Driver facing jail for seriously injuring CTC councillor
John Radford had a lifelong passion for cycling. He was a CTC councillor and chairman of Huddersfield and District CTC. He was also a member of Audax UK. Before the collision on 31 July 2013, which left John severely brain damaged, he was a fit and active 69-year-old, who had come two days earlier from riding part of the London-Edinburgh-London Audax event, having covered over 250 miles in two days. On the day of the collision, he had ridden a leisurely 30 miles.
On the day of the incident, John was cycling home by himself after meeting cycling friends when he met with Gledhill and his car on a bend on the Huddersfield Road in New Mill. Gledhill sought to overtake John and blew his horn. John remonstrated with Gledhill for attempting to pass him at that point in the road. After overtaking, Gledhill stopped his car further down the road, saying in court he wanted to ‘give him some stick’. When John caught up with Gledhill’s car there was an exchange of words between the two men.
After the altercation, which was observed by witnesses, John cycled across the road to the oncoming carriageway. Gledhill followed John in his car. Forensic examination of John’s bike found paintwork from Gledhill’s car in the bike’s mudguard demonstrating that the vehicle and John’s bike made contact. John fell from his bike and hit the road and suffered a serious head injury. Gledhill, a serving soldier on leave from the army pending his release from service, parked further along the road before returning to administer first aid.
John suffered severe brain damage and was airlifted to hospital.
The case was raised at last week’s parliamentary debate on cycling by John’s local MP, Jason McCartney, who said of the cyclist: “He is now very severely disabled. John is confined to a wheelchair and totally dependent on others, and will remain so for the rest of his life."
The trial for ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’ lasted four days and was attended by various representatives from CTC, the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF), and Slater & Gordon Lawyers, who are representing the family in their civil claim.
There were a couple of moments during the trial that caused concern to those present, in particular comments made by the judge about John’s decision not to wear a helmet at the outset of the trial. During Judge Christopher Batty’s opening remarks he said that John ‘cycled for much of his life and it was his usual practice not to wear a helmet. He was not wearing one on this day. As a result he was seriously injured, which has had a profound effect on his life.’ He went on to say that 'the issue for you [the jury] is two-fold. Did Michael Gledhill drive dangerously and was that dangerous driving the cause, the main cause of that injury'.
This concerned CTC and some attending the trial as whether or not John was wearing a helmet was legally irrelevant to the case, yet the judge’s suggestion that John's injuries were partially a result of his non-use of a helmet could have influenced the jury’s perception of the case, even despite his comments that the jury had to decide whether Gledhill's driving was the main cause of the injury.
However, Judge Batty clarified these remarks during his summing up, instructing the jury that nothing should be read into John's not wearing a helmet. It was, he said, common practice as Mr Radford found a helmet impaired his hearing and chose not to wear one for safety reasons.
One attendee who was at the trial wrote on the Audax sub-section of 'Yet Another Cycling Forum' that they didn't perceive the judge's comments to indicate that John's non-use of a helmet was a contributing factor to his injuries.
Also of concern was the failure of the prosecution to challenge comments made by the defence that John was ‘riding further out than normal’. After this statement went unchallenged, Martyn Bolt, a friend of John’s and trustee of the Cyclists’ Defence Fund, handed the prosecution a copy of John Franklin's Cycle Craft - the definitive cycling skills manual - and emailed evidence from the Department for Transport of recommended road positioning for cyclists, as well as a link to the Bikeability website. This was done in an effort to demonstrate that the primary position is the correct default position for cyclists, even though many motorists think otherwise. Despite Martyn’s efforts, the comment still was not challenged.
The jury took three hours to return a guilty verdict and sentencing was deferred until 25 November, which happens to be John’s birthday. Michael Gledhill’s driving licence was withdrawn and he was told he will face a custodial sentence of up to 5 years; the maximum sentence for this offence.
Michael Gledhill not only loses his liberty but will have a serious criminal record for years to come and his partner and two young children will be without a father for a time.
John's family released the following statement
‘After today nothing for us changes, our dad was a very active man. This completely avoidable incident has robbed him of his retirement choices, not only the sport of cycling which he lived for but the enjoyment of sharing things with his family especially his grandchildren.
‘We will also have to live through the after effects of this tragedy. As there is not a glimmer of hope of any quality to dad’s life, it is truly tortuous to live with.
‘There are no winners in this case. The lives of two families - Gledhill’s and ours - have been changed by the events on that day and nothing will ever make up for that.
‘Throughout the last 15 months we, as a family, have received tremendous support from friends, family, Yorkshire Air Ambulance, hospital staff in Leeds General Infirmary and York District Hospital, West Yorkshire Police, CTC, and the cycling community, Martyn Bolt - a cyclist himself and the former Mayor of Kirklees, Slater & Gordon lawyers and the staff at his current place of residence - Woodlands Neurological Rehabilitation Centre in York.’
A note on the offence
The offence of 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' came into force in 2013. Before the offence was introduced, the only charge prosecutors could apply to motorists whose dangerous driving had caused incidents where the victim was seriously injured but not killed was 'dangerous driving', an offence which carries a maximum custodial sentence of two years and a minimum one year driving ban. The offence of 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' carries a maximum five year sentence and a minimum two year ban.
CTC's Road Justice campaign is calling for much longer driving bans. The Government has scheduled a review of driving offences and penalties and sentencing guidelines are also due to be looked at. CTC will be pushing for considerably longer driving bans to be a key feature of sentences for driving offences.