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Club Committee's Comments on Anthony Maynard Inquest Verdict


By twarwick - Posted on 07 February 2009

The committee of Reading Cycling Club learned with dismay that the inquest into the death of Anthony Maynard, held in Oxford on January 27th, returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’. We had hoped that the inquest might have challenged the highly questionable decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to take the driver who had killed and injured to court.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the Maynard family.

As all Reading CC members will know, this club has always concerned itself with promotion of events and rides for its members; we have not been a campaigning organisation. But one of our most beloved members was killed last year, and another badly injured, in a road traffic accident from which the driver has walked entirely clear: without licence endorsement, without fine, without a spell in which he was taken out of normal society.

The decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute this driver, and its subsequent endorsement by the ‘accidental death’ verdict at the inquest, leaves us in a state of bafflement and outrage. It is a verdict that runs counter to that general feeling in road traffic legislation that this area of the law needed to be toughened up, and that any drivers who kill should face more serious consequences. (We understand that the new legal directives about ‘causing death by careless driving’ came into force the month after Anthony’s death.)

From what we have had reported to us – and we had two RCC members present at the inquest (besides family) – there was no catastrophic mechanical failure in the van being driven, no blown out tyre or sudden steering failure. The driver claimed that at the very moment before impact, he was dazzled by the sun, and this flimsy excuse was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service as sufficient.

We gather that the van driver had just overtaken two vehicles, a lorry and a car. He was wearing dark glasses, and was, it seems, pressing on with some speed. At the inquest, he claimed he was blinded as he pulled into the inside lane, and that he had not seen our two cyclists previously as he was concentrating on overtaking the two vehicles.

Other driver-witnesses gave varied reports to the inquest about sighting difficulties posed by the sun. What emerges is that during the overtaking manoeuvre itself, there was no problem with the sun. We feel that the Crown Prosecution Service might have considered that there was, then, plenty of time for the driver to have taken in the scene up the road, with our two cyclists ahead. When reaching position to start pulling into the inside lane, there was no problem with the sun (and once again apparently time for any driver proceeding with due care and attention to check the road ahead). The Transit driver checked his nearside mirror to see if he was far enough ahead, and steered into the inside lane. At the start of this final manoeuvre, a properly diligent driver (the Crown Prosecution Service might have considered) might have glanced at the carriageway into which he was about to steer. It seems that it was at this same moment that the driver, who said he was checking his nearside mirror, was blinded by the sun. But he continued his manoeuvre, drove into the inside lane; he then heard a crash, did not know what it was, but he had driven straight into Anthony Maynard, with sufficient force to fling his body through the air (and so cause the neck injuries suffered by the other cyclist).

As far was we are concerned as cyclists, this is just a variation on the age-old tale of ‘SMIDSY – Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you’. That this tale was accepted as good enough by the CPS fills us with the deepest dismay. It seems to us to suggest that there must be some unspoken agenda: that if you are a cyclist, of whatever age, but in this case, in the very prime of life at 26, who happens to be out riding on a summer evening, and on an adequately wide section of ‘A’ road, your fate is your own choice, if you are killed by a vehicle, you had put yourself in jeopardy, and blame will not on any account be attached to the motorist who kills you. As a cycling club, we bitterly repudiate the supine, neglectful and dangerous verdict of the Crown Prosecution (sic) Service.

All Reading CC members will know that we are holding a major cyclo-sportive event in poor Anthony’s memory on July 19th: http://readingcyclingclub.com/anthonymaynardsportive/

This will raise funds for charities Anthony supported. But after this verdict we also call on our members to support a more immediate commemoration of the injustice we perceive to have been done to Anthony, and to cyclists in general. Whatever actions we decide to take will be lawful, peaceful, and sincerely intended to raise awareness. We will seek to give the actions we decide to take, and the sentiments expressed here, the widest publicity we can among parties likely to be interested. We think we cannot afford to be as supine as the Crown Prosecution Service has evidently been, and also, if we take some action it may help us with the bitter feelings that this tragedy first prompted and this inexplicable verdict has left us to resolve.

Tags

My deepest sympathies to Anthony's family and friends. I just read about his death in Cycling Weekly:
http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/Another_killer_driver_escapes_prosec...
I lost my friend Marie last year, killed whilst cycling to Brighton. Marie was French and her family cannot understand why there was no prosecution. We have found the whole process extremely frustrating. Today I went on a ride in memory of Eilidh Cairns; another cyclist killed on the road. A number of us are discussing how we can highlight what seems to the growing frequency of incidents whereby the CPS are not pursuing prosecutions. We are planning to get the statistics to verify what we think is a trend and we want to network with other people who unhappy with the status-quo.
Please e-mail me: gp(at)anothereye.co.uk as I hope we can campaign together.
thank you
Gerry

Thanks to everyone for your support over these months, they've been really hard, still are, and almost certainly always will be.

Someone, with no prior knowledge of this tragedy, coming in off the street, and witnessing the inquest, would have come to one conclusion only, that the driver was at fault. It was not a trial, but it was enough to allow our extremely competent CTC barrister to get to the truth. The CPS were there and their discomfort was tangible

No cross examination, just simple questions dropped here and there, and it was laid bare that the driver was Only blinded at the point of collision, something we always knew, and so should the CPS have, and that he was Not blinded at Any point before. He could not give any reason why he therefore did not see our riders.

Any principled and astute coroner would have picked that up, but this one just trundled on and summed up as if he hadn't even been listening. As he closed his notes, indicating his desire to bring the proceedings to an end, he simply blundered on, echoing the CPS line, that I, some weeks previously had to listen too, of "mottled backgrounds" and "too many variables" and “have to be sure” when I had exercised my right to meet the CPS and have them explain their decision.

The facts brought out at the inquest made everything sure, but still, the establishment won again. We really do have a long way to go to force drivers to drive properly and not as if they are on a turkey shoot.

Such an irony, cycling has so much going for it, the benefits are undisputed, and yet, all it takes is some half wit behind a steering wheel and the dream ends there, as it did for my Anthony.

Dave

I'm still astonished that the driver who ended Anthony's life has walked away with not even penalty points on his licence. It's a ridiculous state of affairs that the Thames Valley police spend most of their time sending out penalty notices to motorists doing 34mph on Vastern Road, yet in this case, someone is dead as a result of what is surely a standard of driving below all reasonable expectations, and the authorities don't seem particularly bothered.

I feel very sad for Anthony's family that there seems no recognition by the CPS or inquest that this was an avoidable tragedy , ie that they think no blame attaches to the driver. Its a real worry when I see my wife go off with our village cycling group that there are drivers out there who's sheer lack of consideration for other road users puts her and every cyclist at greater risk.
I raised the situation with our MP for Henley last year and he's written back twice but essentially relaying the same sorry decisions. I will pursue it further with him if only to push the case for changes to the law as my guess is that whilst the CPS may be biased against cyclists in general, it would surely help if they had stronger laws to support these types of cases.
Surely its time that drivers are presumed guilty when colliding with cyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, motorcyclists - ie that they have a real duty of care towards vulnerable road users. I believe that all drivers should have to clock up a number of hours as a cyclist (and preferably motorcyclist) before getting their provisional licence (maybe could be operated through Cycling Clubs?), and that all drivers be re-tested every 5 years.

If Ant. was in a car (either driving or a passenger) and that car was run off the road into a tree and killed by the van driver colliding with that car, would the inquest verdict and CPS non prosecution decision be the same?

Difficult to see that it would.

Likely be careless/dangerous driving

In 1990 I was hit from behind when the driver was driving towards the sun.
This resulted in the driver being found guilty of driving without care and attention. £200 fine and points on their licence.
It was only luck that meant I was injued and not killed so I think the CPS must account for diffferent treatment of these two incidents.

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