]
4th October 2013 - 13:42

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Again, people trolling is not having a different point of view. Trolling is picking on someone and making them feel small or stupid, effectively bullying and trying to make people feel bad. If anything, accusing someone of trolling (in this instance) is closer to trolling than anything else.

Some people have converted a curve in the road into a bend, which transmute the situation into something that it wasn't. Again, not having the facts means that you cannot objectively take a strong view point on this.

@ Simon_MacMichael - if this is true, then from the votes of 12 common people we should respect that they did not find Dr Measures to fall below these standards. I would ask that people don't throw Dr Measures under the bus just because you choose to see a ones-sided report of the circumstances. Legitimate accidents can occur with things in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't and neither does anyone else here (unless they were there and that they sat through the court proceedings) that justice was ultimately done.

For those of you who like to track Dr Measures down, this is a massive tragedy, but you make it worse if you unnecessarily ruin someone else's life. I'm sure she feels terrible about the whole thing and does not sleep easily.

People are making all sorts of assumptions about this case, about the law of our land, about motorist and cyclists in general. Not smart in my opinion, because then you start to view things in a very tribal black and white fashion.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1111 posts]
4th October 2013 - 14:16

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Some people have converted a curve in the road into a bend, which transmute the situation into something that it wasn't. Again, not having the facts means that you cannot objectively take a strong view point on this.

I do understand where you are coming from, but having been the reciepient of similar behaviour on a very shallow bend and but able to aim for the hedge.

One question, if you can not see round the bend/corner/curve/whatever should you overtake?

That as the only question that matters.

Quote:
Legitimate accidents can occur with things in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yes, occasionally engines blow up, tyres burst. Incidents where crap driving kills someone are totally avoidable. If she had waited until she could see would we be having this debate?

Quote:
For those of you who like to track Dr Measures down, this is a massive tragedy, but you make it worse if you unnecessarily ruin someone else's life. I'm sure she feels terrible about the whole thing and does not sleep easily.

and how many lives has she destroyed because she was too important to wait?

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posted by mrmo [1064 posts]
4th October 2013 - 15:42

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This is terrible and I absolutely agree that it is shocking that overtaking on a bend where the driver could not clearly see the oncoming traffic is considered "safe and careful driving".
I've had a number of incidents where people overtake coming the other way when I'm cycling, and it is truly terrifying to see a 2ton hunk of metal travelling towards me at 60+mph, only a foot or so wide of my handlebar. I cannot believe that is acceptable.
Other reports of the story do at least mention the driver "sobbing in court as she recalled the events", so I think the lack of remorse percieved is thanks to road.cc's reporting rather than a stone cold killer. - either that or some good acting to get off.
As for that councillor who thinks the answer to people getting killed on bikes is removing them from the road - absolute cretin. It's exactly like saying the way to stop rhino's from being killed by poachers is to get rid of all the rhino's. It's the drivers, not the cyclists that are the problem.
I'm just hanging on til the day that the oil runs out and everyone has no choice but to get on their bike to get to work every day - it will be bliss.

posted by tomilett [6 posts]
4th October 2013 - 16:17

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Amazing. What I understand is she was surprised to see the cyclists heading towards her on their side of the road as she overtook another cyclist whilst going around a corner.

That is F*****g negligence. If you can't see around a corner it is not safe. it might have been a lorry around the corner (I wish it was, she would be the victim rather than an innocent).

I'm sick of this protect the motorist gobs**ite.

Scum driver, scum judge.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [282 posts]
4th October 2013 - 16:30

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You can't appeal a not-guilty verdict, it's impossible and a basic part of the legal system, you can appeal a sentence to have it considered whether it is unduly lenient, but the verdict of the jury is final. That is the matter settled I'm afraid.

It is worth considering that without actually being at the case, we have much less information to go on that the jurors, without knowing the real gritty details of the case then we can't really consider the nature of the verdict. Snapshots from articles can be very misleading at times.

A bloody tragedy though and if the articles are accurate, I'm shocked that a jury would find the driver not guilty of causing death by careless driving.

posted by hagbad [6 posts]
4th October 2013 - 20:42

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Some people have converted a curve in the road into a bend, which transmute the situation into something that it wasn't. Again, not having the facts means that you cannot objectively take a strong view point on this.

The geometry is totally irrelevant.

She overtook at a point where she could not see oncoming vehicles which (even at cyclists' pace) she would have to pass on that far side of the road before completing her manoeuvre. She then made a conscious decision not to abort that manoeuvre once it was clear to her that she would need to pass them at speed on their side of the road.

Doesn't matter if it was a curve.

Doesn't matter if it was a bend. (What's the difference between a curve and a bend? - that's rhetorical, don't answer it.)

Doesn't matter if it was a straight bit of road with a truck obscuring her view.

Doesn't matter if it was fog.

Doesn't matter if she simply closed her eyes and tried to use The Force.

It was a patently unsafe manoeuvre. You don't need to argue the minutiae to be able to come to that conclusion: that simple statement above, which contains facts that appear not to be in dispute, is enough.

If you want to defend those actions - regardless of the geometry of the tarmac - as being safe, then do please have a go.

I should make one thing clear: given the current farcical state of the system (including the statute, the CPS and more), and even though I personally think she should have had her licence permanently revoked regardless of the minutiae of the case, I personally don't particularly care that Measures isn't serving a hefty sentence.

The horse has bolted. Perinova is dead. What I care about is that the law deems the above driving to be perfectly acceptable.

That is the problem. That is the thing that will cause more people to die.

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posted by Bez [371 posts]
4th October 2013 - 21:39

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Again, people trolling is not having a different point of view. Trolling is picking on someone and making them feel small or stupid, effectively bullying and trying to make people feel bad. If anything, accusing someone of trolling (in this instance) is closer to trolling than anything else.

Most people define trolling as posting inflammatory remarks in order to get a reaction. When posters come out with statements that most rational people find hard to comprehend, then the logical conclusion is to assume that they are trolling.

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posted by thegibdog [72 posts]
6th October 2013 - 11:59

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Summing up, Mr Janick Fielding the defence barrister said: “Ben Pontin said it was a stupid decision to overtake. It was nowhere near as stupid as Mr Pontin’s decision to put Denisa Perinova on that bike in the first place.

“He ought not to have been so reckless with the life of his young girlfriend and he failed with terrible consequences.”

Judge Patrick Eccles QC told the jury they would have to consider whether Dr Measures’ driving was careless and set in motion a chain of events which led to Miss Perinova’s death.

The jury of 10 women and two men took three hours, 50 minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [377 posts]
8th October 2013 - 17:07

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A letter by Denisa Perinova's parents.

http://www.henleystandard.co.uk/news/news.php?id=1363185

I can't shake the feeling that Helen Measures is a scumbag and a weasel.

posted by farrell [1388 posts]
28th October 2013 - 13:03

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My God, that is heart-breaking, Denisa was lied about in court and in the press, she wasn't a novice cyclist at all, that was a pack of lies.

posted by barryoz [3 posts]
29th October 2013 - 10:58

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