Yesterday, just days after the Wojcicki case, came the sentencing of Robert Palmer, a lorry driver who had earlier pleaded guilty to causing the deaths by dangerous driving of Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace, cyclists who were just 40 miles into their Lands End to John O'Groats ride in support of charity. Palmer ran into them on the A30 near Newquay in Cornwall on 2nd July 2013. Palmer was also sentenced for dangerous driving on a separate occasion when he was on bail for the fatal offences and drove into the back of another HGV.
There are similarities and differences with the Wojcicki case (which formed the subject of my last blog post).
Palmer had the advantage of representation from a barrister of some 40 years experience. He (Palmer) realistically appreciated he had no Defence and pleaded Guilty to all 3 charges. He did not seek to blame Mr McMenigall or Mr Wallace who were (like Owain James) completely blameless. Palmer expressed, through his barrister, remorse at what he had done.
However the mitigation essentially ended there. Palmer had a cynical disregard of road traffic law. He was driving an HGV without the required rest periods and had only had 3 hours rest the previous night. Furthermore he was such a prolific texter at the wheel that “The prosecution observes simply the absence of the phone activity in the period immediately up to the collision as an indication of his fatigue because prior to this collision his phone activity was very persistent.” It is likely he fell asleep at the wheel.
The scene is similar. This picture from Google earth appears to be fairly representative of the A30 road at the scene of the impact:
The sentence was 7 1/2 years on each fatal charge to be served concurrently and a further year on the non-fatal charge to be served consecutively. Palmer was banned from driving for 10 years.
Once again the sentence is significantly greater, particularly the driving ban, than sentences we have seen in the past and once again the prosecution were not deflected from bringing the correct (dangerous driving) charge.
Observation 1: rumble strip
It occurred to me as I typed this that I am yet again describing a scene where impact occurred in the vicinity of a rumble strip. I do wonder at the thought process that goes through a Highway designer's mind to the effect that inattentive dozy drivers require assistance to remain on the road and that a rumble strip is sufficient to deal with that hazard. Plainly it is not if a cyclist is present.
Observation 2: prevention
With such a spectacular disdain for the law it seems a very great tragedy that Palmer's repeated offending was not caught and dealt with before he ended the lives of two good and blameless people.
Observation 3: driving bans
Prompted by a tweet, I have discovered to my surprise that the provision in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 providing that a driving ban starts to take effect on release from any prison sentence (rather than on the day of sentence) has still not been brought into force. I will look further into that when I return from holiday and draw it to the attention to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Road Justice. That provision would and should have applied to both Wojcicki and Palmer.
Finally I think the dignified statement of both families issued yesterday merits repetition and dissemination:
“There are no words to describe the devastation and loss that we, and both families, feel following the deaths of our husbands. They were exceptional and giant men in every sense of the word,” they said.
“It is a tragedy that so many other families are also mourning loved ones who have been killed on Britain’s roads, particularly when many of these deaths were completely avoidable.
“So many of these families do not ever see a sentence brought against the person who has killed their husband, their child, their brother, their father.
“UK transport laws are lenient, charges are difficult and onerous to attain, and less and less resource is being dedicated to road traffic collisions.
“Toby and Andrew loved cycling. We believe that the rise in the popularity of the sport must be met by those with the responsibility to improve our transport infrastructure and improve education for drivers.
“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us and been involved in getting us this far.”
Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Lorry-driver-Robert-Palmer-jailed-killing/story-22859295-detail/story.html#ixzz3CA3Ytksr
Read more at http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Lorry-driver-Robert-Palmer-jailed-killing/story-22859295-detail/story.html#Rr2VuvWsyijcO0B0.99