A jail sentence and driving ban handed down before Christmas to a motorist who had been drinking when he killed a cyclist then fled the scene highlight the need for reform of the law, say campaigners.
Milan Gugyel was sentenced to five years 11 months in jail at Derby Crown Court last month after admitting causing the death by dangerous driving of 15 year old Adam Barry from Sandiacre on Saturday 25 April 2020.
Adam’s father, said that his son had been “left as roadkill by someone who should not have been on the roads,” with witnesses testifying that Gugyel had been drinking at a party that was illegal under lockdown rules in force at the time before driving home in his partner’s Audi A2.
Prosecutors said that Gugyel – an HGV driver by trade – fled the scene without “even calling for medical assistance” because “he was concerned he was over the legal limit and he knew he was on his phone.”
They added: “We also say he knew of the consequences of the offence.
“He knew it would lead to a disqualification and he would lose his employment as an HGV driver.”
Duncan Dollimore, campaigns manager at Cycling UK, told road.cc: “When a driver callously flees the scene of a collision, leaving their innocent victim to die on the roadside, the police have to piece together the jigsaw, as they did in this case, to firstly trace the vehicle involved and then identify the driver.
“But often there’ll be no independent witnesses, with drivers claiming that the victim appeared out of nowhere, was wearing dark clothing and couldn’t be seen, or was in some other way to blame.
“So, even when the police do trace the driver, they often can’t charge or secure a conviction for careless or dangerous driving because, whilst they can prove that a fatal collision occurred, they haven’t enough direct evidence about the standard of driving.
“Left with only a fail to stop offence, the court is limited to a six- month maximum prison sentence, with Minister’s repeatedly claiming that this is sufficient.
“They just don’t seem to grasp that, irrespective of the exact cause of the collision and whether dangerous driving can be proved in the absence of live witnesses, that the decision to drive off and abandon someone you’ve fatally injured, buying yourself time to produce a negative alcohol test the next morning, merits far more than a six- month sentence.
“We’ve now been told that the government are ‘scoping out’ a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act,” he added.
“That’ll be the call for evidence for the review they promised nearly eight years ago, which puts Guygel’s five- year driving ban into perspective.”
The national cycling charity is running an online action through which you can contact your local MP to urge them to take action on this and other issues related to, in Dollimore’s words, “fixing our failing road traffic laws.”
The issue of motorists driving away from a collision in which someone has been killed or seriously injured to avoid being breathalysed was raised in a House of Commons debate in November.
The debate was tabled after two petitions on the subject each exceeded 100,000 signatures, the point at which they are considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee.
The earlier of the two petitions was posted by the parents of two young men who were killed while riding motorbikes by drivers who fled the scene, and closed last January after being hosted on the Parliament.uk website for six months, attracting 104,324 signatures.
The petition said: “The maximum penalty for failure to stop after an incident is points and a 6-month custodial sentence. Causing death by careless/dangerous driving is between 5-14 yrs. The sentence for failing to stop after a fatal collision must be increased.”
The second petition, which received 167,640 signatures, closed in September last year and called for the introduction of what was termed “Ryan’s Law” – named after Ryan Saltern, who was left to die by a driver who struck him in his vehicle then fled the scene.
It called for the definition of causing death by dangerous driving to be widened to include “failure to stop, call 999 and render aid on scene until further help arrives.”
Once petitions hosted on the Parliament website reach 10,000 signatures, the government is obliged to give a response to the issues raised therein, and in the case of these two petitions, those came from different government departments – the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the former and the Department for Transport (DfT) for the latter.
Much of the wording of both responses was identical, or as near as makes no difference, with each stating that “the offence of failing to stop should not be used to punish an offender for a serious, but not proven, offence.”
Both highlighted that the vast majority of failure to stop cases relate to what were described as “low level incidents,” giving the example of a driver clipping the wing mirror of another vehicle in a narrow street, typically punishable on conviction by a fine.
The two responses acknowledged that in more serious cases that attracted charges such as causing death by dangerous or careless driving, failure to stop would be considered as an aggravating factor by the courts as an aggravating factor.
They also pointed out that where a motorist had taken steps to avoid detection, that could amount to perverting the course of justice, for which the maximum penalty on conviction is life imprisonment.
In its reply to the Ryan’s Law petition, the DfT added: “The Government takes this issue seriously. The Department for Transport is looking into the issue of such incidents of failure to stop resulting in death or serious injury, and exploring whether there are further options that can be pursued.”
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.