Friday 22 June 2012

Coach driver acquitted of charges relating to the deaths of Christian and Niggy Townend

The News and Star reports that a Carlisle jury has acquitted coach driver Robert Wightman of all charges relating to the deaths of the Townend brothers who were cycling on a main road in the Lake District on 5th December 2010 when they were struck and killed by a coach driven by Wightman.  Wightman did not see the cyclists before running them down and appears to have implicated the sun.  he appears to have acknowledged that he was driving too fast to be able to stop in the distance that he could see to be clear.
We can never know what went on in the jury room.  Personally I believe it to be an odd outcome.
I do not know all the evidence.  However the Judge of course did and it is important to note his comment that there could be no criticism of the CPS for bringing the charges (which included causing death by dangerous driving).
It would only compound the tragedy in this case were that jury verdict to be used as a justification for not bringing the appropriate charges in future similar cases.


  1. One would think that a competent and careful driver, when blinded by the sun, would slow down, particularly if his windscreen were smeared and the washers weren't working. I had this argument from a taxi once - "I pulled out on you because I couldn't see anything". It really is very depressing.

  2. Highway Code 93
    Slow down, and if necessary stop, if you are dazzled by bright sunlight.

  3. Had this Coach Driver hit a " police Officer " there would undoubtedly been a conviction !

    The " Highway Code " appears to be only read by the beginner so as to obtain the Licence , BUT has no other relevance to road users !

    Until David Cameron or his Ministers suffer " Personal Loss there will be a continuing erosion of " driving standards " !

    Police Officers these days must be heartily sick of trying to do a good job , but having to fight their way past those " Do Gooders " who think that accidents happen !

    Driving is a privilege , not a RIGHT ! Time ALL got out their " HIGHWAY CODE " and had to reread it and sit for a licence renewal each 5 years !

  4. Hi. Just to let you know I have included your Blog on my listing of UK Cylce Blogs which you can see by clicking on the link here I continue to follow and enjoy your blog and hope to hear more from you soon.

  5. I have made similar comment on this case on my own blog. My understanding from reading previous news articles is that the Brothers set out for their usual quiet B road ride but due to the weather found them too dangerous. Main roads were gritted so they resorted to that to get home, they didn't seem the kinds of riders to take any kind of risk.

    I really would like cases such as this to have the evidence and information made more public so that people can learn from it both in a road safety sense and in a legal sense.

    It also makes me wonder that the jury perhaps didn't empathise with the riders. Could this be a result of the legal team not being 100% (doubtful imo) or a cultural dimension?

  6. I wonder if someone checks the precise position of the sun at the time of such incidents. In a court case this might be done by an expert witness but I guess a Google Street View plugin could give us driver's eye view showing position of dazzling sun.

  7. ...cont. Here is an example of what might be done, at the scene of the Townend brothers' incident: This shows the approximate position of the sun now but it should be easy to show it at the time of the accident.

    (From here

  8. There must have been some evidence that wasn't reported. It seems unbelievable that the jury aquitted him on the face of the what can be read about on the News And Star articles.

    Note that the A595 at this point is a wide straight road, I find it hard to believe that anybody would drive a bus at 48mph (21 meters/sec) when they could only see 20-30 metres ahead. It is more likely that his range of vision was much greater. One can't help but wonder if Mr Wightman in fact did see the brothers, but failed to give them sufficient room.

    Time for compulsory cameras on buses and HGVs?

  9. another professional driver aquitted of killing vulnerable road users despite admitting bad driving. I do get the feeling many juries don't like to convict drivers for "only hitting a cyclist" after all "they are a bloody nuisance, wobbling all over the road, easily done, could have been me in the dock" etc etc

  10. Over time the complexity of the Highway Code has grown, to the point where I feel that most drivers would probably only have a limited knowledge of the rules of the road. Despite the fact that the HC does state in its introduction that it is essential reading for everyone not just drivers.

    Unfortunately the ambiguity between the MUST/MUST NOT and SHOULD/SHOULD NOT seems to have weakened the effectiveness of SHOULD/SHOULD NOT to the point where it no longer seems to carry much weight in terms of guiding road-user behaviour or determining fault.

    I can only imagine that in this case the Jury put themselves in the shoes of the driver and could see themselves in the same situation.

    Whereas the readers of this Blog put themselves in the shoes of the cyclists and shudder.


  11. I cant believe the outcome in this case, stories like this make me want to give up road cycling. I dont think I will go out riding in the low winter sun, I have read about too many people getting killed in such conditions.

    On another not, how is your racing going? we need some positive racing stories? any chance of getting a cat 2 licence?

    1. Thanks for enquiring about my racing. Prompts me to put up a post soon.

  12. Ken Workman; president, Manchester Wheelers' Club3 July 2012 at 17:05

    This is unbeleivable. I am a club-mate of Mick Style (who was a cousin of the two boys and a witness in the trial). Through Mick our whole club has been affected by Christian and Niggy's death and it seems so very, very wrong that the driver has been acquitted.
    What happens in the future? Points awarded to drivers for each cyclist they maim or kill, leading to a medal when they've 'done' six?

  13. I'm a PCV driver and cyclist who commutes steyning to Brighton everyday. This verdict is absolute "cobblers" - i would be hitting cyclists all day long if the sun were to blame.
    Some of us PCV drivers are sensible - check out my letter to cycling active this month, where i berate the previous months "letter of the month" from a bus driver saying he has to pull into bus stops, in front of cyclists, because of time constraints - absolute rubbish! again, a lot of people are getting hurt and killed out there because we only have to pass a test once. However in PCV and LGV, this isnt the case any more with the introduction of the compulsory CPC - hopefully this will make a real difference.

    When i see a cyclist - simple, i slow down.

    This guy was probably over taking and tail swung them...very sad.