A THREE-YEAR investigation into the death of a teenage cyclist on a York cycle track has ended with Crown prosecutors revealing they will not be charging any organisation.
Ruby Milnes, 17, was cycling home to Bishophill from York College along the track on May 8, 2008, when she was in collision with a lorry travelling on an access road to the racecourse, which crossed the cycle path.
Evidence gathered in an investigation by police was reviewed by Rosemary Ainslie, a reviewing lawyer in the Crown Prosecution Service’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division.
She has now concluded there was no realistic prospect of a conviction for any offence and so no charges could be brought.
However, she said the Health and Safety Executive had been notified of the decision so it could decide whether to bring any health and safety charges.
She said City of York Council and York Racecourse had responsibility for the area of the collision and were investigated in relation to a potential offence of corporate manslaughter, and Sustrans was also investigated as it had some responsibility for the path’s construction.
She said the council, as the path’s owner, had a duty of care but she concluded that, according to a test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the evidence was not sufficient to show it breached that duty, as would be necessary to bring such a prosecution.
The evidence showed the path was well-maintained, free from any defect that could have contributed to the accident and built in accordance with standards appropriate at the time.
She said Sustrans helped to design the path and provided a ranger to assist with maintenance, but there was no suggestion either played a part in causing the collision, and there was insufficient evidence they breached any duty.
She had concluded there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of showing the racecourse breached its duty of care, “because it should have foreseen that allowing the gate to the access road to be left open would have put cyclists at risk who were using the intersecting cycle path”.
She said cyclists were accustomed to the gate being closed, and therefore to the path being vehicle-free, and there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of showing the breach was a “substantial cause in Ruby’s death”.
However, for such a prosecution, she had to be able to demonstrate that the way its activities were managed or organised by senior management was a substantial element in the breach.
The cycle path/road junction had existed for 19 years with no previous reported incident of this nature. Senior management had taken specialist health and safety advice, but the intersection risk had not been specifically identified as a potential hazard requiring action.
Ms Ainslie said: “There was not, therefore, a realistic prospect of showing that the actions of the racecourse’s senior management contributed substantially to any potential breach.”
The CPS had explained the decision to Ruby’s parents and offered them sincere condolences.
She said the CPS had a duty to be publicly accountable for its decision-making and explain, where appropriate, the basis upon which decisions were reached.
RUBY Milnes’ parents Al and Dave Milnes said they understood the CPS did not intend to prosecute any party as a result of Ruby’s death.
“The files have now been passed to the Health and Safety Executive who may prosecute under the Health and Safety at Work Act,” they said. “We are also waiting to hear when the inquest will take place.
“We would like to thank the CPS and the police for their painstaking investigation which has taken three long years.
“We are disappointed that it does not appear to be a crime to kill a child on a cycle path.
“Ruby was cycling home from college on a traffic-free, supposedly safe route to school across York Racecourse. She would not have expected a lorry to cross the cycle path and there were no warnings.
“We look forward to hearing the views of the Health and Safety Executive.”
THE cycle track’s designers Sustrans said the CPS statement had made it clear there was no evidence to suggest it was – in any way – responsible for Ruby’s tragic death.
Huw Davies, National Cycle Network director, said Sustrans was “surprised and disappointed” by the racecourse’s stance, but did not believe it was in anyone’s interest, least of all Ruby’s family and friends, for it to comment on that through the press, given the “clear conclusions” reached by the CPS.
He said Sustrans wanted to express its sincere condolences to Ruby’s family and friends, particularly around the third anniversary of her death.
Bill Woolley, director of City Strategy, City of York Council, said: “The council fully co-operated with the police investigation and will co-operate fully with any further investigations.”
The Health and Safety Executive said it was still actively considering whether to take any action over the incident.