Community service for driver who killed cyclist while eating sandwich

240 hours and a 12-month ban for killing father of two

Paul Brown, the driver who was eating a sandwich at the time he hit and killed cyclist Joe Wilkins, has been sentenced to 240 hours community service for causing death by careless driving.

He is also required to perform four sessions of restorative justice within 12 months and was also disqualified for driving for 12 months.

Wilkins’ partner, Nicci Saunders, told the Oxford Mail: “The fact the judge put this case in the lower level of careless driving is just a joke really. For what he has done, and generally for people who do that, there needs to be a prison sentence. A year ban is just no punishment.”

Miss Saunders said that drivers found guilty of causing death by careless driving should be banned for at least five years.

“At the end of the day he can carry on with his life almost as normal. It is for life for us,” she said, adding that their two children wake up crying and can’t remember what their dad looked like.

“These girls will never have their dad around – their lives and mine will never be the same. How do you keep the memory alive when they are that young and are forgetting already?

“It is hard work dealing with all this. I do not have many happy days but I try to be happy for the kids. Today I feel numb and just really let down.”

Careless driving

Mr Brown admitted causing death by careless driving, but was acquitted by a jury of causing death by dangerous driving.

In passing sentence at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday, Recorder Andrew Burrows said that although Mr Brown had been holding a sandwich at the time of the crash, his eyes had been on the road.

Recorder Burrows said: “In my view this falls significantly below that of dangerous driving.

“You simply did not see Joseph Wilkins in the darkness until it was too late, albeit you ought to have seen him before you did and then taken the simple evasive action necessary to avoid him.

“You broke down sobbing in the witness box in the trial and express deep remorse for what you have done and deep sympathy for Joseph Wilkins’s family.”

Causing death by careless driving carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, while the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving can result in a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Sentencing review

Causing death by careless driving carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment. The more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving can result in a maximum jail term of 14 years.

The case is the latest in a long line in which drivers convicted of killing cyclists have received what many perceive as too lenient a sentence.

Representatives of British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace last year met with justice minister Helen Grant to call for thorough investigation and tougher sentencing in cases where a vulnerable road user is the victim.

They also urged that improvements be made to the support provided to the families left behind. Also at that meeting was the brother of British Cycling employee, Rob Jefferies, killed on a training ride in Dorset in 2011 by a 17-year-old driver who had passed his test six months earlier and who already had a speeding conviction. He received a non-custodial sentence.

In its largely disappointing response to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report, the Government said it will initiate a review of sentencing in cases involving cyclists and pedestrians in the new year.

The review of sentencing guidelines, which will be accompanied by a consultation, will be carried out by the Sentencing Council, an independent non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice. It will cover the offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving. Proposals will be subject to a formal consultation.

Reacting to the announcement of the sentencing review, Martin Gibbs, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at British Cycling, said: "We need everybody to feel properly protected by the criminal justice system when travelling on the road.

"We’ve been asking the government for months for a review of sentencing guidelines so I’m glad to see that confirmed, though it should form part of a comprehensive review of the criminal justice process, which all too often fails people on bikes by not prosecuting or by returning sentences which don’t reflect the seriousness of the crime.

"We have been meeting with Ministry of Justice and the Department for Transport to push for improvements but progress has been slow.

“This announcement means that positive steps are being taken and is a victory for British Cycling and its members.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson 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 editor 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 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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