The parents of a 27 year old man who was killed by a speeding lorry in Bristol have paid tribute to their ‘beautiful son’ but condemned the system that failed him after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to convince a judge that there was a case to answer against the driver.
Mr Justice Picton, sitting at Bristol Crown Court on the 25 February 2014, directed the jury to find the driver not guilty of causing death by careless driving because, even though the driver had been speeding and his lorry had hit Jake Thompson, the CPS had failed to present enough evidence of ‘causation’.
Jake's parents, John and Janet Thompson, had travelled to Bristol from their home in Durham to attend what was listed as a five day trial but which was abandoned on day two.
Despite hearing eyewitness reports which supported Tachograph evidence that the driver had been travelling more than 20% faster than the speed limit (39mph in a 30mph zone) and had crossed the junction on a changing traffic light immediately before colliding with Jake, the judge instructed the jury to record a verdict of not guilty after finding the joint statement of experts (part prepared by Avon & Somerset Police) insufficient.
David Robinson, a serious injury solicitor at Thompsons, who acted on John and Janet’s behalf in a civil case following the death of their son, has spent the last two years campaigning alongside the family to bring Jake’s case to court.
“Thompsons has always campaigned against injustice and we take great pride in seeing the bigger picture rather than just the immediate case in front of us. Working with our clients we will go that extra mile if that's what it takes.
“When I received Avon & Somerset Police’s investigation into Jake’s death during my work on the family’s original claim, it was in my view very poor and simply wasn't acceptable. I felt this was where we at Thompsons could show our difference and help John and Janet to challenge the system.
“They had questions and we felt Thompsons should work with them to seek out the answers they deserved. We didn't charge John and Janet for our time, it became personal for me and for the firm,” said David.
Following further investigations by Thompsons and a complaint made on behalf of the family, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled in 2011 that Avon & Somerset’s original police investigation was flawed and ordered the force to reinvestigate Jake’s case.
“To come on two years from that initial victory with the IPCC and see the case collapse on a technicality linked to the quality of the police evidence put before the court is devastating for the family and us here at Thompsons, and a dark day for British justice,” continued David.
“We will now be working closely with the family to establish the key facts presented to the court, including sourcing a copy of the police’s ‘expert’ evidence, in order to shed light on how the UK’s justice system can allow a speeding driver who hits and kills a pedestrian to walk away without having to answer for the young man's death.”
Speaking outside Bristol Crown Court (25 February 2014), Jake’s parents John and Janet Thompson said:
“We are devastated and appalled that after a two year battle for justice the full facts of Jake’s case weren’t put before a jury to decide the outcome.
“We have had to fight every step of the way to make the police play the role they should have done from the start and to bring Jake’s case to court. To have the judge instruct the jury to render a not guilty verdict over a technicality is a bitter blow.
“We want to take this opportunity to thank David Robinson and the team at Thompsons Solicitors for their tireless support and determination. Without their commitment, we would never have got this far.
“How the judge could determine that a jury could find speeding in a 13.5 tonne lorry to be ‘careless driving’ but that the careless driving was not a causal factor in our son’s death is something we will never understand.
“We continue to feel deceived and let down by the police and the court but would like to thank those people who appeared as witnesses for the prosecution – we will be forever grateful to you for providing evidence to support our struggle for justice, despite the heart-breaking outcome.
“Jake was our beautiful son; he was loved dearly by his family and his many friends. His ambition in life was to help disadvantaged young people – but having had his own life cruelly cut short, this is passion which he will be unable to fulfil. Losing Jake has left a void in our lives and the lives of all who knew him.
“We will now review the judge’s comments with the team at Thompsons Solicitors before deciding where we go from here.”