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Inquest opens into teenage cyclist’s death

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The inquest into the death of 13-year-old Hope Fennell, who was killed in collision with a lorry as she pushed her bike across a pedestrian crossing, has opened today at Birmingham Coroners Court.
Hope Fennell's ghost bike on Kings Heath Hight Street
Hope Fennell's ghost bike on Kings Heath Hight Street

Hope was tragically killed on her way home from school in November 2011. She had followed her mother’s advice and dismounted from her bicycle to cross the pedestrian crossing just minutes from her home, but was run over by a 17-tonne fully loaded lorry as she did so.

The road Hope was killed on - Kings Heath High Street - is one of the busiest in Europe where huge volumes of traffic are channelled down a narrow shopping street yards from residential areas and schools. Hope’s mother, Nazan Fennell, argues that deaths would be prevented if the volume of traffic, especially from large vehicles, was reduced.

CTC will be following the inquest closely to find out what recommendations the coroner makes to prevent further deaths on this road. 

Dangerous driving

Witnesses said that Hope crossed the road after the lights turned red for pedestrians and that Darren Foster, the lorry driver, correctly moved his lorry away on a green light. These statements effectively meant there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction, thus Mr Foster was not prosecuted for causing Hope’s death. 

HGVs are dangerous vehicles that must be driven by the most diligent drivers.The Road Justice campaign wants to ensure irresponsible drivers are not permitted to get behind the wheels of HGVs.

Rhia Weston, Road Justice campaign coordinator

It transpired during the police investigation that Mr Foster had been arguing with his girlfriend via text message for 20 minutes leading up to the crash, sending and receiving a total of 16 messages. He deleted these messages immediately after the crash. He was charged with dangerous driving and perverting the course of justice.

Mr Foster eventually pleaded guilty to both charges after twice retracting his plea and was sentenced to two months in prison for dangerous driving and four months for perverting the course of justice, half of which he served on licence. He was also banned from driving for one year.

This sentence was at the lowest level of dangerous driving despite the fact that Mr Foster had demonstrated a clear lack of responsibility or regard for his own or other people’s safety by driving his 17-tonne vehicle whilst avoidably distracted by his mobile phone.

Road Justice

The Road Justice campaign is calling for judges to make greater use of substantial driving bans to deter bad driving and to take bad drivers off the roads for long periods or for life if necessary.

Darren Foster is due to regain his driving licence in two weeks’ time but, fortunately, will not automatically regain his HGV licence. If he wants to drive HGVs again he will have to apply to the regional Traffic Commissioner who has the power to revoke his licence for good.

The Road Justice campaign is working with Hope’s mother, Nazan Fennell, and road crash victims’ charity RoadPeace to ensure a proper evaluation of Foster’s suitability to drive HGVs is conducted if he ever reapplies for his licence. The campaign will provide the Traffic Commissioner with the evidence necessary to make the right decision in the name of public safety. If you would like to consider making a donation to support the Road Justice campaign, please follow this link.  

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