It’s been almost a year now since the appalling death of Deep Lee a young student cycling to her university studies in Kings Cross. She was run over by a lorry at the junction of Gray’s Inn Road, Pentonville Road and York Way on 4 October 2011. The junction in question is controlled by TfL and was condemned by TfL’s own consultants in 2008 with the phrase ‘casualties are inevitable’.
But no case has come to court and there has been no inquest. A week after the fatal accident I suggested on this website that TfL should answer charges of corporate manslaughter – they had been warned of a dangerous situation in 2008 by their own consultants, taken no substantive action and someone died. The website team backed this up by publishing on this site a wealth of evidence of TfL’s apparent negligence including original research as well as information from London’s excellent online cycling community. If you are new to the topic check out this round up post.
The police invited me and local councillors from Camden and Islington to discuss this with them, we watched the CCTV of the incident and the police explained to me that they were investigating a corporate manslaughter charge. The Times newspaper re-ran our evidence and got an on the record quote from the police which The Times ran as part of their cycling campaign. The local media have been very supportive in particular the Camden New Journal and BBC London’s Tom Edwards. Cross party support came from local Councillors Convery and Braithewaite and London Assembly Members Pidgeon and Jones. This site is non-partisan but the corporate manslaughter issue was picked up briefly in the London Mayoral election campaign.
As we approach the anniversary, Sophie and Clare on the team here will write further on the issues including TfL’s ‘key junctions’ review and the work carried out at York Way, that does not remove the fatal problems on Gray’s Inn Road.
TfL has blocked most of my FOI requests intended to uncover what they have been saying about their corporate manslaughter vulnerability. But this August in East London another young cyclist was killed at a junction where TfL were warned by London cyclists that the Olympic Games Lane there was dangerous. A year on from the Kings Cross fatality we still have no understanding of why or how TfL makes decisions and takes actions when it is warned of danger to cyclists on roads it has designed, nor how it takes a measured responsible risk assessment when reopening a road following a severe cycle accident.
People have asked me what happened to ‘the corporate manslaughter issue’, assuming that it has gone away after the Mayoral campaign. This isn’t the case . I continue to stay in touch with the investigating police. In over ten years of civic action in Kings Cross I learned that your rarely get quick wins – long term, dogged campaigns tend to produce results, much more Roundheads than Cavaliers. From recent conversations I understand that the reason the case hasn’t moved to court is that the police continue to pursue a line of enquiry around road layout legislation, an area largely untested in court. This is complex and time consuming.
To my mind it’s vitally important that citizens, in this case through the police can use the courts to hold powerful bureaucracies to account as well as through elected representatives. I am pleased to see UK Cyclings well thought through campaign to review the way the justice system deals with cycling accidents. Let’s hope the Met Police investigation in Kings Cross can be a model of how the system should work and deliver justice for Deep Lee and safer roads for all London’s cyclists.