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Driver who pleaded guilty to killing time-trialling cyclists walks free from court

CPS outlines reasons why motorist charged with causing death by careless, not dangerous, driving

A driver who admitted killing a cyclist who had been taking part in a time trial on the A435 near Stratford-Upon-Avon has escaped a prison sentence after being convicted of causing death by careless driving.

Arron Bjorn Cook, from Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, was instead sentenced to a community sentence and banned from driving for a year by magistrates at Warwickshire Justice Centre when he appeared before them last month, reports CTC on its Stop SMIDSY website.

The cyclist, 52-year-old Cath Ward of Solihull Cycling Club, died when she was stuck by Cook’s car as she took part in a time trial on the A435 Oversley By-pass at Alcester on 4th August this year.

Another member of the club who reached the scene of the fatal accident shortly after it happened told CTC that Cook had admitted that he had not been looking at the road when the collision took place.

The case contrasts with one in Gloucestershire reported here on road.cc last week in which a driver was jailed for eight months following a hit-and-run incident in which a cyclist was left injured at the roadside.

In that case, 28-year-old Colin Buckingham pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated vehicle taking, failing to report an accident, driving while banned and having no insurance, but no charges were laid relating to the injuries suffered by the cyclist.

While the two cases are entirely separate, and the charges brought against the drivers very different, the variation in the sentences handed down suggests that at times, property rights and adhering to laws regarding licensing and insurance are treated more seriously by the authorities than the killing of a cyclist, at odds with the concept that justice should not only be done, but also be seen to be done.

Commenting on why Cook was charged with causing death by careless driving rather than the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving, a spokesperson for The West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service said: “Following a detailed investigation by the police, a file of evidence was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“A Crown Advocate reviewed all of the evidence and decided that although the driver was not driving far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver, he should have been more careful while he was travelling along the dual carriageway which led to the accident.

“Due to this, we felt it was more appropriate to charge Mr Cook with an offence of careless driving rather than dangerous driving.”

CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, commented: “Whilst obviously we don’t have all the evidence available to prosecutors in this case, it is hard to understand how driving into the back of a cyclist on a clear summer evening is anything other than ‘dangerous’, and therefore why the motorist was allowed to get off so lightly for a mere ‘careless’ driving offence.

“Surveys show that more people want to take up cycling and the Government is keen to encourage this, yet the fear of bad driving is a major factor preventing this from happening. We do not tolerate ‘carelessness’ on our railways, planes, workplaces or construction sites, so the Government really needs to tighten up on the legal system’s response to so-called ‘carelessness’ on our roads.”
 

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.

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