Lorry driver jailed for seven years for killing London cyclist

Tipper Lorries of Thames Materials Ltd

photo Killer driver drove a lorry operated by Thames Materials, a company with "a record of breaking safety regulations", according to LCC experts




Thursday 18 November 2010

Judge Roger Chapple today sentenced lorry driver Dennis Putz to seven years in jail and disqualified him from driving ever again, for running down and killing cyclist Catriona Patel outside Oval tube station in June 2009.

Campaigners are calling for the truck operators, Thames Materials Ltd, to be investigated for corporate manslaughter.

The court heard that Putz had been jailed twice before for driving offences, a six-month sentence in 1995 for reckless driving and, in 2003, after 16 counts of driving a lorry while disqualified.

He was first disqualified from driving as a teenager, but still managed to get a licence and work as a HGV driver.

Catriona was on her way to work as a public relations director in the City. She was a hugely experienced cyclist on her regular commuting route.

Putz accelerated into her as his 32-tonne tipper lorry turned left into Harleyford Road. He didn't stop until horrified witnesses banged on the side of his lorry.

Putz had been drinking, the court heard that at the time of the crash his breath alcohol would have been 40% over the 35mg limit. He admitted to drinking seven pints of Guinness the night before driving.

Putz was also talking on his mobile phone as he pulled away and killed Catriona. He denied the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, having already pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.

His defence barrister vainly tried to convince the jury that it was not dangerous to drive a 32-tonne lorry without noticing a cyclist in plain view who had been stopped beside the lorry for 29 seconds.

In court Catriona's husband, Anish, said, "We have all been given a life sentence of living without our beloved Cat."

Before her death, Catriona and Anish had been training to take part in the Etape de Tour ride in the French Alps. He described her as a safe and strong rider. "She'd never do anything to endanger herself or others. I know this for a fact. She'd done nothing wrong that fateful day."

Shortly after she was killed, Anish met Boris Johnson and the heads of Transport for London. He challenged them to do more to reduce the danger of lorries on London roads.

He called on the Mayor to maintain the funding for the Metropolitan Police's Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which used to visit lorry companies checking on their safety procedures.

Dennis Putz was driving a tipper lorry operated by Thames Materials Ltd, a west London waste management company, which has a record of breaking safety regulations and poor maintenance of its vehicles. In March 1999 the Traffic Commissioner reduced its licence to only seven vehicles.

Thames Materials Ltd failed several inspections, the company and its drivers had many convictions. In 2002 the Traffic Commissioner tried to revoke its licence to operate lorries, but this was overturned on appeal.

LCC's lorry campaigner, Charlie Lloyd said "Catriona's killer should never have been allowed in the cab of an HGV.  

"The managers and directors of Thames Materials should have known that Putz was a driver with over 20 convictions.

"As yet there has been no prosecution for corporate manslaughter after a road death. Surely the people who put Catriona's killer in one of their lorries should be held to account for their actions."

LCC's "No More Lethal Lorries" campaign has been calling for all transport operators to demonstrate that they take danger reductions seriously. The minimun standards are set out in the Health and Safety Executive's guidelines on Managing Work Related Road Danger INDG 382.     

Companies are required to be sure that their "drivers are competent and capable of doing their work in a way that is safe for them and other people".