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Tipper lorry driver pleads guilty to killing Oxford cyclist

Robert Whiting today admitted causing the death by dangerous driving of research scientist and mother of two Dr Ling Felce

A tipper lorry driver has pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of a University of Oxford academic and mother of two at The Plain roundabout.

Researched scientist Dr Ling Felce, aged 35, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on the afternoon of 1 March this year.

The following day, Thames Valley Police charged lorry driver Robert Whiting, 40, with causing death by dangerous driving whilst unfit through drugs, causing death while driving unlicensed and causing death while driving without insurance.

He entered a guilty plea at Oxford Crown Court today to the sole charge of causing death by dangerous driving, reports Oxfordshire Live, and will return there for sentencing on 8 September.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Dr Felce, whose children are aged three and five, was described by her husband as the “light of our family” in a statement released by Thames Valley Police following her death.

He said: "We are devastated to lose her so young when she had so many dreams for herself and her children that she was beginning to realise.

“I am lost without her warm presence, but she will live on through the love that she has given to us and to so many others.”

She was killed three weeks to the day after another member of the university’s staff lost her life while cycling.

> “One month, two dead cyclists” – Oxford's cycling city sign defaced after second death

Ellen Moilanen, an administrator at Reuben College, was killed when she was struck by a lorry driver near Oxford Parkway Station on February 8.

The two tragedies prompted local cycling campaign group Cyclox to call for safer infrastructure in and around the city.

The organisation’s chair, Dr Alison Hill, said: “We all should be calling for a ‘vision zero’ which is about total intolerance of any road user death because it is just awful for any road user to lose their life.”

She said that one of the chief reasons people do not ride bikes “is because they are fearful about the state of our roads. We would love to see segregated cycle lanes, they are a way to get people feeling safe when cycling.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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25 comments

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wtjs | 1 year ago
4 likes

She said that one of the chief reasons people do not ride bikes “is because they are fearful about the state of our...

...Police. We're not going to get much segregated cycle infrastructure in the near and middle term. We already have the roads but the refusal of some police forces to ever do anything significant about close passing offences is the reason that the police are the greatest single factor in making these roads dangerous for cyclists. Lancashire has never taken anyone to court over close passing and has never (as far as FoI requests have revealed) awarded fines or licence points for the offence. Action has been restricted to 'words of advice', 'warning letter' and joke 'driver improvement courses' and I don't believe the claims about the latter here. It doesn't assist me that Inspector Kevin has been responsible for the points on the licences of a few drivers who have passed cycling police officers too closely in the NW Sheffield region- the rest of us are still suffering!

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the little onion | 1 year ago
14 likes

I presume charges of corporate manslaughter against his employers are forthcoming?

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
10 likes

So much information missing. Did the man ever have an HGV licence? I am guessing he lost his licence some time ago, probably through drink driving, yet has racked up multiple offences in multiple vehicles. How do you get hold of an HGV without a licence? Whose was it?

Still, if cyclists were properly barcoded, think how safe the roads would be.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
4 likes

What a sad and totally avoidable loss of life.

Interested to see what sentence is ultimately given. It won't be 14 years as the chaps given a guilty plea.
You would hope the total lack of respect for the law, demonstrates by multiple prosecutions will be taken into account when sentencing.

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
11 likes

Hmm...missing information, but: tipper lorries - are they like black cabs?  As in was this guy - who was apparently on drugs, unlicenced and uninsured - employed by someone?  Unless he was the boss it sounds like some company should at the least be doing a serious review of themselves at this point if not be under investigation.

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Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
2 likes
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eburtthebike replied to Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
9 likes

Dnnnnnn wrote:

The Oxford Mail has more on this guy/POS...
www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/20587493.lorry-driver-admits-causing-death-cyc...

"The Oxford Mail can now report that Whiting might never have been behind the wheel of the truck had he answered a court summons.

On the morning of the fatal crash, he was due before Oxford Magistrates’ Court to answer allegations that he failed to stop for police officers, driving a VW Golf without a licence or insurance in Barton Village Road and Gurl Close on August 2 last year.

He was later found guilty of failing to stop for a constable, having admitted the no insurance and no licence offences. He was fined £250 and given eight penalty points.

Whiting was also due before a ‘paper court’ this week. A magistrate working behind closed doors was asked to reopen a case of driving a white Transit van without a licence or insurance in Rymers Lane, Oxford, on December 5 last year. The matter had been proved in his absence in June, when he was fined £880 and given six points."

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OldRidgeback replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
11 likes

I hope he gots a very long sentence. My condolences to the family of the victim.

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nosferatu1001 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
3 likes

I imag8ne it'll be the full tariff, less a third for presumably pleading guilty at first opp.  That works out to 9 and a bit years.  

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IanMSpencer replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

So that at least 4 times the driver has been caught - something that got him banned and 3 more offences in 3 different vehicles.

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Rome73 replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

Unbelievable. He is a serial offender. . To coin a phrase 'lock him up, lock him up'. 

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Runtilyoudrop | 1 year ago
5 likes

Oxford transport infrastructure is a disgrace. The local councillors should hang their heads in shame 

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Jenova20 replied to Runtilyoudrop | 1 year ago
0 likes

Runtilyoudrop wrote:

Oxford transport infrastructure is a disgrace. The local councillors should hang their heads in shame 

They only share partial blame. The judges should have locked him up many offences ago and they caused this. How many chances do we give these people?

We really need something like a three strikes law. That would have prevented this death and got him off the road after the last offence.

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chrisonabike replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
0 likes

Three strikes?  In the case of anyone operating larger vehicles or doing so commercially there should be a much higher standard in play.  There is a greater risk of serious harm / damage and some private concern or individuals are making money from their use of public infrastructure.

It is a bit more tricky for "personal transport":

Driving is normalised - even trivialised - people consider it a "right" (or "rite of passage" e.g. to full adulthood).
People can make "minor" or "random" mistakes and generally get away with that - but occasionally these have huge consequences.
There are clearly a few people who're wildly out of control / don't care.
Our system - actually people in general - don't deal well with wide spectrums of behaviour.  We want smaller neater categories.

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Jenova20 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

chrisonatrike wrote:

Driving is normalised - even trivialised - people consider it a "right" (or "rite of passage" e.g. to full adulthood).

Judges certainly do. So many people on the roads with "exceptional hardship" defences and too many points to justify them being allowed out without a chaperone.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and exeptional hardship is not a valid defence when there is a massive availability of public transport, cycling, and taxis.

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hawkinspeter replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Jenova20 wrote:

They only share partial blame. The judges should have locked him up many offences ago and they caused this. How many chances do we give these people?

We really need something like a three strikes law. That would have prevented this death and got him off the road after the last offence.

I disagree with a simplistic three strikes law as that is open to abuse. What is needed is for driving bans to be far more frequent and for longer. Of course, we also need better policing of the roads too even though certain people might believe this to be another war on the law abiding (not law abiding) motorists. Also, anyone driving a vehicle whilst banned should get an immediate prison sentence.

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Jenova20 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

Jenova20 wrote:

They only share partial blame. The judges should have locked him up many offences ago and they caused this. How many chances do we give these people?

We really need something like a three strikes law. That would have prevented this death and got him off the road after the last offence.

I disagree with a simplistic three strikes law as that is open to abuse. What is needed is for driving bans to be far more frequent and for longer. Of course, we also need better policing of the roads too even though certain people might believe this to be another war on the law abiding (not law abiding) motorists. Also, anyone driving a vehicle whilst banned should get an immediate prison sentence.

I disagree. If you need to be given more than 1 warning that you're breaking or have broken the law and don't change your behaviour then penalties should absolutely escalate. Ignorance is not a valid excuse after multiple warnings have already been given and someone continues doing something.

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hawkinspeter replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Jenova20 wrote:

I disagree. If you need to be given more than 1 warning that you're breaking or have broken the law and don't change your behaviour then penalties should absolutely escalate. Ignorance is not a valid excuse after multiple warnings have already been given and someone continues doing something.

There's degress of danger/law-breaking on the roads, so I think the points system is a good idea, but it needs tightening up so that people can't use 'exceptional hardship' to avoid bans.

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Jenova20 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

I meant three strikes in reference to law breaking, not ticketable offences, eg: shoplifting, assault, burglary etc. We see too often people with many tens of offences still not seeing the inside of a prison.

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hawkinspeter replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
3 likes

Jenova20 wrote:

I meant three strikes in reference to law breaking, not ticketable offences, eg: shoplifting, assault, burglary etc. We see too often people with many tens of offences still not seeing the inside of a prison.

I'm wary of copying anything from the U.S. as invariably it's the absolute worst way of dealing with problems and usually involves lots of racism.

There's a balance that needs to be struck between giving people a second chance and just throwing them into prison. Prisons create their own problems (except in the U.S. where they are used to produce profit for certain private companies that rely on the prisoners' work) so we don't always want to send people to prison if there's an alternative that has a good chance of working. Similarly, we don't want serial offenders to continue to harm the public.

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Jenova20 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

There's a balance that needs to be struck between giving people a second chance and just throwing them into prison.

Someone with a large rap sheet of minor offences has already had far more than a second chance. Just because we don't currently lock people up for minor offences it can't be allowed for them to rack up a huge list of them with impunity. Society only functions fairly when the laws are fair and people know they will be upheld. At the moment we're too lenient in an attempt to rehabilitate serial offenders, with pathetic sentencing. The US goes completely in the direction of punishing them and not giving a shit what happens when they're released. It's a fine balance between punishment and rehabilitation, and they're too far on one side, we're too far on the other.

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hawkinspeter replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Jenova20 wrote:

Someone with a large rap sheet of minor offences has already had far more than a second chance. Just because we don't currently lock people up for minor offences it can't be allowed for them to rack up a huge list of them with impunity. Society only functions fairly when the laws are fair and people know they will be upheld. At the moment we're too lenient in an attempt to rehabilitate serial offenders, with pathetic sentencing. The US goes completely in the direction of punishing them and not giving a shit what happens when they're released. It's a fine balance between punishment and rehabilitation, and they're too far on one side, we're too far on the other.

I don't know about minor offences, but certainly we need to be harsher with road policing. I'm all for re-educating drivers about minor mistakes, but the police should be able to hand out short driving bans like candy.

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chrisonabike replied to Jenova20 | 1 year ago
1 like

Jenova20 wrote:

... Society only functions fairly when the laws are fair and people know they will be upheld. At the moment we're too lenient in an attempt to rehabilitate serial offenders, with pathetic sentencing. The US goes completely in the direction of punishing them and not giving a shit what happens when they're released. It's a fine balance between punishment and rehabilitation, and they're too far on one side, we're too far on the other.

Hmm... sort of.  People certainly do want to feel that justice has been done - which almost always involves punishment.  However I don't know many who'd be happy with reoffending.  So it's not either or.  Prison places are a big expense too.  Proportionally we lock up a lot of people already in the UK.

Neither the US nor the UK do at all well at reducing reoffending (mixed figures and tricky to compare but see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6743246/).

I think the best bet is to apply a "health and safety" approach to the roads.  From that perspective relying in a large part on the justice system for safety is not particularly effective.  It also is applying controls after the fact - something bad has already happened.  If we locked up all convicted killer drivers for a long time that would stop those particular ones.  However since this relies on more policing anyway I think that more bans, longer bans and (far) better enforcement of those would be more cost-effective.  Bans obviously need to be backed with other punishments for breaching them.  Not our current "do that again and I will be forced to warn you another time".

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wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

I disagree with a simplistic three strikes law as that is open to abuse

Lancashire Constabulary already refuses to take action against drivers of public service vehicles like the one below (I have been attacked by Stagecoach drivers many times!), on the grounds that it might harm their employment- as it should! They would use a '3-strikes' as another excuse to not do anything about certain offences because 'it would use up a strike'. The police don't need any more excuses to do nothing- they're already very accomplished at it.

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Jenova20 replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

Having laws is one thing. Getting the police to do their jobs and enforce them is another. They've been taking tips from the GPs on how little they can do while still asking for pay increases and threatening to quit en mass haven't they.

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