Daniel's family donate to Road Justice
An incomprehensible travesty of justice
In March last year, CTC reported on the outcome of a trial at Canterbury Crown Court, where 36-year-old van driver Philip Sinden was cleared of causing the death of 18-year-old Daniel Squire by either dangerous or careless driving. CTC's Road Justice Campaigner Rhia Favero described the case as: "an incomprehensible travesty of justice", with Daniel's family left devastated by the verdict.
Daniel was an experienced cyclist who was in training for an Iron Man triathlon. On 7 September 2013, he was cycling along a straight stretch of the road between Dover and Ringwould, in broad daylight. Sinden was travelling in the same direction and drove into him from behind, subsequently claiming that he "did not see the cyclist".
The court heard that Sinden had sent and received 40 text messages whilst at the wheel that morning. Forensic phone records presented in court showed that the last time he was known to have used his phone was a mere 21 seconds before a 999 call was made by a passing motorist who came upon the collision. Sinden received a text a message at 08.39:49, drafted and saved a text message at 08.40:23, and by 8:40:44, the 999 caller had reached the scene, stopped their vehicle and managed to call 999. Daniel was hit some time in the 21 seconds between Sinden composing the draft text and the emergency call being made.
"I appreciate this is not the verdict you hoped for or expected but that is the verdict."
Judge Heather Norton
Not the verdict you hoped for or expected
When police at the crash scene asked Sinden where his phone was, he claimed he didn't know; however, a phone call from the officer to Sinden's number led to the phone being found under a black refuse sack on the passenger seat of his van. Daniel's family believed that this and other evidence, analysed in detail on the blog Beyond the Kerb, suggested that the reason Sinden failed to see their son was because he was not looking and was distracted by his mobile phone. Their astonishment at the contrary verdict was perhaps reflected by the comments of Judge Heather Norton, who addressed the family saying: "I appreciate this is not the verdict you hoped for or expected but that is the verdict."
Raising awareness of driver distraction
Two and a half years on from their tragic loss, and a year after the trauma of Sinden's trial, Daniel's parents Tracey and Simon are keen to do whatever they can to highlight the dangers of mobile phone use whilst driving, and support CTC's Road Justice campaign. They have been raising money themselves through local fundraising events since they lost Daniel, including an annual charity football match in Deal held in Daniel's memory. They met with CTC last week to donate all the money raised to the Road Justice campaign.
Both Tracey and Simon have offered to do whatever they can to help raise awareness of road safety and road justice issues. Their hope is that other parents and family members will not have to endure the nightmare of an avoidable road death, or have their grief compounded by failures within the justice system.
It is humbling when those who have lost and suffered the most can find it within themselves to help others, and do what they can to effect change. CTC is extremely grateful to Daniel's family and will be discussing with them in the coming weeks and months exactly how they can help our campaigning and lobbying, especially in relation to mobile phone use and distracted driving, which too many drivers still consider to be either socially acceptable or a minor infringement.
A wedding gift to CDF
The last week has in fact been a heart-warming one generally in terms of the efforts people are prepared to make to support road justice issues. CTC's Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF) has been in contact with CTC member Graham Sydney and his partner Jan Lee. Graham has been cycling for 50 years, both touring and racing, and has ridden the CTC's Phil and Friends Challenge Ride a number of times, an event which raised funds for CTC.
Graham and Jan have set the date for 4 June for their wedding in Derbyshire, and have decided they have little need of the usual wedding gifts. They have set up a Just Giving Facebook page and are asking friends and family to donate to CDF rather than spend money on gifts.
Explaining why they chose CDF, Graham said: "It was an obvious charity for me to support; as a cyclist it is a service you hope you won't ever need, but its good to know it's there."
CTC and CDF wish Graham and Jan all the best for their wedding in June, and are hugely grateful for their generous support.
You can also opt to donate to support CDF's vital work on cycling and the law. Contributions large and small are all greatly valued.