The lorry driver who seriously injured Times journalist Mary Bowers when he hit her whilst she was cycling has been found guilty of careless driving, not the more serious verdict of dangerous driving despite admitting to being on the phone and not paying attention.

Petre Beiu was cleared of dangerous driving by a jury on Friday at Snaresbrook Crown Court. His tipper truck hit Bowers in November 2011 in London. Bowers suffered severe head injuries, broke both legs, broke her arm and pelvis and is still hospitalised, requiring constant care. It is likely that she will never recover and her father described her condition to the Evening Standard as “If it’s possible to be worse than dead, then she is”.

Bowers’ horrific incident was part of the motivation for the Times newspaper’s ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign that called for an urgent review of road safety measures and policy aimed at protecting cyclists on Britain’s roads. The campaign has attracted widespread attention and led to a parliamentary debate, leading to increased financial investment in road infrastructure. However, the judicial system still appears to be lagging behind when dealing with those who cause the incidents.

Beiu admitted in court that he was not paying adequate attention when he struck Bowers. He also admitted to failing to apply his handbrake when he left the truck to attend to Bowers, causing the vehicle to slip further forward over Bowers.

Beiu received a fine of £2,700 and an eight-month driving ban. The leniency of the penalty has once again highlighted the inadequate penalties handed out to drivers who cause serious injury or death to cyclists and other road users.

British Cycling Policy and Legal Affairs Director Martin Gibb has been lobbying throughout the past year for a judicial review of dangerous and careless driving sentencing, which has been supported by Cycling Weekly.

“Once again the justice system has failed us,” said Gibb of Bieu’s case. “The HGV driver was on a phone call, said he didn’t look properly and the evidence is clear that Mary was visible for a long time.

“It seems to me that there was no other sensible conclusion than that his driving was dangerous, not careless. These failures send completely the wrong message about how we expect people to behave on our roads.”


Driver cleared of manslaughter in separate case

Kenan Aydogdu was cleared of manslaughter by a jury at the Old Bailey after opening his car door into the path of cyclist Sam Harding, causing him to swerve and be killed by a bus in August 2011.

The court was told that Aydogdu’s windows had been tinted to such an extent that they only had 17 per cent visibility and that he had not checked his mirror before opening the door.

Related links

Times cycling campaign: One year on

British Cycling calls for road safety reforms

  • Ken Evans

    The results of the drivers’ actions speak for themselves, it doesn’t really matter what they intended to do, the accidents are proof that they were not acting in a safe and careful way. The British roads system is not designed with cyclists in mind. Just about every road feature is designed to help motorists, even many pedestrian crossings have the “Green Man” showing for such a short time that it is impossible to cross to the other side of the street in the time allocated. For decades it has been this way in the UK, and I see no evidence of it changing. Eventually there will be no oil left, so cars will have to change, or everyone will have to find other means of transport. With so much of Britain designed around the car, it is likely Britain will have problems as the costs of motoring increase in future.

  • Angharad

    There is no excuse for using a mobile phone whilst driving. The penalty should be a minimum of a year’s ban. It has been shown to be dangerous because no one can give sufficient attention to the road and other users. If causing death or severe injury while driving on the phone, the culprit should be jailed.

    Vehicles are lethal weapons, if you caused the same injury with a gun or a club, you’d be sent down for a long time.

  • Mike

    Mike T needs to take acount that the driver “Admitted” to being on his phone, which is in itself an offence, and he also admitted to not paying attention. If that is not dangerous driving then nothing is.

    I was prosecuted, about 25 years ago for dangerous driving. My crime, which I admitted too and accepted, was speeding at 100 mph on an empty motorway. There was no accident involved, no victim, not even a near miss. Just speeding. I am not suggesting I was not wrong and that i did not deserve to be penalised. I was fined £250, a very hefty fine 25 years ago, and given 10 penalty points.
    So…..speeding is a more serious offence than hospitalising, and almost killing, someone whilst talking on the phone whilst driving an HGV. What a joke.

  • Robert

    Mike T wrote: “Mr. Moffatt needs to read up on what the definitions of “dangerous” and “careless” driving are. In law “intent” or lack of, is taken into account.” And that just goes to show what an ass the law is and how much the motor lobby have been able to influence the way the law is framed. Fact is most actions that lead to motorists causing harm to others involve a high degree of ‘intent’. For example, drivers act with intent when they choose to use a mobile when driving; ignore the speed limit; drive after drinking or using drugs, or when too tired to be safe; drive without due consideration for others (for example bulling past a cyclist in the same lane) etc. etc. All these are wilful acts that also involve the driver wilfully intending to break the law by their actions. That the law gives the driver a free pass, more or less, simply because they did not ‘intend’ to kill or maim simply reinforces what I said about the law holding that, for the most part, drivers are held to be not at all responsible for the consequences of their actions.

  • Robert

    The unfortunate reality is that, under the law, motorists are generally held to be only minimally responsible for their actions, and very often not at all responsible for the consequences of their actions. This is a situation that has existed ever since the social elite first took their cars onto the publics’ roads and began to promote the disgusting idea that ‘roads are for cars’ and that it is the ‘duty’ of ‘the lower orders’, that is everyone else, to ‘keep out of the way’ or face the consequences. Given the power of the motor lobby, and the sheer number of drivers, who collectively impose an almost unchallengeable ‘mob rule’, it is very hard to see just how matters could be changed. This is especially the case in the current political climate, which appears to be based entirely on the idea that no one has any responsibility for anyone else and the primary role of government is to protect the interests of the more powerful at the expense of the less powerful. To see just how little progress has been made in the last 60-odd years just look up J.S. Dean’s classic treatise on road safety ‘Murder most foul: a study of the road deaths problem’, which was published in 1947. As Dean puts it “The “less” offence of “careless driving”- introduced on the insistence of the motor interests to provide a part-escape for offenders – should be abolished: in the existing circumstances careless driving is of course always also dangerous driving.”

  • Ken W

    “The HGV driver was on a phone call, said he didn’t look properly and the evidence is clear that Mary was visible for a long time.” And he failed to secure the vehicle causing further injury

    And this isn’t ‘dangerous’???

    Hmm, how many of the jury were motorists?

  • roginoz

    So this is wonderful British JUSTICE.Educate the drivers and Turn the other cheek do NOT work.Judges are a total waste .That poor woman and her family are the victims…remember them..victims???

  • Mike T.

    Mr. Moffatt needs to read up on what the definitions of “dangerous” and “careless” driving are. In law “intent” or lack of, is taken into account.

  • Will

    Also today.

    A motorist who opened his car door in front of a cyclist who was crushed by a bus has been cleared of manslaughter. Sam Harding, 25, died after crashing into Kenan Aydogdu’s car door in Holloway Road, north London, last year.
    He had had the windows of his car coated with a dark plastic film which reduced visibility in and out of the car to 17%, the Old Bailey heard.
    Mr Aydogdu, 32, of Hindhead, Surrey, said he had only opened his car door a little to see if anyone was coming.
    Mr Harding was riding in a bus lane with a bus travelling behind him and was crushed after coming off his bicycle.

  • Alan Moffatt

    Time to end this nonsensical difference between “careless” and “dangerous”. If you’re careless in charge of a motor vehicle, you’re dangerous.