Karl Austin, Hatton, Derbyshire, June 2011

Karl was competing in a time trial with 32 other cyclists when he was hit from behind by a lorry driver. He died as a result. While the driver claimed to have been dazzled by sunlight, he was in fact speeding – doing 56mph on a road where the limit for lorries is 50mph. The police investigation found that very few other drivers were hampered by the sun on that same stretch of road that day. The driver had made no attempt to slow down despite his claim of being unable to see clearly. In court he claimed to have no recollection of the crash which killed Karl.

Karl’s family were repeatedly let down by the CPS during the case: first by the initial decision not to
prosecute; then by administrative errors causing two hearings to be postponed; then by the inadequacy of the CPS lawyer, who was later removed from the case; and finally by the decision to sentence the driver in the magistrate’s court. Karl’s family and their new CPS lawyer successfully managed to get the driver sentenced in the crown court. However, despite this transferal, the sentence imposed was still derisory: a 2 year driving ban and a suspended 24 week custodial term.

In addition to demonstrating the leniency shown drivers that kill by the courts, Karl’s story is indicative of the trivialisation of driving offences by hearing them in the magistrates’ courts, where sentencing ranges are much lower than in the crown courts.

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