Saturday, 20 November 2010

Yet another tragic case reaches conclusion

The case over the death of Catriona Patel concluded today.

In brief, Dennis Putz ran over Catriona Patel whilst driving a lorry. He was estimated to be 40% over the drink-drive limit and was chatting on a mobile at the time of the accident.

The court heard that Putz had been jailed twice before for driving offences, a six-month sentence in 1995 for reckless driving and, in 2003, after 16 counts of driving a lorry while disqualified.

Yes, that is 16 counts of driving a lorry whilst disqualified.

And the company that Putz was driving for? One called Thames Materials Ltd. According to the above LCC news release :

Thames Materials Ltd failed several inspections, the company and its drivers had many convictions. In 2002 the Traffic Commissioner tried to revoke its licence to operate lorries, but this was overturned on appeal. 

Dennis Putz was convicted of death by careless driving. He got a 7 year prison term and a lifetime HGV ban (which judging by the fact that he flouted previous bans at least 16 times may not be such a huge deterrent to him).

Meanwhile an innocent woman is dead, and a family destroyed.

I cannot help but think that this entire appalling story is a complete indictment on how our judiciary deal with law breaking on our roads.


  1. I haven't read the appeal ruling in full but the impression I have is that the Traffic Commissioner failed to do his job properly and left the appeal tribunal in the unenviable position of having to allow the appeal on, in effect, a technicality.

    I would have thought however that this case at least provides enough material for the commissioner to try again. Not only has the company employed a driver with a long history of criminal violations of traffic law but it defies belief that their insurers can have been made properly aware of Putz' history - if they had, surely they would have refused cover?

    It is NOT the answer to descend to Thames Materials' level and go outside the law, but should not the LCC now be mounting a vigorous campaign, including a petition to Downing Street, questions in parliament, demos and perhaps pickets of the company's depot? Outraged good citizens should be driving this nest of crooks out of business.

  2. The appeal does seem to have been won on a couple of technical points based upon some erroneous information presented by the traffic commissioner and the wording of a letter.

    Surely there is enough in this latest case to bring back the case as you say. And I cannot imagine any insurance company covering Putz, but I am not sure if declaring this is the responsibility of the company or the driver.

    I hope LCC chases this hard. I find it difficult to comprehend how any kind of system to check driver's history could miss such a string of offences, surely the company must be at least partly responsible.

    This case has made me even more nervous around HGVs. Already a big danger to cyclists, I assumed they were driven by professionals who had a license to maintain. But this case shows how even driving an HGV doesn't seem to have any real checks, and even if convicted and their license taken away, people like Putz still seem to be able to find driving work. A terrible state of affairs.