Lorry driver in Mary Bowers case receives ‘insulting’ £2,700 fine for careless driving
According to the London Evening Standard on hearing the sentence Mary Bowers’ father stated "I regard the sentence as a complete insult…inconceivable that a verdict other than dangerous driving was reached."
This sentence contrasts heavily with the sentence received by a Merseyrail train guard who was convicted of manslaughter after he allowed a train to move away from the station whilst a teenage girl was leaning against it. The train guard was sentenced to 5 years in prison for causing the girl's death. Although the girl in this case died and Mary did not, the London Evening Standard claim that Mary has been described by her father as "is in effect dead. If it's possible to be worse than dead then she is." Thus, because the doctors were able to save Mary's life, the driver was able to escape a prison term.
Driver's behaviour classified as careless
The jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court was informed that Beiu admitted he had been talking on his hands-free mobile phone when he hit Mary. He initially denied this fact to the police but it came out in court that he had been giving driving directions to a colleague on the phone at the time of the incident.
Using a hands-free device whilst driving is not an offence, however, if it causes a driver to be distracted it can be used as support for a dangerous or careless driving charge. The prosecutor, Babatunde Alabi, told the court that Beiu was "too engrossed" in his telephone conversation and thus too distracted to notice Mary.
Beiu was also accused of not using his mirrors correctly to see Mary in the advanced stop box in front of his lorry. He failed to spot her even though she was visible through his windscreen for a minimum of 10 seconds before he pulled the lorry away and turned across her path, dragging her underneath the lorry wheels.
Witnesses described how Beiu jumped from the cab of his lorry after he was alerted to what had happened by passers-by. In doing so, he forgot to apply the handbrake causing the lorry to roll further forward over Ms Bowers.
They consider she has lost her life and they have lost her. Mary and her family will live with the consequences of this for the rest of their lives."
The judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court
The lorry driver's actions should have been considered by the jury as 'far below the standard of a careful and competent driver'; in which case he would have been found guilty of dangerous driving and received a harsher sentence.
Rhia Weston, CTC Road Safety Campaigner
Ms Bowers, 28, suffered numerous severe injuries including brain damage, a broken pelvis, punctured lung, a severed artery, a broken arm and broken legs. She now receives 24-hour hospital care.
It is a tragedy that Mary, her family and her friends will suffer the consequences of Mr Beiu’s actions for the rest of their lives, whereas he only has to pay a small fine and can return to driving in a matter of months.
Following the incident the Times newspaper, where Mary worked, established their Cities fit for Cycling campaign. The front page of the paper from the launch of the campaign can be seen above.
The frequency with which cases similar to Mary’s occur (in which cyclists are seriously injured yet the perpetrators of collisions receive insignificant sentences) motivated CTC to campaign on these issues, with the aim being to improve the way the legal system handles these kinds of cases.
CTC, British Cycling and road crash victims' group RoadPeace will be meeting with Justice Minister, Helen Grant, on Wednesday 19th December to talk about road traffic justice and the issues surrounding charging and sentencing will be discussed.