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Cyclist-killing lorry driver fined £300
20.09.07 by Buffalo Bill

The Standard today (2007-09-20, page 11) reports this:

Rob Singh, Crime Reporter

A lorry driver who ran over and killed a cyclist who was a writer and jewellery designer was today fined £300 after admitting careless driving.

Emma Foa, 56 died as she cycled from her home in Hampstead Heath to work in Clerkenwell in December. She was killed instantly after being crushed between the cement mixer’s rear wheels and roadside railings.

At Westminster Magistrates Court today Michael Thorn, 52 of Headley Down, Surrey was allowed to keep his driver’s licence and was ordered to pay £100 costs.

The court had been told that Thorn had been looking for some papers in his cabin when the bike was beside him and also when his vehicle began to turn left and the fatal crash occured.

The family of Ms Foa – the daughter of typewriter magnate Adriano Ollivetti said she was wearing a luminious reflector jacket and a helmet when she was crushed by the two tonne lorry.

District Judge Anthony Evans said: “I accept in cases of this sort it’s distressing for all concerned, the family of the disceased and the driver whose inadvertance has resulted in a fatality.”

Prosecutor Graham Parkinson told the court the incident happened at 9.10am in Camley Street, Kings Cross.

“Emma was riding her bike and reached the traffic lights. She went along the nearside and waited for the lights to change,” he said. “She was alongside for 37 seconds and would have been visible. He moved off and turned left causing her to be pushed to the ground and killed instantly. He had been looking for some paperwork in his truck… He felt a bump, saw a bike and jumped out to find her.”

Karen Dempsey, defending, said that Thorn was “shocked and distressed” and that the incident “would live with him for the rest of his life”. She added that witnesses had said he was not driving aggressively.

I am not sure what I am most shocked by. I am not shocked that, despite the fact that Mr Thorn’s criminal negligence has resulted in the unlawful killing of Ms Foa, the court is allowing him to continue to drive. I am not shocked that, despite being found guilty of road crime, the driver has been fined £300. The sentence is entirely in keeping with the tariff for road killing. The driver who killed London bicycle messenger Sebastian Lukomski received a 6 point endorsement and a £1000 fine. Yet again, the old adage ‘if you want to get away with murder, get behind the wheel of a lorry’ is proven true. OK, it’s not murder, it’s manslaughter but someone is dead because someone else was in charge of dangerous machinery, and failed to their job properly.

I am shocked that the judge has chosen the word “inadvertence” to describe the actions of the driver. Making a left turn whilst fumbling for papers in a HGV? That’s not inadvertence – that’s just f***ing stupid.

I am shocked that the defending barrister said that the driver was not driving aggressively. As if a lack of aggression excuses somehow a negligent act which has led to an avoidable death. The dead woman’s only mistake was to be riding her bicycle and assuming that “a luminous reflective jacket” and a helmet would protect her. She stopped at the lights, and she wasn’t in the “blind spot”. But the driver didn’t see her, because he wasn’t looking. And she was crushed to death because he was too busy checking his pay-sheet to make sure he had got his overtime to pay attention to what his two-tonne machine might be rolling over.

As we reported elsewhere, 5 London cyclists have been killed so far this year (2007) by lorries. Studies have previously shown that around half of all cyclist fatalities in London resulting from collisions with Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs or LGVs) are the result of left-turns by the lorries.

For more on the HGV/cyclist issue, click the contents link at the top of this page.

  1. f***ing disgrace!!
    and roadside railings should be written off, they do all harm – no good.

    — nick    20 September 2007, 21:17    #
  2. it’s a pity he could not have been convicted of dangerous driving…the whole situation is enough to make your blood boil..

    — breaking away    20 September 2007, 22:27    #
  3. i wasn’t aware that £300 was the going rate for a human life. Disgusting.

    — Nik    21 September 2007, 01:52    #
  4. that’s disgusting. utterly disgusting.

    i worked in a bike shop for a while, and when a new female cyclist came in and asked about safety gear, my best advice was about how to cycle, not what you wear. simply put, ride assertively (or aggressively!) but defensively, and never cycle on the inside of a lorry / bus. i don’t care that you should be able to and the driver should be more attentive, the simple fact is that, if it comes down to it, you lose everything and they nothing.

    i’m not blaming her in anyway whatsoever, she did everything “right”. but the sad fact is that a cyclist in london has to ride as if they are invisible to all and that every car/lorry/bus is going to do a left turn right into you. :/

    — lurkette    21 September 2007, 10:25    #
  5. Lurkette, part of the problem is that TfL, as part of their ‘share the road’ campaign, actively promotes riding down the left hand side of stationary traffic as ‘safe’. See this.

    — Bill    21 September 2007, 11:21    #
  6. this is a disgrace. I think we need to have a proper look at the groups that are campaigning on this. We need to draw together London’s cycling community and say enough is enough.

    If you drew all the groups in london together – from couriers to crit mass to commuters to teams you would have one hell of an voting mass. Maybe Livingstone would listen then.

    — larryred    21 September 2007, 16:38    #
  7. I read this and was shocked too, there however a while ago was a lovely Radio 4 programme about an off-duty policeman in Wales killed in a time trial. The police investigation was so thorough that several of the firm’s owners managers went to jail; suppose it depends who you kill.

    I whilst Belfast based work in a national UK road haulage business – profit and margins always come ahead of people…


    — Michael    21 September 2007, 20:09    #
  8. cut his fucking bollocks off

    — macbastard    24 September 2007, 12:11    #
  9. cut his bollocks off ?makes you as bad as someone who use’s his vehicle as a weapon.
    i am a hgv driver i have never killed any-one,nor did i start driving hgv’s so i could,you want to take the emotion out of the debate,organize a day out in a large/small hgv and see it from the drivers perspective,that aside fumbling for paperwork in traffic,not paying attention or checking your mirrors is know excuse and you should have a fit and proper punishment wether its a cyclist or pedestrian that dies.i have driven artics for 14 years and trust me car/van/bus/m/bikes and cyclists all can cause the deaths of lorry drivers, who by virtue of what they drive cause more carange,its not a conspiracy on the roads to kill cyclists its just law of averages,but i dont condone poor driving and dangerous driving sympathy to every-one killed on uk’s roads

    — phil rigby    28 September 2007, 19:43    #
  10. erm yes, the law of averages is explainable by drivers – fumbling for paperwork in traffic, not paying attention or checking your mirrors – and the fact that there are HGV’s in central London at all…

    — _targetbot    29 September 2007, 09:33    #
  11. Err Phil, just such a day out was organised. See here.

    And what the f*** are you doing, exactly, apart from blaming the ‘law of averages’ for straight-forward driver negligence.

    Oh, and BTW 'cyclists.. ..can cause the deaths of lorry drivers'??? That's a load of crap. Show me one example of a lorry driver who has died as the result of the actions of a cyclist.

    — Bill    30 September 2007, 22:10    #
  12. Dear Phil. Bollocks.

    I work as a telematics researcher and have spent a lot of time looking at HGV incidents. The single biggest cause of HGV driver deaths is driving too close. Often behind another HGV while ‘drafting’ to clip some fuel savings.

    HGV driver arrogance is rife. They think that because they pay the most road tax and fuel duty they have more rights to the highway. This assertion is incorrect.

    Often less well educated, they often consider they know it all and don’t need to constantly learn and re-learn how to drive.

    Pressured by JIT deliveries and ferry crossing times, they often push the WTD to the limit. On the A14 I worked out that just 1 in 7 drivers are alert enough to be driving.

    I have never found a case where a cyclist, motorcyclist or pedestrian has caused the death of an HGV driver. Conversely, I have seen pictures of the remains of two families who were crushed and then burnt by an HGV failing to stop on an A-road, because the driver just couldn’t give a toss about the safety of other people as he arsed about in his cab with 35 tonnes hurtling down the road at 55mph.

    By far the most effective safety device would be to fit a spike in the middle of the steering wheel, and the death of a cyclist would be an automatic life-ban. Decent mirrors and sensors would then be fitted pronto. For now, cyclists just aren’t worth caring about if you are a truck driver. If you kill one you’ll only get a few hundred quid fine. Cheaper than decent mirrors.

    In the report on the crushed and burnt families case, the driver was ‘really sorry’ for what he had done. Wiping out two generations of two families is the direct result of a allowing stupid twats to drive these machines.

    In effect you have just demonstrated the problem with HGV drivers – you don’t think it’s your fault and your education needs a huge hike, spelling included..

    — MattP    23 October 2007, 16:53    #
  13. Dear MattP
    An interesting clueless idea of what truck drivers as you call them do etc, My respects 1st to the family of the bereaved.
    You claim
    “Often behind another HGV while ‘drafting’ to clip some fuel savings.” Most truck drivers do not own the vehicle and therefore dont care about that.
    “They think that because they pay the most road tax and fuel duty they have more rights to the highway. This assertion is incorrect.” You are right your assertion is incorrect,again very few truckers worry about tax fuel duty etc, get your facts right.
    “Often less well educated, they often consider they know it all and don’t need to constantly learn and re-learn how to drive,” Most drivers of LGVs will admit themselves as experienced and always learning, unlike your “average car driver” who brags he is the best.
    “On the A14 I worked out that just 1 in 7 drivers are alert enough to be driving. “ I take it thats while you of course took note of the 100’s possibly 1000’s of car and van drivers, flashing there lights to overtake, cutting in and out of lanes with inches to spare without indicating ,while reading papers, shaving, drinking, talking on there phones etc?? Undoubtedly you are one of the morons calling for a ban on LGVs on the A14 in the early hours in the out side lane, then you will moan that you still arent moving quick enough as its the cars that cut in and out that are causing the problem. But now you have had your anti HGV rant (should be LGV) at someone elses loss, perhaps you could look at the picture in hand. This womans family suffered the greatest loss of all, yes because of the driver of an LGV, it could have been a car , a van , or a bus, but it wasn’t. This is one of many such incidents that happen on our roads, and the biggest problem is observancy from ALL USERS cars , bikes, trucks, vans, coaches etc, and on your own admission, you have been paying less attention to the road than you should have been and more to truck drivers. Perhaps you should practice a little more of what you preach. So full of high moral standards yet hang yourself by what you write. Hypocrit springs to mind.

    — Mark    4 December 2007, 19:29    #
  14. It’s nearly a year since my friend Emma Foa was senselessly killed by the driver of a cement mixer lorry in kings Cross. Wake up all you cyclists who have been critical of other cyclists killed in road traffic accidents. But particularly shocking in this case is that if the driver had not broken the law by fumbling around for papers in his cab instead of paying due care and attention to the road, Emma would certainly not have been killed. He broke the law and thanks, in part, to the unacceptable summing up by the Judge, he got away with it. There is nothing “inadvertent” about an action that is unlawful when it has resulted in someone being killed. Emma, you are badly missed and the world is so much poorer without you in it.


    — stigy    13 December 2007, 11:52    #
  15. Just to make a point here-if the lorry was a ‘two tonne cement mixer’ it’s not an HGV, it’s a 7.5 tonner and most probably driven by someone with no more than a car test under his belt and the attitude to match-hence the accident. Sickening.

    — Matt    12 January 2008, 19:56    #
  16. Lots of people have made the point about the 2-tonne thing. I think it’s either a typo or a mistake in the original report. I doubt that there is such a thing as 2 tonne mixer.

    — Bill    12 January 2008, 20:48    #
  17. Some mixer bodies are fitted to 7.5 tonners-this would equate to a payload of around 2 tonnes.
    The Times report it as 2 tonne as well.

    Either way, the driver didn’t get what he deserved. I drive artics and while there’s often an element of simply not knowing on the part of cyclists,blatantly bad driving like this is disgusting and gives those of us who trained and do our jobs properly a bad name. If I drove like that and killed someone I’d exect to go to prison.

    — Matt    13 January 2008, 00:23    #
  18. The sickening thing is that an almost identical incident occurred in London about 8 years ago. Guess what? The driver got away with a rap on the knuckles – even though CCTV evidence showed the Lorry overtaking the cyclist beforehand – HE MUST HAVE SEEN HER.

    — Michael Carter    28 February 2008, 08:07    #
  19. A work colleague took a truck driver to task once, pointing out that he nearly hit him. The response was that “he missed”.

    Of course if the truckie had merel’y crushed him to death that would have been merely “inadvertent”, so OK then.

    I bet though that if he stepped up and slugged him he would have been arrested for assault, paid a hefty fine and possibly gone to jail?

    Maybe its about time we stopped calling them “accidents” and started to use other terms, like perhaps “deliberates”, might put a different view on things.

    — Charles    21 September 2008, 15:19    #
  20. i am haevy/light driver in india

    — ramesh rai    20 December 2008, 05:52    #
  21. Had a driver been so negligent as to cause the loss of life then such a penalty will not do. However, the penalty was; this allows speculation as to the reasons for the seemingly inconsistent sentencing. A prosecutor will seek to test all manner of claims, even if they are knowingly exaggerated: a claimed statement isn’t necessarily true; a court must never accept a claim just because they are “told” it. An obvious relevance is the reference to the prosecutor’s claim of visibility. Another is the claim of the driver distracting himself with his paperwork. These possibly were true but given the penalty I would be inclined to not accept them until I know what the defence’s rebuttal was for those issues. In short, I don’t believe we have all the necessary facts; hence I don’t believe Mr Bill and co. are in a position to pass judgement on that sentence or the driver.

    — smeggy    7 January 2009, 21:27    #
  22. The ‘claims’ were backed up by cctv evidence, and the driver’s own statements in court.

    — Bill    8 January 2009, 06:18    #
  23. @ Bill.

    “The ‘claims’ were backed up by cctv evidence, and the driver’s own statements in court.”

    “backed up” doesn’t mean it was accepted by the court as being significant contributory factors.

    Remember, the sentence was unexpectedly light for death by negligence, therefore it follows that it is possible that there were unreported mitigating circumstances and/or valid defences against the prosecution’s claims.
    Did the driver accept that the victim was indeed visible? Did the driver accept that he was significantly distracted when “looking” (whatever that meant) for the papers? Could the driver have reasonably expected (perhaps by positioning and indication) that no-one should have been where the victim was?

    My overall point being: what was the defence’s rebuttal of the claims of fumbling for paper, or the visibility? Could they have successfully shown the evidence to be flawed or insignificant? The court has better access to all the evidence (not just one side of it), we do not have the same privilege; hence we have to accept that we may not be in a position to be able to understand and reconcile such judgements.

    — smeggy    8 January 2009, 16:15    #
  24. The driver pleaded guilty, after he had seen the cctv evidence. He, the driver, was reported as saying that he thought he had been sorting out paperwork in his cab immediately before the collision.

    I don’t think that leaves too much doubt. The reason that the sentence was so light is because that up until last year, there was nothing between ‘careless driving’ (what this driver was found guilty of) and ‘causing death by dangerous driving’. When passing sentence on the first, the magistrate is very limited: points and a fine. To prove the latter, the prosecution must show that the standard of driving is far below the standard that could be reasonably expected. Personally, I would say that failing to look in your mirrors because you were distracted, when turning left in HGV would be a standard far below what could be reasonably expected, but the CPS didn’t.

    There is now an offence in law called ‘causing death by careless driving’, which was covered in some depth on this site last year. Of course, it is not possible to say whether this particular driver would have been charged with that offence. As I said elsewhere, I don’t wish that the guy be punished – I just don’t think he should be driving.

    As far whether it would be reasonable to expect a cyclist to be on the left on that junction, well, the council think so: they put a bicycle lane feeding to an ASL after Emma Foa was killed. See here.

    — Bill    8 January 2009, 18:14    #
  25. Now, either do a little bit more reading, or naff off back to safespeed.

    — Bill    8 January 2009, 18:18    #
  26. There is plenty of room for doubt. “..he thought..” ? Again: did the sorting/looking of the paperwork have a significant impact on the risk of collision? How exactly was he “looking”?

    “Personally, I would say … but the CPS didn’t.”
    Do you know why the CPS didn’t accept the ‘far below’ argument (even with the CCTV evidence) – or would you seriously suggest there has to be an endemic and serious conspiracy against cyclists?

    I tend towards your opinion that driver shouldn’t be driving (at least not for a while, perhaps he should be made to retake a tougher test). Whatever the sentencing regime, the judge could have given enough points for a totting ban (as well as a much bigger fine).

    My overall point is that we don’t have all the necessary facts to hand to so lambaste the driver or the given sentence. You cannot assume there isn’t a good reason why the driver wasn’t given a heavier penalty (I would welcome actual proof against). The driver may well have been a dangerous tit, but I’m not willing to pass judgement until I have seen the evidence for that and evidence against; the latter is where so many people fall over, certainly those in this thread anyway (confirmation bias).

    Safespeed doesn’t make judgements based on selective reporting and emotive speculation. (PS, I’m a London cyclist. I’ve had my share of being on the receiving end of errant drivers/cyclists/pedestrians).

    — smeggy    9 January 2009, 16:39    #
  27. For reasons of clarity about “smeggy’s” position, he is the poster on safespeed who wrote that “few businesses are more deserving” when someone sent a letter bomb to a speed camera company. “Smeggy’s” views on road safety and cyclists’ safety are therefor about as worthwhile as gary Glitter’s on child care.

    — Steve Bowler    14 July 2009, 11:39    #
  28. I also said “I utterly condemn inflicting injury on personnel”.

    I also said “That was a relative comment; I did not state that business is absolutely deserving”

    Yet on the cycling plus forum, it was written: “condones sending bombs through the post with the intention of causing serious injury”.

    I also said: “Note: there are trolls who have an irrational hatred of the SS campaign. These trolls are using this thread as ‘evidence’ that the contributors to this thread condone letter bombing; nothing can be further from the truth. I have demonstrated my reasoning to these trolls, only to be met with twisted words, selective quotes out of context and outright lies, in their puerile attempts to impress other trolls. These people can never be taken seriously.”

    Do you post in C+ by any chance?


    — smeggy    25 June 2011, 13:40    #
  29. it would be my complete pleasure to boot the living shit out of an HGV driver guilty of killing a cyclist because of incompetence. Total scum

    stu right    20 September 2011, 09:47    #
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