Wednesday 16 November 2011

Updates from the Crown Court; R v McQuinn; R v Shapland

The Wirral Globe reports that today Mr McQuinn was cleared by a jury in Liverpool Crown Court of causing the death of David Noble by careless driving in Spital at 0950 on 20th October 2010.  Mr Noble was riding a bicycle at the time of the collision.  There was no suggestion that Mr Noble was in any way riding improperly when he was run down by a car driven by Mr McQuinn.  Mr McQuinn explained that the accident was unavoidable because the sun was in his eyes.  The jury took 17 minutes to return a not guilty verdict.

Last week the South Wales Evening Post reported that Mr Shapland was cleared by a jury in Swansea Crown Court of causing the death by careless driving of Olin Poulson after a collision on the A40 near Carmathen on 3rd September 2010.  A tachograph and telephone records revealed that Mr Shapland had been driving his articulated lorry at 52 mph (speed limit for lorries 40 mph) and had been on his hands free 'phone at the time of the collision.  He explained that Mr Poulson had turned right across his path as he was overtaking.

I am not privy to all the evidence in either case.  Clearly, in my view, each driver had a case to answer and it was only right that the prosecutions were brought.  The jury verdicts do not affect that and no prosecuting authority should expect a 100% success rate in the Crown Court.  It is an improvement over some cases in the past where prosecutions have not been brought and the drivers have never been called to explain their actions to a Court.


  1. I am afraid the more rulings I read the lower my regard for our judicial system reaches...

    There are very few accidents that do not have a culpable cause, causing death by driving should no longer be seen as an acceptable collateral damage.

    How can it be acceptable to kill somebody whilst speeding in a HGV? and how can it be seen as acceptable to drive whilst you cannot see ahead....To many drivers see bicycles as obstacles and forget that the cyclist is a human being with a family...

    Each so called ruling sends out the wrong signals about acceptability of killing whilst driving!

    Would it be as acceptable for a cyclist to cause death by mowing down a pedestrian? as you well know in the few cases that it happens the cyclist is handed a severe punishment to set an example, I fear that our so called fair system is far from it/

  2. The Justice / Legal system is making itself contemptible in the eyes of the Public. It would be laughable, were it not so serious.

  3. It would be nice to have an update on your case against Scott Lomas. Lots of people have been following with great interest to see how seriousley the courts take this issue as we all have to deal with verbal abuse pretty regularly.

  4. The Scott Lomas trial is on Monday week, 28th November. I will keep you posted.

  5. Much as we might deplore the decisions taken by the juries in these cases the fact is that a jury is an essential legal safeguard against the might of an overbearing state. Better the occasional wrongful acquittal than even a single wrongful conviction (would that we were that lucky!)

    Having done jury service twice, I was utterly amazed at just how low the public intellect could sink on occasions, but a jury is supposed to be a representative slice of society - perhaps it is because it is too damn easy to wriggle out of it if you are a savvy professional that we have such low-calibre individuals serving on juries, but that is what the system produces.

  6. I can just imagine a few jury members thinking "if the sun was in my eyes, I wouldn't be to blame for mowing over the cyclist in front of me". But it seems to me it is absolutely illegal to proceed in a condition of being unable to see whether it is safe to do so, and jury members do not have the discretion to decide otherwise. To understand the outcome of this case, we would have to know how the judge directed them.

    The lorry driver also offers as an excuse that he was doing something illegal - he was overtaking a right-turning vehicle. Since my experience is that vehicles do this, even if I am in the middle of the road and indicating clearly, self-preservation leads me to suspect the presence of such vehicles. But maybe the cyclist made no signal of his intention, and would have been run over by a vehicle at 40mph, mobile phone or none.

  7. That first case is terrifying given the additional detail within the quoted article. The idea that one can drive blind and not be subsequently held accountable for collinding with another road user is immensely disturbing, as it effectively says that if you cycle in these conditions it's solely down to luck if you avoid being run down.

    Martin - would a conviction for death by careless driving result in a mandatory prison sentence? Given the background to the driver (sole full-time carer for daughter with cystic fibrosis, clear remorse, etc) I could perhaps understand the outcome more if the jury was working on a conviction => imprisonment scenario.

  8. And the driver's comments in the first case:

    "As tragic as it is - and I don’t use the road any more - I know there was nothing I could have done"

    Possibly slowing down or stopping would have been appropriate?

    The more cases I see reported like this, then more it seems that your driving licence reference should have a "00" at the front, to indicate that it is also a licence to kill and remain above the law. Imagine any other instance where someone says "Oh I was dazzled, but I just continued anyway. I can't see how it was my fault." A JCB digger driver? A recreational archer? A surgeon?

    If it wasn't so tragic it would be funny.

  9. As has been commented, one cannot necessarily blame the court or the posecutor for the fact that the jury returned a not guity verdict. The jury system sometimes produce perverse decisions.
    However, the fact of this verdict does suggest that a change in the law is needed to raise the duty of care required of road users towards others that they put at risk and make it harder for a jury to return a verdict of this type.

  10. Darkerside - no, a custodial sentence following a conviction of causing death by careless driving is not mandatory and many such cases are dealt with by a non-custodial sentence.

    I accept the jury system and the principle that it is better that scores of guilty go unpunished rather than one innocent person suffer conviction. Some uncomfortable jury verdicts are bound to result. The important thing, as I wrote, is that these Defendants got before a jury.