Today Philip Sinden was cleared of causing the death of Daniel Squire.
But something’s not quite right here.
Please note: there is a subsequent post which goes into more depth: Something’s Seriously Wrong Here. That post will be updated as I receive more information; this post will not.
I need to preface this post with two important points.
The first is that if it is any way objectionable to Daniel Squire’s family then I will take it offline temporarily or permanently. I have no desire to drag out their misery, I simply feel compelled to make sense of a legal process of which I am somewhat cynical.
The second is that I only have access to whatever information is online, and the accuracy of that information is not guaranteed. There are a number of key facts which, if misreported, will undermine large parts of this post. I have bookmarked a number of references from which I have taken information and quotes.
To tell the truth, I hope incorrect reporting to be the case. I hope everything in this post is based on a complete misrepresentation of what was presented in court. If the reporting is both accurate and representative then it is deeply concerning that things went the way they did.
A handful of locations are mentioned in the reports, but two are key.
One is the junction of Station Road with the A258, where Sinden turned right towards Ringwould. This is straightforward to determine, and is here. (Click the image to go to Street View.)
The other is the collision site. As can be seen from Street View, there’s little doubt as to where this is, either.
This location tallies with two photographs of the collision scene posted on Twitter—here’s one and here’s the other—and the ghost bike location shown in this news report. (I’m having to restrain myself from commenting on the statements about mutual respect in both the video and the caption below it.)
Time appears to be a pivotal aspect of this case. Again, there are two which are key, and fortunately accurate times are available.
One is the time at which Sinden’s phone received a text message, which was 08:39:49. Sinden is quoted as saying “I didn’t receive a reply [to my previous text] so I carried on down [Station Road] to the junction with the A258. I did receive a message when I got to the junction.” It therefore seems to be that Sinden claimed to be at the junction at this time.
The other key time is that at which the 999 call was received, which was 08:40:44.
I assume that the prosecution calibrated these two times and on that basis the time between the receipt of the text message and the connection of the 999 call was 55 seconds.
If the reported statements are accurate, then in that 55 second period the following occur, sequentially:
- Sinden negotiates the junction onto the A258.
- He drives 1.2 miles along the 50mph limit A258, claiming to have driven at 50mph for part of the way and then slowed to 40mph, reaching the point of collision.
- A passing driver sees the incident, stops and dials 999.
- The call connects.
To be clear: Each of these events is sequential and consumes some of that 55 second period; together they cover the whole of it.
During this linear sequence of events, the following also occur:
- Sinden writes a garbled text message including four words and three full stops.
- He swerves to avoid a pedestrian in the road (the location of this is unclear), after which “a piece of lighting equipment and a laptop computer fell…onto his lap”.
- It is at this point that he slows from 50mph to 40mph.
- He moves both of the fallen items onto the passenger seat.
- He realises that his phone has 1% battery left and tosses it onto the passenger seat. It apparently lands underneath a black refuse bag, where it was discovered when police at the scene called it.
Since we can’t possibly know the time between the collision and the connection of the 999 call, I will assume it to be zero. Clearly, that is not the case, and a number of seconds will have passed between them, during which the driver will have spotted the collision, (presumably) stopped their car, located their phone, dialled 999, and secured a connection. Indeed, I assume this driver to have been out of sight line of the collision at the time of its occurrence, otherwise he or she would presumably have been a pivotal independent witness to the collision itself. No such witness is mentioned in the reports.
If the 1.2 miles between the two key locations are covered in 55 seconds, then the average speed (remember that Sinden is starting from a 90-degree junction) is a little under 80mph. For Sinden to claim that his Vauxhall Vivaro, with its 0-60 time of between 10 and 15 seconds, managed this journey in 55 seconds whilst travelling at 50 and then 40mph is a little far-fetched.
If Sinden had travelled at 50mph for 55 seconds prior to impact, he would have covered just over three quarters of a mile, and the location at which he received the text message would be here. It’s not exactly an obvious fit for “when I got to the junction”. And don’t forget, this hasn’t accounted for Sinden allegedly slowing to 40mph, nor for the time between the collision and the connection of the 999 call.
Unless he actually was doing at least 80mph for much of the distance, Sinden would have received the text significantly closer to the collision location than he claimed. If his claimed speed is truthful, the message would have arrived at no more than a little over half the claimed distance from the collision location, and almost certainly rather less.
Sinden, who alleged that Squire was on the pavement until just before the collision, reportedly claimed that he was “was near [a] dog groomers when he saw a cyclist on the side of the road.” This would be Animal Inn, located 0.4 miles prior to the collision location.
According to the prosecution, “[Sinden] said he was possibly 10 to 12 seconds away from the point of collision when he noticed the cyclist who he claimed rode off the pavement and onto the road without looking.”
For a start, this clearly contradicts his claim that he “just did not see the cyclist”.
But, that aside, if Sinden is doing his claimed 40mph, he is 600ft from the collision site at 10 seconds before the collision, assuming he does not slow (at 12 seconds before, he is over 700ft away). At this point he appears to claim that Squire is on the pavement, and the implication is therefore that Squire is at least 300ft ahead of him.
The Highway Code lists the stopping distance at 40mph as 113ft.
So Sinden claims to have identified Squire ahead of him, with at least five full standard braking distances left until the collision. (Though also, remember, that he “just didn’t see [him]”.)
Yet he still collided with him.
Look at your watch. Wait for it to count ten seconds.
As a side point, it’s worth noting that apparently there were no witnesses able to back up Sinden’s claim that Squire was on the pavement before joining the road right in front of Sinden’s van.
It’s also questionable as to why Squire would have joined that pavement and then left it. There is no dropped kerb across which to mount the pavement: he would have had to stop in the carriageway before mounting it, which—especially in the context of his family’s citations of his cautious nature on the road—is a rather unsafe thing to do. And then, less than 300 feet later, he would have suddenly and recklessly abandoned this refuge that he had apparently made such an effort to seek out.
Why on earth would he do that? Why would anyone do that?
A rotten stench
The point that news reports are not always accurate bears repeating. However, if they are accurate—if they are even close to accurate—then many aspects of this case simply do not add up.
How does a driver who claims not have been looking at his phone ascertain that it has 1% of battery remaining?
How does a driver who claims to be doing no more than 50mph cover approximately 1.2 miles in under 55 seconds?
How does a driver who claims to have seen a cyclist also claim not to have seen the cyclist?
How does a driver who claims to have seen the cyclist approximately 600 feet before colliding with him come to be unable to avoid a collision through apparently being unable to see him?
Why does a cyclist who is nervous about the road he is on stop in the carriageway to mount the pavement, and then—with the pavement continuing onwards—return to the road less than 300ft later?
How long does it take to type four words and (most curiously) three punctuation marks on a phone, and how long does it take to halt a car, pick up a phone, dial 999, and connect the call? And why (assuming this didn’t happen because it would have been an absolutely pivotal point in the case and presumably would have been reported, given that reports include precise timing) didn’t investigators establish minimum possible times for these things and subtract them from the 55 seconds in order to determine the maximum possible time between Sinden discarding his phone and the collision occurring?
And that’s without considering myriad other questions, like how a laptop and some lighting equipment comes to fall into a driver’s lap, how a phone flung on a seat ends up under a bin bag, or why Sinden claimed at the scene not to know where his phone was. But Sinden was charged only with causing death by dangerous driving; there are no reports of charges for dangerous or careless driving. So these details are, sadly, largely impertinent.
But none of these things make any sense. None of them seems to be backed up by evidence. The defence, if it genuinely is as reported, appears to be full of holes, which surely the prosecution should have been able to drive a bus through: simple measurements on Google Maps appear to completely undermine the defendant’s statements. More fundamentally, it seems that at least two key statements are wholly contradictory anyway: did Sinden see Squire with “10-12 seconds” to spare, or did he “just not see [him]”?
Something about this case stinks, and stinks badly.
I only hope that it is the reporting.
Because it it’s not that, then this is yet another damning example of the legal system failing us all.