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Former mayor given suspended sentence after causing death of cyclist

75-year-old Ian Bailey was killed after he was hit by former Witney mayor James King’s wing mirror while cycling on the A361 between Broughton Poggs and Little Faringdon

A former Mayor of Witney, Oxfordshire has been given a suspended sentence and banned from driving for two years after causing the death of a 75-year-old cyclist in December 2020.

Ian Bailey was cycling on the A361 between Broughton Poggs and Little Faringdon in west Oxfordshire when he was hit by the wing mirror of a car, driven by local Conservative councillor James King, throwing him from his bike. He died from brain injuries suffered in the collision.

Oxford Crown Court heard that King, who pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, told other drivers at the scene that he hadn’t seen Bailey prior to the collision.

The court was told that King was driving at 40mph in a 50mph zone, but was staring into a low sun on a damp road and was being tailgated by the driver of a black Volvo at the time of the incident.

The crash investigator, PC Reuben Hill, said that the tailgating motorist was so close to the rear of Mr King’s car that they ran over Mr Bailey’s bike after he was thrown from it.

> “Distracted” lorry driver cleared of killing cyclist through dangerous or careless driving

Prosecutor Stefan Weidmann told the court: “PC Reuben Hill opines that whilst the low sun was clearly a factor in this collision it would not have been a sudden occurrence for a Lechlade-bound driver.

“With the collision scene being visible for over 300m, Mr King would have had 16 seconds at 40mph. During those 16 seconds the reduced forward visibility caused by the sun and the road glare would have [resulted] in Mr King experiencing a level of discomfort.

“The Highway Code states at rule 237 if you are dazzled by bright sunlight slow down and, if necessary, stop.

“Reducing speed self-evidently increases the amount of reaction time and stopping time required if a hazard should present itself. Whilst the defendant, self-evidently, was not speeding – the limit being 50 – at 40 he had only dropped 20 percent from the permitted maximum.”

According to the crash investigator, “the most likely cause of the collision is a combination of the low winter sun and road glare together with Mr King’s failing to reduce his speed sufficiently or paying full attention to the road ahead due to the rearward distraction of the black Volvo behind him.”

Mr King is a Conservative councillor and former Mayor of Witney, who turned to local politics after a long career as an engineering officer in the RAF. He was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and currently serves on a county ‘traffic advisory committee’.

He was driving his car on the day of the fatal collision to prevent its battery going flat, but had missed the turn to head back to his home in Witney shortly before the incident. He pleaded guilty in January to causing death by careless driving.

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Sentencing Mr King to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for a year and a half, Recorder John Bate-Williams said: “In these dazzling and sunny conditions you should have slowed down from your previous speed of about 40mph.

“You should have ensured your sun visors were lowered…and most importantly you should have reduced your speed dramatically or even stopped if you were having difficulty seeing the road ahead of you.

“The failure to take all of those steps cost Mr Bailey his life.”

He was also banned from driving for two years and ordered to take a driving test after the ban expires, and must also pay costs amounting to £1,000.

In a victim personal statement read to the court by the prosecutor, Mr Bailey’s wife Ann said: “A life has been cut short, that of Ian Bailey.

“Most importantly, I have lost a husband and companion of 30 years. Four children have lost their father. Six grandchildren have lost their grandfather.

“A sister has lost her brother and other people have lost a relative or friend of many years standing.

“Having admitted to causing the death of Ian Bailey, I don’t wish Mr King any ill. I feel having to live with the fact of the rest of his life is punishment enough.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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17 comments

Avatar
Captain Badger | 2 years ago
5 likes

Maintained a speed of 40mph when he admitted he was unable to see

To emphasise how facking irresponsible this is, 90% of people hit at that speed lose their lives

 

Avatar
joe9090 | 2 years ago
8 likes

Tragic. I dont buy the defendent's story. Also if a cyclist had done this to a retired mayor pedestrian the cyclist would be doing time for sure. 

Avatar
mdavidford | 2 years ago
5 likes
Quote:

According to the crash investigator, “the most likely cause of the collision is a combination of the low winter sun and road glare together with Mr King’s failing to reduce his speed sufficiently or paying full attention to the road ahead due to the rearward distraction of the black Volvo behind him.”

When what they meant to say was “the most likely cause of the collision is Mr King’s failing to reduce his speed sufficiently in response to the low winter sun, or failing to pay full attention to the road ahead, allowing himself to be distracted by the black Volvo behind him.”

Avatar
HoarseMann | 2 years ago
4 likes

"but had missed the turn to head back to his home in Witney shortly before the incident"

There's a bit of me that wonders if that prompted use of a Sat Nav. To be distracted by the sun for 16 seconds, yet to not use your sun visor, does seem to suggest there were other factors involved.

It would be quite possible to log all interactions with vehicle controls in a modern car. There is perhaps a greater need to do so given the increased opportunity for distraction that these complicated infotainment systems present.

Avatar
brooksby | 2 years ago
9 likes
Quote:

I don’t wish Mr King any ill. I feel having to live with the fact of the rest of his life is punishment enough.”

Noble thought, but I would beg to differ surprise

Avatar
brooksby | 2 years ago
11 likes

Were any charges brought against the driver of the tailgating Volvo who "was so close to the rear of Mr King’s car that they ran over Mr Bailey’s bike after he was thrown from it"?? 

Avatar
MattieKempy | 2 years ago
12 likes

Sincere condolences to the family of Ian Bailey.

Can someone explain to me how we continue to allow people who kill through inadequate preparation, consideration and thought to remain outside, at liberty on the streets? Everything has a cause, nothing is a genuine accident and this driver's failure to slow and drive according to the conditions caused the death of a vulnerable road user, yet he gets a suspended sentence! What does that say about British justice and the value of a human life?

Avatar
wtjs replied to MattieKempy | 2 years ago
10 likes

Can someone explain to me how we continue to allow people who kill through inadequate preparation, consideration and thought to remain outside, at liberty on the streets?
Yes! Because at least two UK-Guaranteed Kill A Cyclist and Get Out of Jail Free cards were played: I didn't see him and I didn't mean to do it. There's also The Sun Was In My Eyes So I Had to Keep Going, Killing a Cyclist Is Not A REAL Offence Because You're Bound to Hit The Odd One and I Am Suffering The Most Because I Have To Live With This For The Rest of My Life (admittedly played for him by the victim's wife) Or Until People Begin Joking About It Down The Conservative Club, Whichever Is The Sooner

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to MattieKempy | 2 years ago
8 likes
MattieKempy wrote:

Can someone explain to me how we continue to allow people who kill through inadequate preparation, consideration and thought to remain outside, at liberty on the streets? Everything has a cause, nothing is a genuine accident and this driver's failure to slow and drive according to the conditions caused the death of a vulnerable road user, yet he gets a suspended sentence! What does that say about British justice and the value of a human life?

If the judge decides that a suspended sentence is appropriate, the public deserves at the very least that the killer driver isn't allowed to be in control of such a vehicle ever again. A two year ban is insultingly low.

Avatar
the little onion | 2 years ago
20 likes

The killer driver "was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and currently serves on a county ‘traffic advisory committee’." - if the supposedly best drivers, and the people who are involved in designing our road network, are killing cyclists through their incompetence, are we really surprised that our infrstructure and culture is so hostile to cyclists?

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to the little onion | 2 years ago
8 likes
the little onion wrote:

The killer driver "was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and currently serves on a county ‘traffic advisory committee’." - if the supposedly best drivers, and the people who are involved in designing our road network, are killing cyclists through their incompetence, are we really surprised that our infrstructure and culture is so hostile to cyclists?

IAA is little more than a self regulating club of drivers who believe they can break teh rules cos they are oh so good at driving.

Whereas our infrastructure may be a minor contributory factor in a vanishingly small number of cases, the only thing that actually kills people is incompetence (wilful or otherwise) behind the wheel.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
3 likes

No wonder the road was wet !

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
1 like
hirsute wrote:

No wonder the road was wet !

You got there just before me! spotted and amended

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
3 likes
Captain Badger wrote:
the little onion wrote:

The killer driver "was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and currently serves on a county ‘traffic advisory committee’." - if the supposedly best drivers, and the people who are involved in designing our road network, are killing cyclists through their incompetence, are we really surprised that our infrstructure and culture is so hostile to cyclists?

IAA is little more than a self regulating club of rivers who believe they can break teh rules cos they are so good at driving.

Whereas our infrastructure may be a minor contributory factor in a vanishingly small number of cases, the only thing that actually kills people is incompetence (wilful or otherwise) behind the wheel.

I think this is a bit like "guns don't kill people" - it's true at a basic level (because currently you - mostly - need a vehicle or weapon plus a human to kill someone else).  However in addition to genuinely dangerous infrastructure there are some striking gaps in the safety features of most of our infrastructure.

We do have lots of safety features which take into account human behaviour.  We do try to guide people past known cognitive weak spots (e.g. motorways being built in curves to try to avoid people zoning out through lack of stimulus).  We also apply "harm minimization" e.g. catch errors before disaster (rumble strips at sides of roads) as well as reducing consequences (crash barriers which are designed to absorb impact rather than being solid so that cars pancake against them).

However we also have wide straight roads with corners designed for speed which "tell" drivers they should be going fast.  So we try to lawyer this away with signs etc. We've junctions which are mainly designed for maximum traffic flow and only then, incidentally, for pedestrians (and not at all for cyclists, ASLs be damned!), crossings with huge wait times (we know that people get frustrated easily when required to wait), barriers to "protect against motor vehicles" which seriously impede or just block some people.

Then there's the safety-enhancing infrastructure and rules that we have chosen not to make.  Grade-separated junctions and crossings, safer and more convenient junctions for non-motorists, properly segregated cycle paths, decent footways which don't have lots of vehicle infra or vehicles parked on them.  Accident investigations which look to see if safety can be improved overall rather solely legal processes seeking to show a particular driver is liable (and often finding they weren't).  By prioritising motor vehicles we have increased the number of motor vehicles and the number of casualties from motor vehicles.

I've heard questions of how sensible "protecting people from themselves" is. However I don't think we're anywhere near needing to worry about that yet *.  To a first approximation you get the behaviours you design for.  We also know that we should be very cautious about relying on a single person's ability to manage their own safety and others'.  Especially when this is only tested very occasionally and may involve a rapidly progressing incident.

* Aside from possibly the occupants of motor vehicles, well protected and comfortable - but they also currently kill themselves and other motorists in large numbers.

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

........

 

I think this is a bit like "guns don't kill people" - it's true at a basic level (because currently you - mostly - need a vehicle or weapon plus a human to kill someone else).  However in addition to genuinely dangerous infrastructure there are some striking gaps in the safety features of most of our infrastructure.

We do have lots of safety features which take into account human behaviour.  We do try to guide people past known cognitive weak spots (e.g. motorways being built in curves to try to avoid people zoning out through lack of stimulus).  We also apply "harm minimization" e.g. catch errors before disaster (rumble strips at sides of roads) as well as reducing consequences (crash barriers which are designed to absorb impact rather than being solid so that cars pancake against them).

However we also have wide straight roads with corners designed for speed which "tell" drivers they should be going fast.  So we try to lawyer this away with signs etc. We've junctions which are mainly designed for maximum traffic flow and only then, incidentally, for pedestrians (and not at all for cyclists, ASLs be damned!), crossings with huge wait times (we know that people get frustrated easily when required to wait), barriers to "protect against motor vehicles" which seriously impede or just block some people.

Then there's the safety-enhancing infrastructure and rules that we have chosen not to make.  Grade-separated junctions and crossings, safer and more convenient junctions for non-motorists, properly segregated cycle paths, decent footways which don't have lots of vehicle infra or vehicles parked on them.  Accident investigations which look to see if safety can be improved overall rather solely legal processes seeking to show a particular driver is liable (and often finding they weren't).  By prioritising motor vehicles we have increased the number of motor vehicles and the number of casualties from motor vehicles.

I've heard questions of how sensible "protecting people from themselves" is. However I don't think we're anywhere near needing to worry about that yet *.  To a first approximation you get the behaviours you design for.  We also know that we should be very cautious about relying on a single person's ability to manage their own safety and others'.  Especially when this is only tested very occasionally and may involve a rapidly progressing incident.

* Aside from possibly the occupants of motor vehicles, well protected and comfortable - but they also currently kill themselves and other motorists in large numbers.

I know what you mean.

It is possible to hold drivers fully accountable for their behaviour, whilst at the same time ensuring that road design (and car design) is as safe as possible.

I should never be able to mitigate my act of killing someone by stating that I was driving an4x4, and neither would I (well, currently...), but at teh same time neither should I be able to say " the railings made me go faster".

Perhaps another way to explore that would be to find out exactly how frequently people's driving is unavoidably made more dangerous by road design int eh UK. And I'd hold that it is rarely anything more than a minor contributory factor

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
5 likes
Captain Badger wrote:

I know what you mean.

It is possible to hold drivers fully accountable for their behaviour, whilst at the same time ensuring that road design (and car design) is as safe as possible.

I should never be able to mitigate my act of killing someone by stating that I was driving an4x4, and neither would I (well, currently...), but at teh same time neither should I be able to say " the railings made me go faster".

Glad someone does. Yes, it's not "either / or" but "both". Sadly neither law nor infra is particularly quick to change and behavioural change is difficult to make happen.

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to the little onion | 2 years ago
0 likes

I was nearly hit by someone driving out of their old building on Chiswick High Road a few years ago. Pretty much just ignored the pavement was there at all.

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