Transport for London (TfL) will not be charged with corporate manslaughter in relation to the death in October 2011 of cyclist Deep Lee, killed when she was hit by a lorry at the junction of York Way and Pentonville Road in London’s Kings Cross.
A letter from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) outlines why it is impossible to prosecute TfL in relation to this specific incident under legislation that has previously been criticised by a senior Metropolitan Police officer in charge of investigating road fatalities in London as "badly drafted."
The news was broken by William Perrin of the Kings Cross Environment blog, which has campaigned for a charge of corporate manslaughter to be brought against TfL, the body responsible for London’s major roads network, in relation to the 24-year-old student’s death.
He had sought clarification from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) regarding the status of the case last week following the high profile coroner’s inquests into two cyclists killed in collisions with lorries in London, Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin Ricard.
Simon Ringrose, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS Special Crime Division, told Mr Perrin, who had already been unofficially advised by the police that no charges would be brought:
I have carefully considered all of the available evidence in relation to the potential criminal liability of Transport for London (TfL) for the death of cyclist Min Joo Lee.
I have concluded that the evidence does not provide a realistic prospect of convicting TfL for either corporate manslaughter or gross negligence manslaughter in relation to this tragic incident, in which Miss Lee was killed after being hit by a lorry on Gray’s Inn Road in London on 3 October 2011.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force on 6 April 2008 and does not apply in relation to anything done or omitted before this date. Due to the dates of relevant revisions to the road layout prior to this date, I can only consider offences under the common law for gross negligence manslaughter and not under this Act.
In order to prosecute an individual under the common law the CPS would have to prove that the individual personally owed a duty of care to Miss Lee, that they had breached that duty, that the breach caused her death and that it was grossly negligent so as to amount to a criminal offence.
To prosecute the company under common law we would have to identify an individual who meets this description, in that they are personally guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, but who could also be proved to be a directing mind of the company.
Having considered the evidence in this case, we could not identify such an individual, nor that there had been any potential breach of a duty of care, therefore there could be no prosecution.
In reaching this decision we took into account the fact that other vehicles had stopped in the advanced stop line at the junction, causing Miss Lee to stop behind it, which may have been the reason the lorry driver did not see her.
However, the actions of the other drivers cannot be blamed on TfL or prove that there had been a breach of the duty of care.
I have therefore concluded there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against TfL for gross negligence manslaughter.
I extend my sympathies to the family of Miss Min Joo [Deep] Lee.
Writing on the Kings Cross Environment blog, Mr Perrin said: “The statement is a helpful clarification of how CPS approach the flawed corporate manslaughter laws with respect to roads.”
In the same month Ms Lee died, Mr Perrin had met with Metropolitan Police officers specifically to discuss whether there was a prospect of a corporate manslaughter charge being brought against TfL.
The Kings Cross Environment blog had highlighted the existence of a report commissioned from independent consultants by TfL itself into pedestrian safety at the Kings Cross gyratory system, which recommended various alterations to the road layout, none of which was implemented.
Moreover, that study warned TfL that casualties were “inevitable” at the locations examined, and described that the junction where Ms Lee would lose her life as an “absolute priority.”
In March last year, a senior traffic police officer from the Metropolitan Police confirmed that corporate manslaughter charges were being considered against TfL in connection with the cyclist’s death.
Detective Chief Inspector John Oldham, in charge of the Road Death Investigation Unit, told The Times: “There is a portfolio of offences that might have occurred. Obviously corporate manslaughter is one of them.”
However, he described the relevant legislation, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, as “a badly drafted Act; there are loopholes everywhere.”
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.