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CTC calls for corporate manslaughter prosecutions after Alan Neve case

Employers and contractors of drivers who kill should be held accountable, says advocacy body

In the wake of another apparently light charge for a driver who killed a cyclist, cycling advocacy charity CTC says that the law needs to take dangerous driving more seriously and has called for corporate manslaughter charges to be brought against the employers of professional drivers who kill.

Yesterday's news that the driver who killed Alan Neve had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving generated incredulity from  cycling advocates.

Barry Meyer admitted killing Alan Neve on July 15 2013. He was driving a tipper truck for which he didn't have a licence, and had no insurance. He was following a colleague through the complex junction at High Holborn when he ran a red light and hit Alan Neve, dragging his body along the street.

Meyer had numerous previous convictions for driving offences and had been banned five times.

Mark Treasure, chair of the Great Britain Cycling Academy, spoke for many when he asked on Twitter: "How can jumping a red light in an HGV in central London, while disqualified and uninsured, be merely "careless"?"

Through its Road Justice campaign, cycling advocacy charity CTC has been campaigning for tougher charges and penalties for drivers who kill and seriously injure cyclists.

CTC campaigns & policy director Roger Geffen says "it’s not just the CPS in London who are failing to bring dangerous driving prosecutions.  The same is happening across the country."

The offence of causing death by careless driving was introduced in 2008. As this graph shows, the number of prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving has roughly halved since then.

 


Click for larger version

The silver lining is that more drivers are being prosecuted for causing death, where previously they might not have been charged with a serious offence at all.

Geffen says: "Although the newer offence allows for stiffer penalties in cases which were previously treated as nothing more than “careless driving” (i.e. with the death often not even being mentioned in a magistrates court trial), it has also led to a massive decline in the CPS’s willingness to prosecute for ‘dangerous’ driving offences, exactly as CTC warned."

As well as astonishment that Meyer was not charged with a more serious offence, many asked how a man with no licence for a tipper truck, and his previous record, had even been employed as a driver at all.

An important aspect of the case, says Geffen, is "how come an operator or contractor was willing to hire or employ Barry Meyer to drive a lorry, given his string of previous convictions."

Alan Neve was far from the first vulnerable road user to be killed by a driver who should not have been behind the wheel.

In June 2009, Catriona Patel was  killed by Dennis Putz, who had a string of past convictions, a known drink-driving history and a “god-awful hangover” at the time. 

In June 2011, Nora Gutmann was killed by Joao Lopes. Lopes was driving the lorry that killed cyclist Eilidh Cairns in 2009, but the only charge he faced in connection with that death was driving with uncorrected defective vision.

In July 2013 Andrew Mcmenigall and Toby Wallace were killed by Robert Palmer. Palmer was found to have been working hugely excessive hours, using a mobile, and went on to commit a further dangerous driving offence just two months later.

Geffen says the Justice Ministry is now engaged in a review of road traffic offences and sentencing, and CTC will carry on demanding that driving which causes obvious danger should be treated in law as dangerous driving, not dismissed as mere carelessness.

But employers and contractors who operate HGVs also need to be held to account, he says: "We also need to keep pressing the courts and Traffic Commissioners to pay more attention to the issue of holding lorry drivers’ employers and contractors to account for ensuring they only hire or employ drivers with a safe record. One or two corporate manslaughter prosecutions might help focus minds in the industry.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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21 comments

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A V Lowe | 8 years ago
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The law has been broken but because there is no formal legislation that requires the Police to advise the Traffic Commissioner, details like this slip under the wire.

The truck has a vanity plate (S77 DHL) which is currently SORN but it also clearly has a Standard National Operators Licence (blue disc).

To nail fraudulent copying of discs to use on several vehicles the numbered disc is allocated to a known vehicle.

By law the Transport Manager has to keep records of drivers fitness to drive the vehicles they are using, and generally maintain due diligence over the operation of the company's fleet.

The identity of the operator can be established and the TM has to be called to an inquiry by the Commissioner given the issues involved.

We can then see what moves on from this.

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A V Lowe | 8 years ago
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The law has been broken but because there is no formal legislation that requires the Police to advise the Traffic Commissioner, details like this slip under the wire.

The truck has a vanity plate (S77 DHL) which is currently SORN but it also clearly has a Standard National Operators Licence (blue disc).

To nail fraudulent copying of discs to use on several vehicles the numbered disc is allocated to a known vehicle.

By law the Transport Manager has to keep records of drivers fitness to drive the vehicles they are using, and generally maintain due diligence over the operation of the company's fleet.

The identity of the operator can be established and the TM has to be called to an inquiry by the Commissioner given the issues involved.

We can then see what moves on from this.

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don simon fbpe | 8 years ago
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Let these deaths not be in vain.

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The Giblet | 8 years ago
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Even if the driver was employed through an agency it is the company responsibility to ensure that they meet legal requirements. If your company owned or leased an expensive piece of machinery would you let a moron who has been shown to be incapable of using it safely on multiple occasion loose on it?
Both the agency and company using the agency will be liable and I suspect that a legal case will be brought against both.

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Housecathst | 8 years ago
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It's all very well try to get the CPS to bring a charge of "dangerous driving" but good luck trying to get a conviction out of a jury of motorists.

Other than drinking driving, the jury will just shrug their shoulders and think "yeah I do that too" and They'll hand down a not guilty verdict.

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racyrich replied to Housecathst | 8 years ago
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Housecathst wrote:

It's all very well try to get the CPS to bring a charge of "dangerous driving" but good luck trying to get a conviction out of a jury of motorists.

Other than drinking driving, the jury will just shrug their shoulders and think "yeah I do that too" and They'll hand down a not guilty verdict.

I suspect even a jury of motorists would shudder at sharing the road with uninsured lorries driven by recidivist dangerous drivers.

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OldRidgeback | 8 years ago
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AsI've said before, many of the firms that run tipper trucks do so under questionable conditions. How the firm ever hired this driver is worth investigating. His driving record means that no reputable company would have allowed him anywhere near a heavy vehicle. The police should take a long look at how the firm operates as I would expect it to potentially be involved in a string of other offences, some possibly quite serious.

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CarlosFerreiro | 8 years ago
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There may be grounds for HSE involvement, but the police will investigate what Happened on the road, and while there's not a hole between the 2 bits of law there may be a gap in consideration of when things should move onto a wider investigation?
I'd certainly like to see management's "focus" forcibly directed to their responsibilities.
http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/oms/2009/002.htm

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Airzound replied to CarlosFerreiro | 8 years ago
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CarlosFerreiro wrote:

There may be grounds for HSE involvement, but the police will investigate what Happened on the road, and while there's not a hole between the 2 bits of law there may be a gap in consideration of when things should move onto a wider investigation?
I'd certainly like to see management's "focus" forcibly directed to their responsibilities.
http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/oms/2009/002.htm

You are living in cloud cuckoo land if your think this is a 'normal' company with risk assessments, policies and procedures that they adhere to and a system of checking their staff records such as driving licenses, driving history, etc. They are most likely are a small firm who won this contract because they under priced the job and need to employ drivers cash in hand, they do not ask questions or want to know about their drivers, just that they can drive a truck to A and back to B as fast as possible, no questions asked. The company or the driver probably doesn't have any public or property liability insurance in addition let alone vehicle insurance. They are probably total crooks and the directors should face charges of corporate manslaughter and be barred from ever running a company again as they have clearly failed in this instance.

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Scoob_84 | 8 years ago
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Was Barry Meyer actually disqualified for driving at the time? Some reports suggest he has been banned 5 times previously, but might not necessarily be banned at the time of killing Alan Neve. Then there is a quote from Mark Treasure suggesting he was driving and disqualified and uninsured at the time.

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benb replied to Scoob_84 | 8 years ago
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Scoob_84 wrote:

Was Barry Meyer actually disqualified for driving at the time? Some reports suggest he has been banned 5 times previously, but might not necessarily be banned at the time of killing Alan Neve. Then there is a quote from Mark Treasure suggesting he was driving and disqualified and uninsured at the time.

He had a licence, but it didn't cover him driving HGVs. So the offence was driving otherwise than in accordance with the licence.

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bikebot replied to Scoob_84 | 8 years ago
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Scoob_84 wrote:

Was Barry Meyer actually disqualified for driving at the time? Some reports suggest he has been banned 5 times previously, but might not necessarily be banned at the time of killing Alan Neve. Then there is a quote from Mark Treasure suggesting he was driving and disqualified and uninsured at the time.

Reading the reports carefully, it's not clear whether or not his driving ban had passed. However, he wasn't licensed to drive a tipper lorry (and thus was also uninsured).

I think we're missing some details, as the case closed early with his decision to plead guilty. That includes the details of his employer, which many people have asked about.

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Dnnnnnn replied to bikebot | 8 years ago
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bikebot wrote:
Scoob_84 wrote:

Was Barry Meyer actually disqualified for driving at the time? Some reports suggest he has been banned 5 times previously, but might not necessarily be banned at the time of killing Alan Neve. Then there is a quote from Mark Treasure suggesting he was driving and disqualified and uninsured at the time.

Reading the reports carefully, it's not clear whether or not his driving ban had passed. However, he wasn't licensed to drive a tipper lorry (and thus was also uninsured).

I think we're missing some details, as the case closed early with his decision to plead guilty. That includes the details of his employer, which many people have asked about.

Just as for people who want to work with children and vulnerable adults, there should be disclosure of previous offences when hiring someone to drive a heavy vehicle around vulnerable road users.

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mrmo | 8 years ago
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How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

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benb replied to mrmo | 8 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

Absolutely. We need the definition of "workplace" expanded to include the roads when a driver employed by the company is involved in a RTC whilst on company business. That way the HSE can get involved - at the moment they are hamstrung from doing so.

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bikebot replied to mrmo | 8 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

And yet if someone wants to smoke in a work vehicle, it is treated as a workplace.

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Airzound replied to bikebot | 8 years ago
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bikebot wrote:
mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

And yet if someone wants to smoke in a work vehicle, it is treated as a workplace.

And should they be caught and fined, the fine would likely far exceed any fine or sentence for a driver who ran down and killed a cyclist which is totally perverse.

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CarlosFerreiro replied to mrmo | 8 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

My understanding is that driving for work already falls under HSE legislation, but that there is an "understanding" that enforcement will be left to the police/roads legislation?

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mrmo replied to CarlosFerreiro | 8 years ago
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CarlosFerreiro wrote:
mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

My understanding is that driving for work already falls under HSE legislation, but that there is an "understanding" that enforcement will be left to the police/roads legislation?

Which leaves a hole, the driver is guilty of an offence but the employer is not even though they enabled the driver, they provided the kit etc. If the employer was liable, for ensuring the driver was properly tested and road legal, etc maybe a few more incompetent drivers would be taken off the road. This extends to ALL employed commercial drivers, from (the few employed)taxis, buses, coaches, tippers, to reps.

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Dnnnnnn replied to CarlosFerreiro | 8 years ago
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CarlosFerreiro wrote:
mrmo wrote:

How would the HSE proceed if this was on a site, so why the difference when the workplace is the road.

My understanding is that driving for work already falls under HSE legislation, but that there is an "understanding" that enforcement will be left to the police/roads legislation?

I think what happens *within* the vehicle (i.e. the driver's workplace) is covered - but not what happens on the street outside.

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Airzound | 8 years ago
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Simple solution is don't cycle on the roads in the UK. It's f*cking dangerous! No one in authority gives a f*ck about cyclists as we can see from a long line of cases where cyclists killed on the roads and their families have been failed miserably by the justice system and politicians. Drivers who kill will never ever be punished sufficiently to make it safer for all cyclists. And drivers who have such shocking driving histories who defy bans and drive whilst unlicensed, uninsured, drunk, continue to do so. Being prevented from doing so is non existent. It is a fucking disgrace.

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