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.