A driver who knocked a Ceredigion councillor off his bike near Aberystwyth, causing him to be hit and killed by another motorist, has been convicted of causing his death by careless driving. Both drivers denied the charge, arguing they were blinded by the sun and did not see Paul James ahead of them.
As we reported on Saturday, James was riding uphill towards a bend between Waun Fawr and Comins Cochon on the A487 near Aberystwyth on April 11, 2019, when he was hit by the wing mirror of Lowri Powell’s car.
He fell from his bike and was then hit and dragged 35 metres by Christopher Jones who was driving behind.
Both drivers told police that glare from the setting sun meant they had not seen him.
Powell told Swansea Crown Court she had done "absolutely nothing wrong" and there had been "nothing she could have done differently."
Asked by the prosecution how she had failed to see James “right in front of your bonnet,” Powell replied: “The lighting coming through the trees and foliage on the side had created a flickering effect and I believe the high visibility jacket blended in with that.”
For his part, Jones told the court he had “tenths of a second” to react after spotting James’ jacket as he lay on the ground.
Jones thought Powell’s vehicle may have already rounded the corner ahead when he hit the cyclist and suggested he hadn’t seen him sooner because of the glare of the sun and because he had been "underneath the shadowing" of roadside trees and bushes.
Professor Graham Edgar, an expert in perception and psychophysics, said that Powell would have had a "line of sight" of more than 300 metres and said he could see "no reason" why James would not have been visible.
In contrast, accident reconstruction consultant Victoria Eyers said that given the low sun and James’ position under the trees, he would only have become visible to Powell when she was 13 metres behind him.
Eyers said her conclusions were based on footage shot by a police officer 48 hours later as she was unable to visit the scene due to coronavirus restrictions.
The jury was told it had to consider whether each motorist’s standard of driving had fallen below that expected of a competent and careful driver and whether that driving had been a cause of James' death.
The BBC reports that Jones was found not guilty, but after five hours of deliberations, Powell was convicted.
Judge Geraint Walters said he would reflect on the case and consider pre-sentence reports before sentencing Powell on October 9.
He added that he would not impose an interim driving ban following submissions from the defendant's barrister.