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Clubmates of cyclist killed by car during time trial accuse courts of "cover-up"

Anger and disbelief remain over driver escaping custodial sentence

Clubmates of a cyclist killed last summer when she was taking part in a time trial on the A435 near Stratford-Upon-Avon have expressed astonishment that the driver convicted of causing her death walked free from court, and have accused authorities of staging a cover-up.

As reported on just before Christmas, Arron Bjorn Cook, from Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, was given a community sentence and banned from driving for a year by magistrates at Warwickshire Justice Centre when he appeared before them during November.

Cook’s car had hit 52-year-old Cath Ward of Solihull Cycling Club while she participated in a time trial on the A435 Oversley By-pass at Alcester last August, and another member of the club who arrived on the scene shortly afterwards told national cyclists orgisation CTC that the driver had admitted he wasn’t looking at the road when the collision took place.

Harry Reynolds of Solihull Cycling Club, an Olympic silver medalist in 1956 who also competed in the Tour de France, said: “We as a club are appalled at this sentence. It just beggars belief that anyone’s life is worth just this. The driver wasn’t even fined.”

The former cyclist was speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, and when he heard that its reporter, when checking the trial date in November, had been told that the defence had asked for a second adjournment of the case, Mr Reynolds claimed that the courts were guilty of a cover-up, according to the newspaper

“This has all the signs of a cover up – in my view he should have had a five-year custodial sentence at the very minimum,” he stated.

Although the victim’s husband told the newspaper that the family declined to comment, local MP Caroline Spelman, said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic death of Cath Ward last summer. Clearly we need to continue to work to ensure the safety of cyclists on our roads, by encouraging drivers to be extra vigilant and making it clear that careless driving will not be tolerated.”

Commenting after the case on why Cook had been charged with causing death by careless driving rather than the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving, a spokesperson for The West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service said: “Following a detailed investigation by the police, a file of evidence was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“A Crown Advocate reviewed all of the evidence and decided that although the driver was not driving far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver, he should have been more careful while he was travelling along the dual carriageway which led to the accident.

“Due to this, we felt it was more appropriate to charge Mr Cook with an offence of careless driving rather than dangerous driving.”

CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, said last month: “Whilst obviously we don’t have all the evidence available to prosecutors in this case, it is hard to understand how driving into the back of a cyclist on a clear summer evening is anything other than ‘dangerous’, and therefore why the motorist was allowed to get off so lightly for a mere ‘careless’ driving offence.

“Surveys show that more people want to take up cycling and the Government is keen to encourage this, yet the fear of bad driving is a major factor preventing this from happening. We do not tolerate ‘carelessness’ on our railways, planes, workplaces or construction sites, so the Government really needs to tighten up on the legal system’s response to so-called ‘carelessness’ on our roads.”



Simon joined 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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tommy2p | 13 years ago

Thank you very much, not sure of the colour yet though.

whizzkid | 13 years ago

This is yet another disgrace. A woman loses her life and some muppet who wasn't even looking where he was going while hurtling along in a ton of metal not only escapes proper sentencing but is free to do it again in a year. This proves yet again that a licence to drive is a licence to kill. My heart goes out to the family who deserve better than this.

spen | 13 years ago

Unfortunately the English legal system has always put a low value on human life. Just contrast this with the 18 months given to David Chaytor for fiddling £20,000. Surely any life is worth more than that  2

Simon_MacMichael replied to spen | 13 years ago
spen wrote:

Unfortunately the English legal system has always put a low value on human life. Just contrast this with the 18 months given to David Chaytor for fiddling £20,000. Surely any life is worth more than that  2

I was about to make that exact point, Spen, and it's something that will need a seismic shift in not just judicial attitudes but also sentencing guidelines and tariffs not to mention the approach taken by the police and CPS and the actual legislation if it's to change.

I wouldn't recommend any of us holding our breath.

Daclu Trelub | 13 years ago

Looks to me as if the driver has a friend in the CPS - Masonic or otherwise.

antonio | 13 years ago

This judgement is wrong, there should be a demonstation, and wasn't there a fighting fund once set up by the CTC for such travesties.

iDavid | 13 years ago

This looks like an absurdly lenient sentence.

At the very least, this driver - indeed all banned drivers - should be required to undertake a cycle awareness test, including on-road riding, before their driving licence is returned.

gazzaputt | 13 years ago

Car is king in this land and it is this has to change.

A life taken by a motorist not paying due care and attention is always seen as unfortunate by the courts.

It is the view of judges that need to be changed that cycling or walking on road should not carry the threat of death with it.

Courts need to make the motorist take responsibility for their actions and punish accordingly.

In this case the CPS should be investigated how they came by a charge of careless instead of dangerous which it seems the driver should have been charged with. If the driver admitted not looking at the road it does beggar belief that this action in the eyes of the CPS does not constitute dangerous driving. Even worse is that he isn't looking at the road and takes a life because of his actions. In my book that is manslaughter.

downfader | 13 years ago

I do wonder about our courts sometimes, about the image it portrays to those that wish to cycle, or keep cycling, when it fails so dismally to tackle rogue drivers.

This guy didnt just act carelessly. He considered it reasonable to take his eyes right off the road for enough time so as not to be able to control his vehicle. He is a fully grown adult, he should know that any reasonable human being would not consider this a safe thing to do.

I agree with Mountain-Nic - the CTC are bang on the money. Now we just need the AA, IAM and RAC to speak out on road casualties. This is something we can easily deal with as society.

TheOldCog | 13 years ago

sad news, especially for the family.

Glad to see that CTC are on the money here, the final paragraph of this article pretty much says it all really.

We want more kids to cycle, we want more women to cycle, we want less car journeys so as to be more "green"

So therefore we need to have safer roads....So why the hesitance Mr. Politician?

Afraid of losing your seat if you alienate drivers?

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