Eighteen year old Lee Cahill, a college student from Wareham, Dorset, was sentenced on Thurs 12 January after pleading guilty to causing the death of prominent cyclist and former British Cycling employee Rob Jefferies.
Cahill pleaded guilty to the charge of Causing Death by Careless Driving and was given a 12 month, 200-hour community order and an 18 month driving ban, followed by a compulsory re-test.
Rob Jefferies was killed while out on a training ride with a friend on the evening of 26 May 2011 close to his home in Swanage, Dorset. Driver Cahill, who was 17 years old at the time of the collision, had passed his test in January 2011 and was convicted of a speeding offence in April. Jefferies leaves a wife, step-son and daughter.
Responding to the leniency of Cahill’s sentence, British Cycling Chief Executive Ian Drake said:
“Our thoughts are with Rob’s widow Jane and his family and friends. This is undoubtedly a very difficult time for them. Rob’s case is a tragic example of why we need policy makers to work with us on the issue of cycle safety. From the facts of the case it is clear that Rob was a totally innocent victim of a young and inexperienced driver who had already been in trouble with the police for his bad driving.”
Drake continued, “It does not appear to British Cycling that the sentencing in this case sends the right signal to drivers, particularly young drivers, whose actions can have such tragic consequences for cyclists. Our members believe that sentencing in these rare but extremely sad cases is all too often too lenient and we shall be asking ministers and policymakers to engage with us on this. We will also be pushing for more and better education for road users on cycling safety, including changes to the driving test and the Highway Code, especially with regards to younger drivers.”
Rob's widow Jane said: "Any sentence given would not bring Rob back. I can see no benefit to society of sending Mr Cahill to prison, however, I do feel that the law urgently needs to change to counteract a 'Top Gear' culture which glamourises speed to young drivers without adequately pointing out its repercussions.
Mrs Jefferies continued: "The fact that Mr Cahill had been fined for doing 67mph in a 50mph zone only months before Rob's death should have given the authorities a clear warning of his competence to drive. Anyone breaking the law during their first year of driving should be made, at their own expense, to take their test again. Graduated driving licences should also apply for young drivers with parents doing more to ensure their child is ready to drive before allowing them behind the wheel.
"At 18 years of age Mr Cahill has yet to feel the full force of what he has done, I suspect it won’t be until he has children that the impact of what has happened will truly hit him. I sincerely hope he now acts responsibly and leads a full life, encouraging his friends and those around him to learn from his experiences."
Ian Austin, MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and a BC member said: “This is a tragic case of a great cyclist and family man being killed by a young and inexperienced driver. We need the government to look at the issues around cases like these including appropriate sentencing tariffs and ensuring that driver training and education is designed to prevent tragedies like this in the future”.
Penny Knight from Leigh Day & Co who is representing Rob's widow said:
"A month before this incident Mr Cahill had received a fixed penalty fine and 3 points on his licence for doing 67mph in a 50mph zone. This was only 4 months after he had passed his test. The warning signs were there that this young, inexperienced driver was perhaps over confident and content to disregard the rules of the road, his own safety and that of other road users.
"Young drivers like Mr Cahill need to realise that they aren't very good drivers. We would call on the Government to bring in re-testing for those breaking the law within a year of passing their test which would need to be paid for by those breaking the law. Not only to save the lives of those they hit, but also to save their own lives."
Leigh Day & Co is exclusively retained by British Cycling to provide the accident legal advice service to British Cycling members.
UPDATE 30/01/2012 - Following Mr Cahill's sentence British Cycling instructed highly experienced criminal barrister Mark Wall Q.C. to examine the case and assess the possibility of successful appeal. Regretfully however, having considered a number of options, Mr. Wall concluded that there was no possibility of a successful appeal. British Cycling has advised the Jefferies family accordingly and continues to support them at this difficult time.