No Criminal Negligence But – Conisbrough Mishap “Should Never Have Happened”

June 1957

Please note : The names of the principals in this case have been changed

Mexborough & Swinton Times, June 1st 1957

No Criminal Negligence But-
Conisbrough Mishap “Should Never Have Happened”

The Doncaster district coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile) said at Mexborough inquest on Tuesday it was a pity motorcyclist did not have to have some training before they were allowed on the roads. “ that is the weakness of motorcycles”, he said.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death” at an inquest on John Edward Nichols (82), 3, Claremont Terrace, Conisbrough who died in Mexborough Montague hospital on Friday after he had been involved in the accident in Sheffield Road, Conisbrough, with motorcycle driven by Keith Smith (19), motor mechanic, 8, Cedric Avenue, Conisbrough.

Doctor. R. Phelias, surgical registrar at Mexborough Montague hospital, said when Nichols was admitted to the hospital, there was very little they could do, and death was due to shock following multiple injuries.

Stanley Chris, 15 the Grove, Wheatley Hills, Doncaster, a schoolteacher, said about 5:20 P.M. on Friday he was driving his car along the Sheffield- Doncaster Road in the direction of Doncaster. Two motorcyclists were travelling up the hill towards Sheffield. He saw an elderly man stepped off the right-hand side of the pavement without looking before crossing. It was about 50 yards away and he applied his brakes to let the man cross. The man heard the brakes, saw the car and waited in the road to let the car pass.

Two motorcycles

The two motorcycles were coming up the hill about 50 yards apart and the first machine passed him doing, he estimated about 30 mph. Immediately this machine had passed him he heard a crash and he looked around to see the old man in the road. This motorcyclist was on the floor near his machine but he got up shortly afterwards and did not seem to be injured.

Mrs Irene Hester Lawson Clifford Brookside, Sheffield Road, Conisbrough, said she saw the car pass the old man and then saw the motorcycle strike him. He told the coroner the motorcyclist had said to her that if the man had stood still he ( the motorcyclist) would have missed him.

Kenneth King, 11, Chestnut Grove, Conisbrough, plasterer, said he had come down Clifton Hill on his motorcycle and had turned left on to the main road, which was greasy because of drizzle. As he turned, another motorcyclist past him, travelling at a reasonable speed. Then witness engaged third gear, the other motorcyclist was about 300 yards in front of him. When witness noticed the old man he was standing in the centre of the road and was hesitating. The motorcyclist in front veered to his right and the old man did not appear to know what to do. As the motorcyclist got near the old man made a dash. Witness said he did not hear a hooter and he fought the other motorcyclist had slowed a little because witness had closed up to him.

Sgt Thomas Rose, a police vehicle examiner, said the motorcycle was well maintained and there was nothing wrong with it.

Keith Smith, 8 Cedric Avenue, Conisbrough, said he obtained the motorcycle second hand in April 30. Witness said he had notified his insurance company about the accident. He had a cover note, had not yet received the policy.

One of the conditions

Coroner: if you had notified the insurance company they would have arranged for a solicitor to be here on your behalf. That is one of the conditions of the policy that you notify them at once of any accident.

Witness said he had ridden the machine just over a month, he used it to go to his work in Doncaster. On Friday he was coming home from work and arrived in Conisbrough about 5:15 P.M. he had only another 300 yards to go before he turned off the main road. Smith said he was doing about 30 mph and he saw a car coming in the opposite direction. He first saw the old man standing at the right hand side of the white line when he was about 100 yards away. He was going to go behind the old man because he thought he was going straight across. When he was about 50 yards away, the old man stepped back about two paces, although still looking across the road. Witness said he steered to the right and when he was about two or 3 yards from the old man, the latter stepped forward again, and witness struck him. He did not sound his hooter because he for there was no need to sound it.

Coroner: You say it did not look in your direction. If there is any doubt about anyone in the middle of the road, the obvious thing to do is stop, especially in the case of old men and young people.

Witness: I could not tell he was an old man.

Coroner: if there is any doubt the obvious thing to do is stop.

Witness: In the middle of the road he seemed all right, but when he stepped back he was nearly in front of me.

Coroner: Did you panic? Surely if you had sounded your hooter the man would have known you were there. He did not know you were coming. The two obvious things you could have done were to sound your hooter, or if that was not sufficient, you could have stopped in the distance.

Witness: I don’t think I could have stopped.

Coroner: How far does it take to pull up? You were doing about 30 mph you work that out; you are interested in motorcycles and motor cars.

Witness said he was about 50 yards away when the old man stepped back, but he was too close when he stepped forward.

Coroner; You were going uphill, which would help. You could have slowed down. With motorcycles, I suppose you can buy one, ‘L’ plates up, and I suppose that is it. You can go and ride it without any experience. The L plates show you are inexperienced but do not help you with training.

Witness said he had never had any experience with the motorcycles. He had a pushbike since he was eight.

Coroner: if there is any doubt have to have some training before you are allowed to put them on the road. That is the weakness of motorcycles.

No Restriction

The coroner said there was no restriction on use riding motorcycles. Once they got ‘L’ plates up they had neither training nor experience and they had to learn by riding. It was obvious this youth had not enough experience when he was faced with the facts shown in this case. The old man, quite active for his age, was obviously walking across the road. The car passed him, the driver slowing down and sounding his hooter. The old man stepped into the middle-of-the-road and the car driver seeing a motorcycle approaching. It was obviously a case which should never have happened. It was obvious if the driver had been experienced he would have sounded his hooter and, if necessary, would have stopped.

The coroner said he did not think they could say the driver was driving recklessly with criminal negligence.