Killer Driver Escapes Prison Because Cyclist Wasn’t Wearing A Helmet

by Ben Haworth 15

CTC – the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation has condemned a judge’s decision to reduce the sentence handed down to a driver because the cyclist he killed wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Denis Moore, 50, collided with cyclist James Jorgensen, 55, last September on a roundabout in Seaham, County Durham. Jorgensen died 8 days later of severe head injuries. Although the court was told that Moore was only driving at around 20mph, Moore’s solicitor acknowledged that his client had suffered a “momentary lapse of concentration”.

At Durham Crown Court last Friday, Judge Richard Lowden gave Moore a 24-week suspended prison sentence. He said the fact that Jorgensen had not been wearing a helmet was a “mitigating factor” and Moore’s sentence would be reduced accordingly. The judge reached this decision without hearing any evidence about the effectiveness of helmets, or whether a helmet would have made any difference to Jorgensen’s injuries.

CTC’s Campaigns & Policy Manager Roger Geffen said: “My first thoughts are for Mr Jorgensen’s family. I cannot imagine how they must be feeling. If bereavement wasn’t enough, they now have a Judge effectively saying Jorgensen himself was partly to blame for his own death, simply because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. There are still serious doubts about the effectiveness of cycle helmets, particularly in preventing serious or fatal injuries, and there is no law requiring cyclists to wear them. This sentence is an extraordinary example of a judge blaming the victim for his own death”.

The decision comes just over 100 days after a civil law case where High Court Judge Griffith Williams gave his opinion that in principle, cyclists without helmets could face reduced damages if it were shown that a helmet would have prevented or reduced their injuries. In the case he was considering, however, he concluded that a helmet would not have prevented the serious injuries suffered by cyclist Robert Smith due to a collision with motorcyclist Michael Finch.

The Government is currently reassessing the evidence on cycle helmets as part of a wider study on cyclists’ safety, in a tacit acknowledgement that the evidence about their effectiveness is still far from clear. The interim findings of the helmet part of the study are expected next month, with a final report due out by the end of the year.

Comments (15)

  1. The judge is simply responding to established parameters of our laws, unfortunately. If you want to kill someone, be sure to use your car to do it as you’ll probably not have to do time with a defence of a lapse of concentration.

  2. The parameters of the law seem to be it’s not legal to wear a helmet, but if you don’t it may will count against you if it can be proven that your injuries would have been less serious wearing a helmet. Thus, the judge should have heard expert evidence in this case…

  3. Does this mean that if I’m killed in a car crash by a ‘dangerous driver’, they will escape jail becase my car does not have a roll cage? After all, it’s not a legal requirement, but is known to provide extra safety for the car’s occupants…

  4. i’m gonna stab some people then claim they weren’t wearing stab proof vests as my defence

  5. I assume the same principle can be applied to pedestrians as well?

    Out of interest is there anything we can do to get this changed?

  6. That makes my so angry. There is no justice in this country. What happened to common sense?

    GB

  7. The driver in this case didn’t hve a full licence and was ‘borrowing’ his partners motability car! So he was driving illigally, can’t have been insured if he was driving on his own (which he was).

    So wether the cyclist was wearing a helmet seems irrelevant.

  8. firstly, RIP and my thoughts to the family

    This country is going mad. surely this sets a dangerous precedent? The logical conclusion of this argument is that if the deceased wasn’t on the road at all then the guy would not have hit him and therefore his sentence would be reduced to nil (because the incident didn’t happen).

    this country is fcuking going to the dogs man

  9. “to blame for his own death, simply because he wasn’t wearing a helmet”

    can’t argue with that

  10. Its a sad day that anybody is killed on the roads, especially a fellow cyclist doing something we all enjoy, however, maybe we should take incidents like this as a perfect warning of the dangers and learn from it.
    i.e: Wear a helmet and hence dont allow a negilgent driver to be able to use this excuse and just maybe save your life in the process.
    I realise there is still a fair amount of debate over the pros and cons of helmets but I think in reality we all have to agree if you’re going to get a whack to the head we’d rather be wearing one.

  11. Wow – is this a new way of getting away with murder? Because in this sense I could drive along a road, see a cyclist without a helmet, run him over, sue him for damage to my car and whiplash, and easily get away with it?

  12. ‘Because in this sense I could drive along a road, see a cyclist without a helmet, run him over, sue him for damage to my car and whiplash, and easily get away with it?’

    In which sense?

  13. A few years ago a driver without licence or insurance went over the sea wall at a beachfront car park on the Isle of Wight and killed a two year old. He got 8 years for it.

    Not only is there a big disparity in the punishments handed out for the same offence but the severity of offences like these are judged on the seriousness of the outcome rather than the seriousness of the actions themselves. In the above cases the drivers were both unlucky that someone vulnerable got in their way and that is often the difference between a minor bump and a fatality.

    I’m not trying to defend the above drivers but how would any of us feel if a member of our family was banged up for say five years for committing any of the above offences but had been stopped before hurting anyone?

  14. Mostly Balanced, the idea of prison time has always (afaik) been deterrant. A few hefty sentences for death by (other people’s) driving may incline a few more drivers to actually look where they are going and take driving, which can be a high consequence activity, a bit more seriously.

    The judge is a tool.

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