An incomprehensible travesty of justice

Daniel Squire was killed whilst training for an Ironman Triathlon
Last week, an incomprehensible travesty of justice occurred in Kent. A driver who had sent and received 40 text messages whilst at the wheel and who then hit an 18-year-old cyclist on a straight stretch of road in broad daylight was cleared by a jury of causing the cyclist's death.

At Canterbury Crown Court on 20 March, 36-year-old Philip Sinden was cleared of causing the death of 18-year-old Daniel Squire on the A258 Dover Road on 7 September 2013.

Sinden had sent and received 40 text messages whilst at the wheel of his van in the lead-up to the crash. Forensic phone records presented in court showed the last time he is known to have used his phone was a mere 21 seconds before the 999 call was made (from a different phone) reporting the fatal incident to the police, which implies that he was most likely using his phone at the time of the crash. 

With evidence as incriminating as this, a guilty verdict to the charge of 'causing death by dangerous driving' seemed inevitable, but was not the case. The jury also didn’t return a guilty verdict to the alternative charge put to them by the judge of 'causing death by careless driving'. At no point did the prosecution put forward a case for the 'causing death by careless driving' charge, so it is possible that this last-minute addition confused the jurors and put doubt into their minds about Sinden's culpability.

Sinden made conflicting and unsubstantiated statements before and during the trial. He also alleged that Squire, an experienced triathlete on a road bike, had been riding on a narrow pavement prior to the collision and had come off the pavement into the van’s line of travel without looking, but no expert cycling witness was called to validate or refute this claim.

Squire’s family have expressed their devastation at the verdict and many people have taken to social media to vent their disbelief and anger at the outcome. The Cyclists’ Defence Fund has been in touch with the Squire family to discuss possible steps for seeking justice for Daniel.   

A detailed analysis of the timing of the text messages, the incident and the phone call, as well as other pieces of evidence from the case, has been written up on the blog ‘Beyond the Kerb’, and is well worth a read to find out more about the intricate details of the case.

Attending court in order to access information about a case that may not be reported in the press, and in order to make contact with victims, is an important element of the Road Justice campaign."

Rhia Weston

The blog’s author conducted his analysis in large part from information received from representatives of the campaign group SPOKES East Kent, who attended the trial at the request of CTC’s Road Justice campaign. Without the information that they were able to glean by being present at the trial, it would be difficult to conduct such a detailed examination of the evidence.

CTC would like more people to become local Road Justice campaigners and to volunteer to attend court cases so that the justice system can be held to account when it fails to do its job properly. Follow this link to find out more about becoming a Road Justice campaigner.