A motorist who denied being subject to “road rage” when his car struck a cyclist, leaving the victim with serious head injuries from which he may never recover and in a wheelchair, has been convicted by a jury of causing serious injury through dangerous driving.
Former soldier Michael Gledhill, aged 23, was convicted of the offence this afternoon at Leeds Crown Court.
He had initially maintained that the car he was driving made no contact with the bike that 69-year-old John Radford was riding, but accepted that was the case after being presented with scientific evidence.
The court had heard that Gledhill was driving on the A616 to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where his girlfriend was due to undergo a scan on his second child, when he became involved in an altercation with Mr Radford in July last year.
The driver admitted sounding his horn at the cyclist, whom he claimed was “weaving” across the road, saying, “I beeped my horn so he knew I was there so I could try and get around him,” according to a report of the trial in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner.
He admitted that he had exchanged words with the cyclist but couldn’t recall exactly what was said, and that it involved “generally name-calling, probably some swearing.”
Gledhill, at the time a Lance Corporal in the Yorkshire Regiment who was awaiting his discharge from the army, insisted he had not driven at Mr Radford on purpose in an attempt to frighten him.
But on cross-examination by prosecuting counsel Sam Andrews, he concurred that the victim only became angry after he had sounded his horn.
Mr Andrews put it to him: “At that minute, your thought was giving this man stick wasn’t it?” said Mr Andrews.
Gledhill replied, “Yes.”
He was then asked how traces of paint from the bumper of his car were found on Mr Radford’s bike and replied, “I don’t know.”
Mr Andews asked him: “Do you accept now that the evidence found scientifically shows your car came into contact with the bike?”
Again, he agreed.
The prosecutor put it to him, “You were full of road rage,” an accusation Gledhill denied.
The case was raised at last week’s parliamentary debate on cycling by Mr Radford’s local MP, Jason McCartney, who said of the cyclist, who suffered brain injuries and is confined to a wheelchair: “He is now very severely disabled.
“John is confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on others, and will remain so for the rest of his life.
“The family, whom I have got to know very well indeed, are now looking for a home with specialist nursing care for him,” he added.
In his opening comments to the jury Judge Christopher Batty made some comments that caused consternation in cycle campaigning circles.
He said of John Radford: “He cycled for much of his life and it was his usual practice not to wear a helmet. He was not wearing one on this day. As a result he was seriously injured which has had a profound effect on his life.:
In hus summing up the judge clarified these remarks, instructing the jury that nothing should be read into John Radford not wearing a helmet. It was, he said, common practice as Mr Radford found a helmet impaired his hearing and chose not to wear one for safety reasons.
Martyn Bolt, a friend of John Radford and a trustee of the Cyclists' Defence Fund was at the trial this week.
He told road.cc he was happy that justice had been done, but said: "This guilty verdict is not a cause for celebration, but one for contemplation, as two families, the Radfords and the Gledhills, have been irreparably changed by a moment's anger that led to the collision that caused John such tragic injuries."
Bolt implored drivers to be patient on the roads. He said: "Ask yourself if your journey is really that important, and if you feel impatient, take a deep breath.
"This has ruined two families. John Radford's grandchildren will never see the John Radford we all knew and Michael Gledhill's children face a spell without their father if he is sentenced to prison."
Bolt said that the trial had also served to illustrate the importance for prosecutors to challenge conventional thinking about cyclists on the road, and for cycling organisations to educate prosecutors.
"It was said several times in the trial that John was riding 'further out than normal' when he was riding in a position that would be considered good practice.
"We provided the prosecution with a copy of Cyclecraft, the foundation of the government's Bikeability program, for their office library."
In a statement released through their solicitors Slater & Gordon, John’s family said: “After today nothing for us changes, our dad was a very active man. This completely avoidable incident has robbed him of his retirement choices, not only the sport of cycling which he lived for but the enjoyment of sharing things with his family especially his grandchildren.
“We are also will have to live through the after effects of this tragedy. As there is not a glimmer of hope of any quality to dad’s life, it is truly torturous to live with.
“There are no winners in this case. The lives of two families – Gledhill’s and ours – have been changed by the events on that day and nothing will ever make up for that.”
Mr Radford’s family paid tribute to the people who had given them strength during the past 15 months.
“Throughout the last 15 months we as a family have received tremendous support from friends; family; Yorkshire Air Ambulance; Hospital staff in Leeds General Infirmary and York District Hospital; West Yorkshire Police; Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) and the cycling community; Martyn Bolt, a cyclist himself and the former Mayor of Kirklees; Slater & Gordon lawyers; the staff at his current place of residence Woodlands Neurological Rehabilitation Centre in York
"John’s daughter’s Emma and Helen have received support and flexibility from employers Locala CIC and Leeds City College.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.