A former Mayor of Witney, Oxfordshire has been given a suspended sentence and banned from driving for two years after causing the death of a 75-year-old cyclist in December 2020.
Ian Bailey was cycling on the A361 between Broughton Poggs and Little Faringdon in west Oxfordshire when he was hit by the wing mirror of a car, driven by local Conservative councillor James King, throwing him from his bike. He died from brain injuries suffered in the collision.
Oxford Crown Court heard that King, who pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, told other drivers at the scene that he hadn’t seen Bailey prior to the collision.
The court was told that King was driving at 40mph in a 50mph zone, but was staring into a low sun on a damp road and was being tailgated by the driver of a black Volvo at the time of the incident.
The crash investigator, PC Reuben Hill, said that the tailgating motorist was so close to the rear of Mr King’s car that they ran over Mr Bailey’s bike after he was thrown from it.
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Prosecutor Stefan Weidmann told the court: “PC Reuben Hill opines that whilst the low sun was clearly a factor in this collision it would not have been a sudden occurrence for a Lechlade-bound driver.
“With the collision scene being visible for over 300m, Mr King would have had 16 seconds at 40mph. During those 16 seconds the reduced forward visibility caused by the sun and the road glare would have [resulted] in Mr King experiencing a level of discomfort.
“The Highway Code states at rule 237 if you are dazzled by bright sunlight slow down and, if necessary, stop.
“Reducing speed self-evidently increases the amount of reaction time and stopping time required if a hazard should present itself. Whilst the defendant, self-evidently, was not speeding – the limit being 50 – at 40 he had only dropped 20 percent from the permitted maximum.”
According to the crash investigator, “the most likely cause of the collision is a combination of the low winter sun and road glare together with Mr King’s failing to reduce his speed sufficiently or paying full attention to the road ahead due to the rearward distraction of the black Volvo behind him.”
Mr King is a Conservative councillor and former Mayor of Witney, who turned to local politics after a long career as an engineering officer in the RAF. He was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and currently serves on a county ‘traffic advisory committee’.
He was driving his car on the day of the fatal collision to prevent its battery going flat, but had missed the turn to head back to his home in Witney shortly before the incident. He pleaded guilty in January to causing death by careless driving.
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Sentencing Mr King to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for a year and a half, Recorder John Bate-Williams said: “In these dazzling and sunny conditions you should have slowed down from your previous speed of about 40mph.
“You should have ensured your sun visors were lowered…and most importantly you should have reduced your speed dramatically or even stopped if you were having difficulty seeing the road ahead of you.
“The failure to take all of those steps cost Mr Bailey his life.”
He was also banned from driving for two years and ordered to take a driving test after the ban expires, and must also pay costs amounting to £1,000.
In a victim personal statement read to the court by the prosecutor, Mr Bailey’s wife Ann said: “A life has been cut short, that of Ian Bailey.
“Most importantly, I have lost a husband and companion of 30 years. Four children have lost their father. Six grandchildren have lost their grandfather.
“A sister has lost her brother and other people have lost a relative or friend of many years standing.
“Having admitted to causing the death of Ian Bailey, I don’t wish Mr King any ill. I feel having to live with the fact of the rest of his life is punishment enough.”
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