Any excuse will do

There comes news today of the sentencing of Lee Cahill, an eighteen-year-old who killed a man on a bicycle, Rob Jefferies, with his car. Cycling Weekly reports

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.


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.

There are more details from this same witness driver in a report from the Bournemouth Daily Echo

Prosecutor Andrew Newman read a statement from Mr Brown, who had been driving the car in front of Cahill’s during the incident. He said: “Mr Jefferies was cycling inside the white line on the road. I made an exaggerated overtake to give the cyclists room.” Mr Brown said the Clio seemed to be in line with the cyclists. “I was expecting the car to pull out to overtake them, but it did not.”

Total negligence on the part of Mr Cahill, in other words. While Mr Brown was capable of steering out and around some human beings on the road in front of him, as should reasonably be expected of any person licensed to use our roads, Mr Cahill was not.

What could possibly be the reason for this failure of Mr Cahill?

Cahill claimed in his defence that he had been dazzled by the sun.

A difficulty that didn’t seem to affect Mr Brown’s ability to drive correctly, as we have seen. Curious.

More details about this ‘dazzling’, again from the Bournemouth Daily Echo –

Speaking for the defendant, Robert Grey told the court that Cahill had been dazzled by the sun when he was driving along the road. He said: “The police arranged for a road traffic expert to attend the scene the following day. His report stated that drivers travelling north-west at the time of the collision would have had the sun shining almost directly across the road.”

All becomes clear.

The sun was shining directly across the road, which would dazzle anyone driving north-west along the A351 while… err… looking off to the side, and not in the direction they were travelling.

Robert Grey, again speaking for the defence, admitted that the driver had done something wrong –

“My client should have slowed down or stopped. Perhaps a more experienced driver would have done. But that is what he has done wrong.”

Indeed. Looking left, directly into the sun, is probably something that should be done while stationary, not while driving along.

To me, this bears all the hallmarks of lazy, stupid and reckless driving – an attempt to buzz past a cyclist who quite obviously would have been visible with the sun lighting him from the side. It went terribly, tragically wrong.

Mr Cahill had only been driving for four months, during which time he had already clocked up a speeding conviction – one month before hitting and killing Rob Jefferies. Despite this conviction, he was described as

of previous good character

by this same defence lawyer, presumably on the basis that motoring convictions – even in a case which involved the negligent use of a motor vehicle – aren’t ‘proper’ convictions, and can conveniently be ignored. Mr Cahill is also ‘extremely remorseful’ –

The consequences of this accident have been devastating for Cahill, who is extremely remorseful.


Cahill was given a 12-month community order by magistrates, and ordered to do 200 hours’ community service. He was banned from driving for 18 months, and ordered to retake his test. He was also told to pay costs of £85.

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Dangerous driving, Driving ban, Road safety, The judiciary. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Any excuse will do

  1. What is it they say? If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention?

  2. Mark says:

    Here’s another one, slightly closer to home – she blames the car behind her!

  3. dave says:

    Thats a disgustingly light “sentence” the scum bag driver should be in prison, shame on the magistrates and judicial system.

  4. That is an embarassment. You’d most likely get more for GBH if you assaulted someone and left them alive with your bare hands. Yet the killing of an innocent person with a motor vehicle is seemingly treated like a petty crime.

    I’d have him serving time for a good few years and not holding a license until he has a pension!

  5. realcycling says:

    Erm, it took a road traffic expert to confirm which way the sun was shining?

  6. Helen Vecht says:

    Not only did it take a traffic expert, but a quick look at any map will show the A351 runs NE/SW. It’s not possible to travel in a northwesterly direction on that road! The ‘expert’ does not appear to know his east from his west!The sun would have been in the northwest. Juries seem too ready to swallow any defence.

  7. Ben Bawden says:

    If you ever feel like killing someone, just run them over – you’ll probably get away with it.

  8. Andrew says:

    Does killing a pedestrian usually result in a similar verdict, or are cyclists just assumed to be (partially) responsible per se for the purpose of sentencing?

  9. Charlie says:

    Rob was the mechanic in my shop at the time. It’s clear to me the legal system does not take this seriously, never has. It looks more like an inquest with minimal punishment rather than criminal conviction for a killer. A Scottish thug punched a customer outside my shop, I broke up the attack, and was a witness in court. He picked up about £1100 in fines and costs. Punching Vs killing.

    Anyway it get worse, Robs widow wrote to the local paper to complain about seeing Lee Cahill messing / larking around in a charity shop, that is where his 200 hours was spent.

    I’ve driven that stretch of road thousands of times, never ever had the sun in my eyes. I am tempted to go back on the anniversary of the killing, same day, same time and satisfy myself that the sun really was an excuse.

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