Families of both those killed by Joao Lopes demand his licence be removed permanently
In February 2009 Eilidh Cairns, a 30-year-old TV producer, was killed while cycling to work. She was run over by an HGV, driven by Joao Lopes.
The police found no connection between Eilidh's death and the actions of the driver. Lopes pleaded guilty to the minor charge of driving with uncorrected defective vision. He was fined £200 pounds, given three points on his licence and permitted to carry on driving a tipper lorry.
Lopes went on to have at least three more driving collisions before finally killing Nora Gutmann in 2011 on a pedestrian crossing in central London whilst driving without his glasses. He has since pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and a tachograph offence.
Police later admitted the investigation into Eilidh's death had been substandard and carried out a full review following the death of Ms Gutmann but the CPS again decided that no charge would be brought with respect to Ms Cairns' death.
According to a report from Martin Porter QC, who has supported Eilidh Cairns's family, Lopes was sentenced to 4 years in jail for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving in Nora Gutmann's case and 12 months (to run concurrently) for falsifying tachograph data. However, he was only banned for only six years, with the additional requirement to sit an advanced test.
The families of both his victims had called for the Judge at Isleworth Crown Court to permanently revoke Lopes's licence. CTC strongly believes that longer driving bans are required to ensure that dangerous drivers are prevented from causing further death or injury.
Dangerous drivers generally do not have their licences revoked after fatal collisions. Only three drivers were given a lifetime ban in 2011. Yet Lopes had clearly shown himself to be a very dangerous driver having been involved in two deaths and several other crashes in the space of just 3 years.
It is clear that the justice system in Eilidh’s case failed to respond properly and Lopes was allowed to carry on driving.
Kate Cairns, sister of Eilidh Cairns
Speaking before the sentence was handed down, Kate Cairns, Eilidh's sister, who has campaigned to improve lorry safety and police prosecution, said:
It is clear that the justice system in Eilidh’s case failed to respond properly and Lopes was allowed to carry on driving. If it is decided he will be kept off the road today it will be a great relief but it is too late for Nora, and too late for Eilidh. We need to treat road crime as real crime. We need proper and competent police investigation that is transparent and accountable. We need to afford cyclists and pedestrians the protection of the law, just like any citizen.
Nora Gutmann's family gave the following victim impact statement:
"Though 97, Nora Gutmann was still youthful when she died. She was still healthy, still living on her own, still totally independent. We all looked forward to many years left with her. She was also still totally engaged in living, learning, growing. She listened to various engaging programmes on the BBC on a regular basis, read voraciously and has, for many years, been enrolled and engaged at the University of the Third Age -- a school for retired people where she had signed up for a course in Buddhism for the fall term.
Nora was also a deeply forgiving person. I don’t think she would have wanted Joao Lopes to be sent to prison, or to deprive his family of a breadwinner. As a family we don’t feel a desire for retribution against Lopes. We have been informed by the police that Lopes may drive again, and could even get his Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) licence back at some point. We find the possibility that Lopes could ever drive again to be completely outrageous. Lopes killed Eilidh Cairns, a 30 year old experienced cyclist in 2009. He continued driving dangerously after that, having at least three more driving collisions before killing Nora, and shockingly there was no system in place to monitor this dangerous behaviour or to take him off the roads. We ask the court to do everything in its power to protect the public and prevent Lopes from ever again getting behind the wheel of any vehicle."