The 18-year-old man who admitted to causing the death of cycling stalwart Rob Jefferies by careless driving was handed a 12-month community order by Weymouth Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Lee Cahill was driving along the A351 near Wareham, Dorset, on 26 May 2011 when he struck Jefferies from behind. Jefferies was on a training ride with a friend.

As well as the 12-month community order, Cahill was handed an 18-month driving ban, must re-take his driving test and ordered to pay £85 costs, according to the Bournemouth Daily Echo. Cahill passed his driving test in January 2011, and it has been previously reported that he was convicted of speeding in April 2011, one month before the incident.

Evidence presented in court from the driver in front of Cahill at the time of the incident said that the college student had simply failed to move his Renault Clio around the cyclists, driving straight into them. Cahill claimed in his defence that he had been dazzled by the sun.

Cahill was described by his defence as being ‘devastated’ by the incident and that he is ‘extremely remorseful’.

Jefferies’ widow had prepared a statement on behalf of her family that was read out during the sentencing. “I cannot make up for their loss,” said Mrs Jefferies. “We were looking forward to a change in our life together. Rob was doing a teaching course and we were looking forward to financial and domestic stability which would enable us to be closer. Now I have lost that.”

Jefferies was a well known figure on the British cycling scene. He served as British Cycling’s volunteer co-ordinator as well as riding at a high level in track and time trial events. He was a member of Poole Wheelers CC. 

Related links

Driver in Rob Jefferies fatal collision admits death by careless driving

Rob Jefferies killed in car collision

Cycling auction for Rob Jefferies

  • Peter Ford

    John, yes there may be some emotive comments on here, but the one that displays the least reason and logic is yours.

    JD’s point that the law is made by and enforced by drivers was fine. (It reminds me of the old saying that democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.) He used it to make his key point that “they will all be thinking of the near misses they have had – there but for the grace of god etc.”.

    To me, the conclusion from JD’s point is that we need to argue for wholesale reforms to the system so that near misses are no longer considered acceptable. I suspect that every day 1000s of people are just as reckless as Cahill, but due to luck they did not happen to have a vulnerable road user in their way.

    Your points about the “verdict” and the “fine” are a waste of time. Those commenters were clearly using general English language definitions of those words rather than technical magistrates court definitions.

    From your final paragraph you seem to accept the seriousness of the problem. And yet you also go in with the apologists’ view that lengthy imprisonment is no solution. I disagree. True, I would prefer to see reforms to the system implemented first, so that we target sentences at a hard core of bad drivers who refuse to change their attitudes. (And true also, the UK can’t afford to build more jails at the moment.) But ultimately I do not drive my car onto any patch of road unless I have seen with my eyes that it is safe to do so. And there is no reason why this shouldn’t be a minimum standard, demanded of everyone who wants the privilege of using deadly vehicles on public roads, and backed up with the threat of serious jail time. When the sun suddenly gets in my eyes, I slow down within the road space that I have already seen to be clear, and I proceed at a speed no higher than that at which I can discern the road ahead in that limited visibility. If I was completely blinded I would completely stop.

    We need a “top down” overhaul of the law and the whole system, but in the meantime it is right for everyone – including the commenters here – to criticize all parts of the system: Cahill and his ilk, the magistrates with immorally low sentences, the police that laugh you out of their station when you report a near miss, the CPS going for “careless driving” instead of “dangerous driving”, the politicians who do nothing, etc.. They are all responsible.

  • John Stewart

    Some of the comments already made hardly display reason or logic. Several complain about the “verdict” but there was none; the man pleaded guilty. Neither was he fined. Allegations that the law is made by and enforced by drivers are meaningless where the great majority of people in the country are licensed to drive; you might just as well complain that the laws relating to drinking are made by people who go to pubs. Asking whether the penalty would be different if the defendant had been related to a magistrate are insultingly cynical; no magistrate would hear any case in which he or she was in any way connected to any of the parties. Laws are made by people like us and remember, a lot of us do lot of driving to events to race!

    The justice system has always found it difficult to find punishments for people whose actions result in the deaths of others where there is neither intent nor recklessness but just carelessness. I suppose that we are at least better off than prior to 2006 when, in absence of evidence of dangerous driving, the only possible charge was simply one of careless driving. This was the case when a close friend of mine was killed in a time trial on the A1 in 2003. Calling for lengthy terms of imprisonment is no solution; it is the penal policy of the tabloid press when something more sensitive is required. A long suspension of a driving licence not only causes inconvenience but just might force the offender to travel by cycle for a few years and understand what it is like.

    There is only one practical way of comensating the family of the victim and that is, quite bluntly, money. No, it doesn’t bring them back but it is practical. One fault of the present system is that the compensation is usually a matter for the driver’s insurance company so he or she has no personal cost apart from higher premiums when trying to take out insurance in future. Perhaps we should have a form of “compensation annuity” where the offender has to pay a manageable amount for a period of years, with the law making it illegal to insure against this.

    I am aware of one case currently going through the courts where low sun was involved. It’s quite simple to get definite evidence of such. All one needs is the time, date and location and a meteorologist will give you the bearing and angle of inclination. This case involved low sun, but I am sure that many recall the case a few years ago when a woman skidded on ice and killed four members of Rhyl CC. She seemed to think that she was a victim of abnormal road conditions. If the temperature is below freezing you expect ice, if it’s foggy you can’t see far so you drive accordingly and if it’s sunny then you have an obligation to use a combination of sunglasses and visor to enable you to see sufficiently for the speed you choose to drive at.

    A club chat yesterday threw up nine riders known to the group who had died in road accidents over some 25 years. In two cases it was the rider’s fault; the others were due to careless or dangerous driving. One thing we must not do is to surrender use of the roads and drive to “mountain bike reserves” to enjoy our sport solely off-road.

  • Emma Harding

    Last year I heard of a similar, in fact exactly similar case, of a cyclist mowed down from behind with the exact same excuse ‘The sun was in my eyes.’ Are these people questioned about the precautions they have taken in readiness in case the sun gets in their eyes? I know about the sky and the weather, I’ve been outside and I even knew about this when I was seventeen years old, I tend to slow down and take extra care. It seems obvious to everyone that the sun is and was not the problem.

    Sentencing is a symbol, it cannot come close to rectifying what has been done. If you see this sentence in a symbolic way the message is painfully clear; a cyclist’s life, Rob’s life, was not very valuable. The person who made this careless mistake is told, ‘Don’t worry, this will all be over soon and you can get right back on with your life. You virtually got away with it! In fact you poor thing, it’s terrible that this happened to you, but don’t worry it will all be over for you soon.’

    We all know that Rob’s life was extremely valuable. There is a terrible sense that this is not justice for Rob and his family. It simply isn’t, and I think everyone knows it, everyone, even Mr Cahill, though knowing this might not be his priority right now.

    I can’t think of a better time to voice this injustice loudly to the powers that decide how life continues for everyone when such terrible things happen. I cannot imagine what Rob’s family and close friends must be feeling about this second appalling thing that has happened. I can only imagine the anguish it has added.

    Pressure must be put on the government by supporting British Cycling’s call for wide-ranging reviews of sentencing and road safety by the British cycling public – a body of people, the number of which are completely underestimated by the mainstream media. Our collective voice is powerful and needs to be heard by the people in charge who are shaping our road culture.

  • Jane Colquhoun

    This is a comment posted on facebook by a lorry driver who seems to be a ‘friend’ of a ‘friend’, but is no friend at all.
    “I ran a cyclist over in my lorry once. He’d snuck up the inside of me and I didn’t see him,just lay on the pavement screaming at me. Dickhead”
    I wonder what he would have said if he had killed him rather than just crushed his bike? I wonder what would have happened to the driver? This is his attitude, this is what he believes and how he feels about another human life. In the dock I am guessing he would put on a suit and get some references from employers and say he didn’t see the cyclist , the cyclist would be dead and his family devastated, but the driver would still think he had done nothing wrong.
    I have been led to believe that Lee Cahill did not intend to kill my husband and has shown remorse and so far I have tried to empathise and blame the law that allowed Lee to continue to drive after his speeding offence only 3 months after passing his test. Parents should be more careful when they rush to get their lads behind the wheel. There should be more hard facts forced upon us all.
    When I read the type of the lorry driver above of Jeremy Clarkson comments, knowing that there must be plenty of drivers who agree I really despair

  • Will Hirst

    Whether I am driving my car or riding my bike, I see them all the time. Arrogant, selfish fools who believe the law just doesn’t apply to them and who’s only thought is their ego’s. They see cyclists and indeed other road users as being nothing more but an inconvenience. The roads in this country offer us a huge amount of freedom, but with that freedom comes responsibility. But we hear countless times of lives being ruined, only for lenient sentences being handed out. Tougher sentences are needed. Perhaps if you get points on your licence, you should be restricted from driving high powered cars. Maybe this would make all the ‘Clarksonites’ think twice. Maybe take responsibility. Lee Cahill may have expressed remorse. But his actions ended the life of a man and devastated his family. He needs to take responsibility for that.

  • steve clarke

    Totally “pissed off” with this verdict…. what a lame excuse and fine. This Country stinks when it comes to cyclists rights….. We all need to fight this, I orge Cycling Weekly to start the ball rolling by more reports and feedback on accidents and court cases.

  • milton

    this whole thing makes me very sad , cyclists are subjected to violence and abuse every day , our self appointed authorities hold the lives of our number in contempt . i wonder if this due to the fact that no tax is extracted from cyclists ? rendering their lives to be of less value than the good and upstanding tax paying motorist . in the interests of justice i would say that each case be taken on its merits ,i do not think that blanket sentences should be the norm , people should be sent to prison only in cases of intent or gross negligence I would however support bans of 10 years and over for careless driving resulting in serious injury or death . I fear that as long as cyclists can traverse the highway untaxed this whole state of affairs will continue ,people in this country are only of value when they can be exploited , taxed and bullied by the governments and their civil servants .I only hope that something is done to stop this state of affairs and spare another family such heartache .but i wont hold my breath.

  • Helen Vecht

    A knowledge of the A351 shows it goes NE-SW. The sun would have been perpendicular to the road at the time of the crash. Low sun is rarely a problem in the summer. The defence has won over, again but is untenable by those with a rudimentary knowledge of geography.

  • JD

    A high profile cyclist was killed a few years ago in Scotland. A van driver turned across his path as he was out on a training ride. Apparently he must have been hunkered down (in aero position) and therefore hard to see.

    The entire legal system is run by drivers. Drivers set the law, police the law, decide if there should be a prosecution, sit on the bench, make up juries. They will all be thinking of the near misses they have had – there but for the grace of god etc.

    I think the first step would be to make driving at work come under the HSE and subject it to the same scrutiny and rigour as killing someone with a fork-lift would. Then look at sentencing for non-work deaths and injuries.

    The use of a car is embedded in society as a right when it should be a privilege.

  • Oli Wright

    A terrible verdict. What can we do? Start by signing my epetition here:

  • Dave Doust

    I also agree with the above, it’s an absolute disgrace. I wonder if the verdict/sentence would have been the same if Rob had been related to one of the magistrates ?
    I agree with Adam, using a high profile cyclist such as Cavendish may bring the seriousness of the problems us cyclists face every day to the attention of some of our ignorant magistrates.

  • W.Greenwood

    The excuse of sun is used too often. When it is used it needs investigation. It is not unusual for an accident to have happened when the sun wasn’t a problem but if the site is visited later or earlier than the accident time it would have been.
    I know of a case where a car ran through a junction into another car killing the driver. The time of the accident was 3.45pm. “The sun in my eyes excuse” was given in court and accepted. However, in that location, facing west, the sun wouldn’t have been low enough to cause a problem at that time of year until after 5pm. Maybe the sun was a problem in this case, but if so why hadn’t the driver slowed down to drive safely in the conditions that existed at the time.
    Also, if you are hit, get the police and have a breath test taken, also have the driver’s medication checked. They often drink on medication when they shouldn’t. They may be under the limit but still drugged up. This applies especially to older drivers. Also, are they capable of reacting? Many old drivers can hardly walk, so how can they drive? Have a camera and take plenty of photos, a video camera is useful. Make notes. You need to protect youself, the courts invariably lean towards the drivers and against cyclists. Community order for taking a life – explains the problems that we have.

  • adam

    I agree with all of the above… but what can be done?

    Where can we voice this where it will be taken seriously? Who do (the significant number of) cyclists need to petition so that it will be dealt with properly? No matter how successful Cav et al are and however much they inspire people to take up cycling, it will all be wasted if this is the level of treatment cyclists get from the rest of the public.

    Perhaps if Boris or Cameron were knocked off their bikes someone with some clout to do something about it might take notice? (Not that I’m saying anyone should do that, of course…).

    Perhpas Cav can be lead into doing adverts about driving safely and being aware of cyclists? In the lead up to the Olympics – with all the song and dance about that going on – it should be part of the nations responsibility. What good is an Olympic road race champion who can’t even safely train on the roads of his own country…?

    I echo Crydda’s words: You drive to the conditions. If you can not see properly, you slow down.

    RIP Rob

  • Nick

    Failure of the courts to hand out proper sentences to those guilty of causing death by their driving sends out the wrong message that cyclists are worthless, FFS they are people with families.
    Nothing short of legalised murder of cyclists endorsed by the judicial system.

  • Lex

    this is a disgusting verdict, the defenfant should have been sent to prison and have a much much higher fine and be banned from driving for good. Who the hell wants someone like him back on the roads again in 18 months, he should not be allowed to drive again, from the sound of the incident it was intentional!! Fed up of seeing so many reports where by the driver kills a cyclist and more or less gets away with it! it is disgracful!

  • Kevin Blackburn

    So the sentence is comensurate with ‘Careless or inconsiderate driving arising from momentary inattention with no aggravating factors’ – despite aggravating factors, such as killing someone. So the killing of Rob Jefferies has had no impact on the sentence at all – its just as if the driver momentarily lost control, and nothing else happened. What justice, and what message does this send? This is not a deterent to other drivers.

  • Jon

    Very, very sad that our legal system is still infested by people who attach no worth to the lives and safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users and are prepared to send the message to drivers that they can get away with the ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ excuse.

    This is totally unacceptable; there should be a mandatory prison sentence, and measures to identify and punish magistrates who appear to be issuing inappropriately lenient sentences to dangerous drivers. It would benefit the other 99% of road users immensely. My heartfelt commiserations to Mr Jefferies’ family and friends.

  • Crydda

    I don’t know the full details of this case, of course, but the leniency of the sentence seems absolutely incredible.
    When are drivers and the courts going to realise that motor vehicles are potentially lethal weapons and care is required when using them. “I was dazzled by the sun” should constitute no excuse whatsoever, because everyone should drive according to the conditions – if you can’t see, slow down; to a crawl if necessary.

  • Colnago Dave

    Unbelievable, time we started prosecuting the magistrates for incompetence, not inly is the sentence laughable but the HUGE FINE !!

    Years ago I was the victim of a hit and run fortunately without more than cuts and bruises, the driver was traced and when I asked the police what action they intended I was told the following
    The driver was a retired furrier from an affluent part of Glasgow and no action was intended. When I pointed out it was hit and run I was asked if this guy had been my retired father how would I feel seeing him in court for a trivial matter.
    This is what cyclists are up against