Clubmates of a cyclist killed last summer when she was taking part in a time trial on the A435 near Stratford-Upon-Avon have expressed astonishment that the driver convicted of causing her death walked free from court, and have accused authorities of staging a cover-up.
As reported on road.cc just before Christmas, Arron Bjorn Cook, from Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, was given a community sentence and banned from driving for a year by magistrates at Warwickshire Justice Centre when he appeared before them during November.
Cook’s car had hit 52-year-old Cath Ward of Solihull Cycling Club while she participated in a time trial on the A435 Oversley By-pass at Alcester last August, and another member of the club who arrived on the scene shortly afterwards told national cyclists orgisation CTC that the driver had admitted he wasn’t looking at the road when the collision took place.
Harry Reynolds of Solihull Cycling Club, an Olympic silver medalist in 1956 who also competed in the Tour de France, said: “We as a club are appalled at this sentence. It just beggars belief that anyone’s life is worth just this. The driver wasn’t even fined.”
The former cyclist was speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, and when he heard that its reporter, when checking the trial date in November, had been told that the defence had asked for a second adjournment of the case, Mr Reynolds claimed that the courts were guilty of a cover-up, according to the newspaper
“This has all the signs of a cover up – in my view he should have had a five-year custodial sentence at the very minimum,” he stated.
Although the victim’s husband told the newspaper that the family declined to comment, local MP Caroline Spelman, said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic death of Cath Ward last summer. Clearly we need to continue to work to ensure the safety of cyclists on our roads, by encouraging drivers to be extra vigilant and making it clear that careless driving will not be tolerated.”
Commenting after the case on why Cook had been 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, said last month: “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.