Photo of 12 year old Jake Mitchell
12 year old Jake Mitchell

Jake's bereaved parents seek justice with CDF help

Twelve year old Jake was with his mates cycling to the local water park, looking over his shoulder at the tractor behind him. Three drivers saw the boys and decided it was unsafe to overtake. Maurice King didn't want to wait, so he overtook the queue at 60mph, hitting Jake after passing the tractor. Jake's parents' fight for justice continues following the Coroner's criticism of King's driving.

Fatal four vehicle overtake

28 months after their 12 year old son Jake died whilst cycling to Bosworth Water Park, his parents are asking Leicestershire Police to re-consider the case in light of the evidence given last week at the inquest into his death.

The inquest heard that on 29 July 2014, Jake was cycling along Bosworth Road in Wellesborough, behind two of his mates. Following Jake was a large tractor which filled the lane. As the boys rode towards the water park, a number of cars joined a queue behind the tractor.

The first three drivers in the queue didn't think they could see far enough down the road to overtake safely, and all of them saw not just cyclists, but young cyclists ahead of the tractor. They decided to wait. Maurice King thought otherwise and pulled out into the opposite lane to overtake the four vehicles in front, at a speed estimated by collision investigators to be around 60 mph.

Cyclists were 'there to be seen'

King subsequently told the police during an interview that he didn't see Jake or the other two cyclists until it was too late, despite the fact that the three drivers ahead of him in the queue, as well as the driver immediately behind him, all saw the cyclists who were, as the Coroner put it, "there to be seen".

While the inquest heard oral evidence from the drivers of six cars in the queue behind the tractor, and two passengers, evidence from King was restricted to the record of one police interview on the day of the collision. Jake's parents were unable to hear any further explanation from him, as he chose not to answer questions during the inquest after being advised that anything he said could be used in future legal proceedings.

Robert Chapman, Assistant Coroner for Rutland and North Leicestershire, concluded that Jake died as a result of a fatal road traffic collision. However he was damming in his criticism of King's actions, concluding that "It seems to me that the decision to overtake was the wrong decision. I cannot accept for a minute that it was appropriate to pull out of this line of traffic and overtake them."

It seems to me that the decision to overtake was the wrong decision. I cannot accept for a minute that it was appropriate to pull out of this line of traffic and overtake them."

Robert Chapman, Assistant Coroner for Rutland and North Leicestershire

It was 90% your son's fault

Various witnesses referred to Jake wobbling on his bike, looking over his shoulder, and veering to his right and across the central white line. Mr Chapman observed that he considered it likely that Jake became frightened because the tractor was close behind him. Jake was hit by the near-side of King's Nissan Qashqai after it overtook the tractor, sustaining a fatal brain injury.

The inquest took place over two years after Jake's death following lengthy delays whilst the police and the Crown Prosecution Service considered and re-considered the evidence, with the Coroner also commissioning an independent collision investigation report given concerns regarding the initial police report.

Last week's inquest was however the first occasion when any evidence has been tested in any court, with the Coroner warning that "Whatever conclusion I come to and whatever my findings are from the last two days, it doesn't prevent the police or CPS taking a further view on Mr King's responsibility. It also doesn't prevent the family from taking forward civil proceedings."

Jake's parents Toni and Glen were legally represented at the inquest through counsel funded and instructed by Cycling UK's Cyclists' Defence Fund (CDF), who have been supporting the family to try and establish exactly what happened to Jake, and why, after they were told by the police within hours of his death, that "it was 90% Jake's fault". 

Not the action of a prudent motorist

CDF will be writing to Leicestershire Police within the next week, asking them to review the case in the light of the evidence the other drivers gave to the Coroner, his observations regarding King's actions, and the evidence from the independent collision investigator.

Mr Chapman indicated in his judgement that he could not accept "irrespective of the cyclists, and he says he didn't see them, that it would be the action of a prudent motorist to pull out and overtake the line of traffic and tractor when only 400 metres ahead there is a bend he cannot see round."

Speaking after the inquest Jake's Mum Toni described him as "a beautiful boy, who was fun-loving and outgoing", with both parents expressing their frustration and sense of injustice with the criminal process. CDF will be asking the police whether they now accept the Coroner's view about the prudence of King's actions.

A beautiful boy, who was fun-loving and outgoing

Toni Mitchell, Jake Mitchell's Mum

CDF relies substantially upon charitable donations in order to support cases such as this and the private prosecution for causing death by careless driving of Gail Purcell, the driver involved in the collision which led to the death of cyclist Michael Mason, which is listed for trial in April 2017. If you wish to contribute to CDF you can do so either via this Just Giving link or via PayPal.

DuncanDollimore