Lorry driver not guilty of killing cyclist as jury at retrial fails to reach verdict

Second jury fails to reach verdict in case of rider killed on A19

by Simon_MacMichael   November 21, 2013  

Justice (Lonpicman, Wikimedia Commons)

A lorry driver has been acquitted of causing the death of a cyclist through careless driving, after a jury failed to reach a verdict – just as one did in the same case in April this year, forcing a retrial.

Christopher Griffiths, aged 50, died when he was struck from behind by a lorry driven by 55-year-old Paul Dove on the A19 near Billingham, County Durham, in January last year.

Mr Griffiths had been riding along a one-metre wide strip of asphalt to the left of a rumble-strip on the left-hand side of the dual carriageway road. The driver had denied moving out of his lane prior to hitting the cyclist.

In April, a jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict on the case. Yesterday, the judge sitting on the retrial recorded a not guilty verdict against the driver after the jury again was unable to agree its verdict.

On Tuesday, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, had asked the jury foreman in the retrial whether there was a realistic prospect of it reaching a decision following seven and a half hours of deliberation, reports Gazettelive.co.uk.

Upon being informed that there was not, he told the jury: “You've done your very best. There's no criticism at all that you've failed to reach a verdict.

"It happens. It's happened in this case before. It's what happened in the first trial.

"The jury was in exactly the same position, singularly unable to reach a verdict on which at least 10 of you are agreed."

Paul Cleasby, speaking for the prosecution, said: "Both juries have done their best and, clearly from their lack of verdicts, there are views on both sides but not sufficient to warrant a verdict one way or another."

The judge told Mr Griffiths family: “I hope you can understand the difficulty that both juries were faced with.

"They were faced with, first, conflicting evidence to an extent from experts.

"There was no eyewitness account to confirm precisely where this collision occurred.

"I'm afraid there has to come a stage when there's a reality check," added Judge Bourne-Arton.

"And no further trial would in my judgment improve the situation at all.

"And so the Crown have taken essentially the only course that they could have in the circumstances.

"I'm sorry it's come to this. I'm sorry you haven't had finality but I hope you understand why," he added.

16 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Compulsory video cameras in commercial vehicles?

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [401 posts]
21st November 2013 - 21:30

40 Likes

monty dog wrote:
Compulsory video cameras in commercial vehicles?

My thought exactly.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [193 posts]
21st November 2013 - 22:50

25 Likes

So ... hitting a cyclist from behind is not careless driving regardless of whether the driver did or did not change lane.

djcritchley's picture

posted by djcritchley [163 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 8:15

34 Likes

the law in this country is an ar$e ....

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 8:47

28 Likes

djcritchley wrote:
So ... hitting a cyclist from behind is not careless driving regardless of whether the driver did or did not change lane.

It's entirely possible in an HGV to 'lane swap' even when driving to 'test standards, depite their size the groove in the inside lade of of a DC or M-Way is enough to throw it off course, unlike a car where it is very easy to correct such a movement an HGV takes far longer to correct due to it's much larger mass. It's for this reason I'm very very nervous if I ever have to cycle (briefly!) on the hard shoulder or pull my car over.

Just a general observation and not a direct comment on this tragic accident.

posted by thebungle [115 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 9:31

13 Likes

djcritchley wrote:
So ... hitting a cyclist from behind is not careless driving regardless of whether the driver did or did not change lane.

Also imagine that it was not possible to determine whether the cyclist swerved into the path of the lorry at the last minute, hence the verdict.

posted by AyBee [85 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 10:27

19 Likes

The usual problem then of a jury of motorists.

posted by racyrich [180 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 10:41

18 Likes

racyrich wrote:
The usual problem then of a jury of motorists.

Two full juries, all completely and utterly biased motorists, fully made up of BMW 4x4 driving, card carrying anti-cyclists, in fact, I'm surprised that at least one of them didn't mow a cyclist down on the way to trial!

And the 'Kevin Webster' trial, obviously that jury was fully made up of....

posted by thebungle [115 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 10:59

21 Likes

I think that's a good idea. But you have to make sure they are tamper proof. What can happen is that technology used to monitor people but which is in their control or they have access to gets used selectively. The driver or company will be happy to hand over the footage if they or their driver is vindicated by it. But if it's incriminating then it may go walkies or have malfunctioned.

Drivers and companies already disable/alter tacographs and are regularly caught doing so by the police. Not much happens. Verbal warning mostly.

Bring them in by all means and ensure that it is an offence to operate a commercial vehicle if the camera isn't working. An offence with penalties points and fines and particularly "no onward travel".

The road haulage industry is scared stiff of no-onward travel. Fines they can pay and they game the system on the cost of fines v the cost of compliance. Their drivers are expendable. Driver loses licence then they get another one and mostly the driver is liable and pays the fine as well. What scares them is an expensive lorry with expensive cargo sitting in a layby, lost time lost profit and possibly lost contracts.

That's the way to go with enforcement for commercial vehicles. It works just as well for white van man as big haulage. No van = no work today so make sure you are legal.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [848 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 11:03

27 Likes

racyrich wrote:
The usual problem then of a jury of motorists.

That might be the case and in fact most adults have a licence and are motorists so most juries are de-facto motorists. In this case there are no witnesses and they have to make a decision not on the balance of probabilities but without any reasonable doubt. The fact that the prosecution couldn't bring enough forensics to take the case beyond doubt was the problem.

Cameras are now so cheap we should have more video evidence available and cameras installed. Some HGV drivers do have this but it's for their own protection and they are usually the better drivers for bigger companies.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [848 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 11:23

19 Likes

thebungle wrote:
racyrich wrote:
The usual problem then of a jury of motorists.

Two full juries, all completely and utterly biased motorists, fully made up of BMW 4x4 driving, card carrying anti-cyclists, in fact, I'm surprised that at least one of them didn't mow a cyclist down on the way to trial!

And the 'Kevin Webster' trial, obviously that jury was fully made up of....

No they needed 10 for a majority verdict, so if you have 3 in both juries who are able to block and it works both ways. You won't get a verdict.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1595 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 13:22

15 Likes

thebungle wrote:
It's entirely possible in an HGV to 'lane swap' even when driving to 'test standards, depite their size the groove in the inside lade of of a DC or M-Way is enough to throw it off course, unlike a car where it is very easy to correct such a movement an HGV takes far longer to correct due to it's much larger mass.

I acknowledge your point Bungle and I agree that this is very noticeable in the left lane of motorways. It is also a good reason for all drivers to leave plenty of room when passing cyclists and possibly for not riding on the shoulder.

The lack of witnesses and evidence in this case is the kicker, either there were no skid marks or the police did not survey the crash scene.

djcritchley's picture

posted by djcritchley [163 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 13:39

20 Likes

djcritchley wrote:
So ... hitting a cyclist from behind is not careless driving regardless of whether the driver did or did not change lane.

Reminds me of the case of Sam Harding where it would appear the bus was tailgating him yet faced no consequence for such actions.

Karbon Kev wrote:
the law in this country is an ar$e ....

Which is why cyclist and pedestrian groups need to organise together and carry out disruptive protests until there are changes made to the infrastructure and the laws of this country: Segregated cycle lanes and presumed liability.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [623 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 14:23

20 Likes

zanf wrote:
djcritchley wrote:
So ... hitting a cyclist from behind is not careless driving regardless of whether the driver did or did not change lane.

Reminds me of the case of Sam Harding where it would appear the bus was tailgating him yet faced no consequence for such actions.

Do you honestly think an HGV would 'tailgate' a cyclist down a DC?

posted by thebungle [115 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 14:43

20 Likes

Someone remind me what distance does the Highway Code state for passing a cyclist? Why is that in case the swerve for some reason. This is symptomatic of the problem that I see on my 60 mile commute down a dual carriageway everyday, drivers who look no further ahead than there bonnet and unable to anticipate potential hazards and drive to take them into account with their driving, such as slower vehicles and the need for people to pull out because traffic is coming onto dual carriageway or approaching slower traffic.
Plus this is a 'professional' driver who really should a. no better and b. be setting an example to other road users Waiting

posted by martib [52 posts]
22nd November 2013 - 18:13

15 Likes

Lorries would get cameras quickly enough if we had stricter liability laws like almost everywhere else in Europe.

posted by vbvb [354 posts]
23rd November 2013 - 2:47

10 Likes