Judge rejects new inquest into death of cyclist Eilidh Cairns
The sister of a commuter killed by a lorry – who fought a legal battle for a fresh inquest to investigate “the huge problem” of cycling deaths in London – has had her hopes dashed by a top judge.
Mr Justice Silber today rejected Kate Cairns’ complaints that the inquest into the death of her sister Eilidh Cairns should have been adjourned for further expert evidence, that the Coroner should have summoned a jury to hear the case and that the scope of the inquiry was “unreasonably restricted”.
Also dismissed by the judge, sitting at London’s High Court, was Miss Cairns’ plea that it was irrational of the Coroner to fail to make “recommendations so as to prevent a repeat of this tragic accident”.
Eilidh Cairns was run over by a tipper truck as she rode through Notting Hill Gate in morning rush hour traffic on 5 February 2009. The seriously injured 30-year-old, who’d just landed her dream job as a television producer and had been cycling to work from her home in Hampstead Heath, lay under the wheels of the 32-tonne vehicle still conscious and able to talk to witnesses. She was airlifted to hospital but died hours later.
She was one of nine cyclists killed by heavy goods vehicles on London’s roads in 2009 – eight of them women. An inquest held on January 22, 2010 at Westminster Coroner’s Court heard how she had been cycling to work from her home in Hampstead Heath. To her family’s dismay, the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death and her sister challenged the verdict and demanded a fresh inquest at London’s High Court.
“I have come to the conclusion that, whichever way Miss Cairns’ submissions are considered, they must be rejected,” said Mr Justice Silber. He also said he was a long way from being satisfied that a different verdict, on the basis of fresh evidence, would be reached in a second inquest
“I am conscious that this judgement will be a disappointment to the Cairns family, to whom we all send our deepest sympathy, but my duty is to apply the law, which I have sought to do,” he added. “They will have the consolation that their counsel has very ably put forward all points open to her. The claim must be dismissed.”
Anna Morris, for Miss Cairns, earlier argued Inner West London deputy coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe, had failed to consider “the wider impact of Eilidh’s death and the huge problem facing cyclists in London.” Ms Morris said the family’s perception was that the inquest was “perfunctory” and the coroner appeared “unwilling” to explore any issues that related to how the truck driven by Portuguese lorry driver Joao Lopes came into collision with Eilidh’s bike. She argued the inquest had failed to comply with statutory duties to “fully, fairly and fearlessly” investigate the facts surrounding the collision.
Truck driver Mr Lopes had claimed he did not see Ms Cairns. He later pleaded guilty at Kingston Magistrates’ Court to a charge of driving with defective vision. He received three points on his licence and was fined £200.
Jonathan Hough, for the coroner, said Dr Radcliffe had been faced with a type of road traffic accident, in which a cyclist had been killed by an HGV, which was “tragically common”. Denying there had been any inadequacy of investigation into the tragedy, he said there was no special feature which had given the coroner reason to think “that it illustrated a systemic problem or that it might call for some specific response”.
Outside court during the case, Miss Cairns said a proper inquest into her sister’s death was vital to help stop the growing number of cyclist deaths involving lorries. “It is a national issue, not just London,” she added.
The family has launched a See Me Save Me campaign for the mandatory installation of cameras and sensors in lorries to eliminate blind spots. They are calling for action in the European Parliament, with the support of Fiona Hall MEP.