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Texting van driver cleared of responsibility for death of 18-year-old cyclist

Text exchange with girlfriend preceded fatal collision

A driver who admitted exchanging texts with his girlfriend before his van hit and killed an 18-year-old cyclist has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving, and of causing death by careless driving.

Philip Sinden was driving the Vauxhall Vivaro that hit and killed 18-year-old triathlete Daniel Squire on the A258 at Ringwould in Kent at around 8:40am on September 7 2013.

After the verdict, the family of Daniel Squire shouted at the jury: “Were you not listening?”, “What a waste of time” and “I can’t believe that”, reports Kent Online's Paul Hooper.

During the trial the court heard that Sinden had sent 19 texts and received 22 from his girlfriend between 6.07am and 8.32am. He and his girlfriend continued texting until she sent a message at 8.39.49. He was alleged to have composed a message at around 8.40am which was never sent.

Prosecutor Dale Sullivan said: “The defendant had been using his mobile phone either just before or at the time of the impact and he failed to react to the presence of Daniel who was in front of his vehicle until the very last moment.”

But Sinden claimed that he had not been distracted by using his phone.

“I was texting just using my left hand. When I pulled out onto the road I was trying to keep my attention on the road, so I typed without looking at the phone.”

He claimed Daniel Squire had unexpectedly joined the carriageway from the pavement.

“I realised it was a cyclist on the pavement on my left hand side. He started to come off the pavement and I started to react. I started to brake and steer around the cyclist.

“It was all very quick but it seemed to me he had adjacened [sic] out slightly from the lane he should have been on.”

Sinden told the jury that Daniel had turned around and looked behind him “just before it [the van] struck the bike”.

“He just came out more than I expected. I spiked my brakes," he said.

Members of Daniel Squire's family attended every day of the trial at Canterbury Crown Court.

Judge Heather Norton expressed her “profound sympathy” for Daniel's family.

She told them: “I appreciate that is not the verdict you were expecting and was not the verdict you were hoping for.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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