THE parents of tragic York cyclist Ruby Milnes say they still hope for justice, despite the trial over her death being thrown out of court.
York Racecourse was facing prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive over the accident that killed 17-year-old Ruby, pictured, but the case was abandoned yesterday due to a “procedural error”.
Ruby was on her way home from York College to Bishophill in May 2008 when she was involved in a collision with a lorry travelling along a racecourse access road that crossedthe cycle route. The HSE had brought two charges of safety breaches.
But the case collapsed at York Crown Court yesterday, although the HSE indicated it may appeal later.
Outside court, Ruby’s parents, Al and Dave Milnes, said: “We are deeply disappointed that a procedural error as resulted in the case stalling at this point.
“We still find it hard to understand how our daughter could have been killed by a lorry on a traffic-free cycle path and we remain hopeful that despite this delay those responsible will ultimately be brought to justice.”
The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said that on the eve of the trial, an issue with “significant bearings on the validity of the proceedings” had been raised.
He said: “Put simply, the defence argue that the Health and Safety Executive has no authority to bring this prosecution because it is not the ‘enforcing authority’ within the relevant health and safety legislation.”
Judge Ashurst agreed with the defence and ruled that the case was outside the HSE’s jurisdiction, saying the enforcing agency for the location where the collision occurred was City of York Council.
Judge Ashurst expressed his regret to Mr and Mrs Milnes, saying: “It is a matter of considerable regret that this argument was raised at such a late stage.
“I am sorry that the procedural error, the subject of this ruling, may have compounded the anguish of the parties.
“I imagine the HSE will review their procedures in cases like this where, sadly, many unanswered questions remain at the end of proceedings.”
Julian Franklin, HM Inspectorate for Health and Safety, told The Press afterwards: “It is a disappointment that the trial could not go ahead this week. The HSE are considering carefully the comments made by his Honour Judge Ashurst and a decision on further action will be taken shortly.”
York Racecourse spokesman James Brennan said: “York Racecourse has always been mindful of the loss of the Milnes family that sits behind this case and therefore reiterates its sincere condolences to them on the tragic accident that befell Ruby.
“York Racecourse takes its responsibilities in the area of health and safety very seriously and so was ready to strongly defend the allegations.
“York Racecourse will continue to work with all parties concerned and will always strive to ensure the safety of those at the course.
“Working together, these same parties put in place improvements in safety measures at the site of the tragic collision in the days after the accident.”
He said the racecourse recognised the importance of the request the defence barrister for a period of calm reflection now by all parties. City of York Council declined to comment.