Update from Court: CPS v Bhamra

An odd and disturbing case was decided in Solihull Magistrates' Court this week.  The Solihull news today reports that Ichhapal Bhamra was sentenced to a fine of just £35 and unspecified court costs and 3 penalty points after his conviction of driving without due care.
The bad driving occurred on 27th June 2012 and involved a collision with a cyclist, Tom Ridgway, who tragically died from the injuries sustained in consequence of the collision..
It appears that Bhamra pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without due care.  The fact that he was not charged with causing death by careless driving and the extremely light sentence suggests that his plea must have been given (and accepted by the CPS) on the basis that his bad driving had not caused Mr Ridgway's death, or indeed any significant harm.  It is very similar to the sentence (£37 plus victim surcharge of £15 plus costs of £85 and 3 penalty points) given to Levi Rayner, after I insisted that he was prosecuted for careless driving after a very close pass in Hounslow that I filmed last year.  The victim surcharge will have been mandatory in Bhamra's case and the costs are likely to have been of a similar order to Rayner's, so the overall financial burden will have substantially exceeded the headline £35 that was reported.  Still well short of harsh but roughly in line with other cases where the careless driving caused no injury/damage.
The real question is not then the leniency of the bench but how it is that the prosecution accepted a plea on the basis that Bhamra's careless driving had caused no significant harm.  Apparently the CPS took the view that they could not prove that Bhamra's carelessness had caused the original impact but merely that continuing on for a distance of 90 metres with Mr Ridgway on his bonnet, colliding with signs and eventually a tree was careless driving.  They also decided that they could not prove that this 'proveable' carelessness, as distinct from the original collision, had caused Mr Ridgway's death.
Making every allowance for the fact that the details of the original collision did not come out in court and were not therefore reported upon, with the consequence that very little is in the public domain, the CPS charging decision does seem lame.  In the absence of any striking explanation, a passing car should not collide with a cyclist.  This is on the face of it indicative of a lack of due care.  Had the original collision been due to Bhamra's lack of due care, then it could hardly be disputed that that collision caused Mr Ridgway's death.  Even if a conviction of causing death by careless driving was not a certainty it seems to me unfortunate that the facts were not brought before a Court to determine.
Hopefully there will be a rigorously conducted Inquest to explore how the original collision occurred.

Tom's aunt has been in contact and comments as follows:

"I could not agree more with your assessment.   I am Tom Ridgway’s aunt, I attended the trial and – as I told the prosecuting solicitor – it felt to me as though a back-room deal had been done.  All events leading up to the collision were dismissed without discussion.   The prosecutor replied that he was new to the case that morning and he could not argue the charge, which had already been agreed.  He added that we should complain if we wished to the CPS.
The family is not seeking further punishment for Mr Bhamra, who has lost his job and is depressed and suffering.  He has paid his £150 penalty including costs and, like most reasonable people, understands that he was responsible for the death of a young man who was merely cycling ahead of him on the road.  (Tom, a student, was on his way to Solihull to deliver his CV to New Look in the hope of getting a holiday job.)  It is the law which has failed to us, by bizarrely dividing the event into Before and After Impact.
Although it cannot be proven that the taxi driver was driving carelessly before the accident, the fact that he hit and killed Tom is surely evidence enough that he was driving without due care and attention WHEN he hit him.  The shattered windscreen, the subsequent panic, the death, are all part of a sequence of behaviours which killed my sister’s beloved son.
Many people, including the newspapers, are jumping to the conclusion that sentencing in this case was too light.  But given the charge before them and the fact that Mr Bhamra was not proved to be drunk, drugged or speeding, the magistrates were directed to give the lightest level of fine.  Indeed, the fact of Tom’s body being on the windscreen became a mitigating factor as the driver could not see where he was going, panicked and put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake.
The point is not that hitting Tom caused Mr Bhamra’s erratic driving, but that Mr Bhamra’s erratic driving killed Tom.  A distinction that would have been made in court if his case had been charged and prosecuted with proper respect for human life."   

Category Article

What's on Your Mind...