Wednesday 15 September 2010

Chingford driver killed cyclist and fled

A CHINGFORD motorist who killed a cyclist and then fled the scene has been jailed for five years.

Ali Altuntas had had two or three hours of sleep in the 24 hours leading up to a collision with cyclist Jim Fleming on the A413 at Gerrards Cross on April 1 last year, Aylesbury Crown Court heard.

Mr Fleming, a 47-year-old haywarden for Chalfont St Peter Parish Council, was killed instantly when he was hit from behind by a blue Mercedes car being driven by 37-year-old Altuntas, the court heard.

“He [Mr Fleming] could and should have been clearly seen. He completely failed to see Mr Fleming cycling along the edge of the road and he failed to take any steps to slow down despite having had him in view for many seconds before the collision.”

Mr Fleming was wearing a fluorescent high-visibility jacket and had a light on the back of his bike and another on his backpack. He was not wearing a cycling helmet.

Altuntas had had a “grossly inadequate amount of quality sleep in the 24 hour period before the collision”, Mr Barry said.

“This lack of sleep no doubt contributed significantly to what was, in any event, a catastrophic lack of concentration,” he told the court.

“Police spoke to his wife there and asked about the blue Mercedes,” said Mr Barry.

“The questions were very general. When asked about the car her response was, 'It's been stolen'. Then, crucially, before the police said anything else, she said, 'I don't know anything about an accident with a bicycle'.

“The police hadn't mentioned an accident with a bicycle.

Altuntas also claimed to have sold the car for £1,000 but had lost the phone number of the person who came to his house to buy it, jurors heard.

Mr Barry said these were “the actions of a man with a guilty conscience”. He added the car was never reported stolen and no claim against its insurance was ever made

A police reconstruction concluded a car driver would have been able to see a cyclist in a fluorescent jacket on the A413 from 290 metres away – giving the motorist “five or six seconds” to react.

It is not clear to me why the killer driver’s wife was not charged with perverting the course of justice.

No press report states what driving ban was imposed. The killer driver will presumably come out of jail in two and a half years and will almost certainly be back on the roads a few years after that. Under the British judicial system, the right to drive is the most basic human right of them all.