A minibus driver jailed for causing the death of a cyclist has failed in an attempt to have his driving ban overturned. The rejection of his appeal has been welcomed by the charity Cycling UK, which has consistently called for longer driving bans for motorists who kill.
Andrzej Wojcicki was jailed for five years and banned from driving for 10 years in August 2014 for causing the death by dangerous driving of cyclist Owain James.
Wojcicki had been taking photos of vintage cars on his mobile phone as he drove a left-hand drive minibus at Newbridge, Gwent on 21 July 2013.
At his trial at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge David Wynn Morgan told him: “It is bad enough when a person is driving an ordinary car, but you were driving a three-tonne minibus – Mr James did not stand a chance.”
Wales Online reports that Wojcicki was back in the same court on Monday, making an application for his driving ban to be set aside.
He had originally been granted leave to appeal against the ban in March 2015, but struggled to find a new lawyer after his solicitor was struck off.
He was released from prison in late 2016 and deported from the UK the following year, fighting successfully to have that order overturned and returning to the country in September 2017.
The 50-year-old from Blackwood, who runs a business that converts petrol and diesel cars to run on LPG, said he wanted his licence returned for family reasons and so he could pay a full role in the business.
However, his application was rejected by Judge Jeremy Jenkins, meaning that Wojcicki will have to serve the full, 10-year ban and will have to take an extended driving test afterwards to regain his driving licence.
Judge Jenkins quoted the sentencing remarks of the judge at the original trial, who said: “Nothing the court can do by way of sentencing can return Owain James to his loved ones.”
He acknowledged that the length of the ban might cause Wojcicki some “hardship” but, rejecting his application, added: “It must never be forgotten that a life was lost in this dangerous piece of driving.”
Cycling UK's head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, told road.cc: “Cycling UK have repeatedly called for greater use of driving disqualifications, longer bans, and the closure of the ridiculous exceptional hardship loophole, which leaves over 10,000 people driving on our roads each year with more than 12 points on their licence.
“Too often, the hardship potentially caused through a driving ban seems to trump road safety or deterrence, and consequently in the last ten years we’ve seen a 54 per cent reduction in the number of disqualifications, despite a 3% increase in the number of offences committed.
“Only five of the 63,342 people banned from driving in 2018 were disqualified for life and only 11 for between 10 years and life, so lengthy bans are only imposed in the most appalling cases.
“It’s therefore a relief to read that in this case the Judge wasn’t hoodwinked by the hardship cry, but rather acknowledged that the hardship was proportionate with the offending.
"“The Sentencing Council are currently consulting on the guidance for driving disqualifications, and Cycling UK will be responding to make it clear that greater use of disqualification powers is a quick, simple and cost effective way to focus attention on the consequences of irresponsible behaviour on our roads,” he added.
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.