The lorry driver who seriously injured Times journalist Mary Bowers when he hit her whilst she was cycling has been found guilty of careless driving, not the more serious verdict of dangerous driving despite admitting to being on the phone and not paying attention.
Petre Beiu was cleared of dangerous driving by a jury on Friday at Snaresbrook Crown Court. His tipper truck hit Bowers in November 2011 in London. Bowers suffered severe head injuries, broke both legs, broke her arm and pelvis and is still hospitalised, requiring constant care. It is likely that she will never recover and her father described her condition to the Evening Standard as “If it’s possible to be worse than dead, then she is”.
Bowers’ horrific incident was part of the motivation for the Times newspaper’s ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign that called for an urgent review of road safety measures and policy aimed at protecting cyclists on Britain’s roads. The campaign has attracted widespread attention and led to a parliamentary debate, leading to increased financial investment in road infrastructure. However, the judicial system still appears to be lagging behind when dealing with those who cause the incidents.
Beiu admitted in court that he was not paying adequate attention when he struck Bowers. He also admitted to failing to apply his handbrake when he left the truck to attend to Bowers, causing the vehicle to slip further forward over Bowers.
Beiu received a fine of £2,700 and an eight-month driving ban. The leniency of the penalty has once again highlighted the inadequate penalties handed out to drivers who cause serious injury or death to cyclists and other road users.
British Cycling Policy and Legal Affairs Director Martin Gibb has been lobbying throughout the past year for a judicial review of dangerous and careless driving sentencing, which has been supported by Cycling Weekly.
“Once again the justice system has failed us,” said Gibb of Bieu’s case. “The HGV driver was on a phone call, said he didn’t look properly and the evidence is clear that Mary was visible for a long time.
“It seems to me that there was no other sensible conclusion than that his driving was dangerous, not careless. These failures send completely the wrong message about how we expect people to behave on our roads.”
Driver cleared of manslaughter in separate case
Kenan Aydogdu was cleared of manslaughter by a jury at the Old Bailey after opening his car door into the path of cyclist Sam Harding, causing him to swerve and be killed by a bus in August 2011.
The court was told that Aydogdu’s windows had been tinted to such an extent that they only had 17 per cent visibility and that he had not checked his mirror before opening the door.