Offence: Killing > manslaughter
Verdict: Guilty > no_subcategory
Punishment: Imprisonment > hard labour
Mr. Arthur Gill and Mr. Leycester prosecuted. Sir Charles Mathews and Mr. R. Wallace Atkins defended.
Police-constable JAMES GUTHRIE , 361 D, proved a plan of the localities referred to in the evidence. ROBERT HARWOOD , 208, Belsize Road. About 10 a.m. on August 6 I was driving an Atlas omnibus in Oxford Street, going west. At the corner of Harewood Place I noticed two little girls, a little to the west of the refuge, waiting to cross from the near to the off side of Oxford Street. I eased up to allow them to cross. I was then about 14 yards from them. There was a butcher's tricycle in front of me. The children, walking side by side, started to cross between me and the tricycle. I heard a shout from someone on an omnibus coming the other way. On looking a shout from someone on my offside I saw a motor car just level with my front wheel; in another second it had caught the two children; one was thrown on to the near side, and the other the car ran over. When the car passed me it was going at 18 to 20 miles an hour. I am confident that no horn or hooter was sounded. The car did not slacken pace before the children were struck. It pulled up in five to eight yards.
Cross-examined. The children were walking in a slanting direction towards the refuge. Notwithstanding the shouting they did not stop. From the time he saw the children I have no doubt the driver tried to pull up, but it was no use at the pace he was going. Before the coroner I said that he pulled up in five yards; it was something like five to eight. Before the magistrate I said, "It had plenty of time to pull up after I shouted"; I meant that if it had been going at a fair pace, eight or 10 miles an hour, it could have pulled up. The catastrophe happened about a second after I first saw any sign of danger.
WILLIAM BROWN , conductor of the bus driven by last witness. I noticed the motor car first when it was leaving the Circus. I judge the pace by that of my 'bus; we were going about six miles an hour; the car was going quite three times as fast. As it passed us it did not slacken speed at all.
THOMAS HANRALON , butcher's assistant. On this morning I was on my box tricycle, near Harewood Place, going west. Just near the refuse I saw two girls step off the pavement; they were about five yards in front of me on my near side. When they got about the centre of the road the motor-car came by me and knocked them down. I did not notice the car until it was passing me; it had got about 10 yards past me when it struck the childern.
ERNEST GALE . I was driving a Royal Blue omnibus, going eastward. When I was nearly opposite Harewood Place, I saw two girls on the kerb on the opposite side of the road; they walked (if not arm in arm very close together) across the road to get to the refuge; when they were within three or four yards of the refuge the motor car came by and knocked them down. I saw the car before it reached and passed the Atlas 'bus; it was going 16 to 20 miles an hour; it did not slacken pace, and no horn was sounded. When I saw it coming and the children crossing, I shouted out; that would be just as it was passing the box tricycle; it would be then quite close on to the children, say three or four yards from them. I noticed that the driver of the car was talking to a man sitting beside him; but for that the accident would not have occurred; he was not looking where he was going. He did not apply hi brake until after he had struck the first child; when the car was stopped it was about ten yards from where he struck the first child.
Cross-examined. I cannot say exactly how long I had the car under observation; some few seconds perhaps.
EDWARD WHITE , a passenger on last witness's bus, said that he noticed the children just as they started to cross, and the next he saw was the motor going into them. As to the pace, he could only judge by comparison with that of motor omnibuses; these are allowed to go 12 miles an hour; this car was going much faster than that.
Cross-examined. The road was quite clear when I saw the car; I did not notice the Atlas 'bus or the box tricycle.
Police-constable GEORGE WHITE , D Reserve. When I got to the scene of the accident, the car was turning round in the roadway; prisoner was driving it; one girl was laying on the street; the other had been placed in the car. Prisoner drove the children and myself to the hospital. Afterwards I told prisoner I should arrest him on the charge of causing grevious bodily harm to the girls. He said, "They were running arm in arm to pass an omnibus in Oxford Street; I was between the 'bus and the lamppost; I was going to pass the 'bus." At the station he made no reply to the charge.
WILLIAM DOUGLAS FREW , house surgeon at Middlesex Hospital, said that May Smith was attended by him on her being brought to the hospital on the morning of August 6; she was unconscious and suffering from fracture of the skull; she died on August 9.
started to cross the road; we were walking arm in arm. I had not seen the motor car, or the 'bus, or the tricycle, or heard a horn sounded. The first I knew of the car was when it struck me. I was not badly hurt.
Cross-examined. We were talking together as we crossed.
ABRAHAM CARLISH , proprietor of the Park Motor Car Works. Totnham Court Road, who had been in the business for some time and driven cars for seven years, said that a 24-h.p. Panhard, travelling at 15 miles an hour, could in ordinary circumstances be pulled up in 10 yards.
PAUL ELLIS . of 15, Moore Street, Cambridge Circus (called by the prosecution, and left to be examined by Sir Charles Mathews). I have been a chauffeur for four years, driving on the Continent, and for a fortnight driving in England. I have known prisoner for a number of years as a chauffeur of experience on the Continent. On August 6 I was with him on the car in question in order to show him the way to the Panhard shop in Regent Street (where certain repairs were required to be done), and then to Folkestone. I was sitting next to prisoner in front; there were two other men in the body of the car. At the Regent Street shop we were directed to go to the Panhard Works at Acton. To get to Acton we proceeded along Oxrd Street. The defects in the car would diminish its speed. On approaching this refuge we were going eight to twelve miles an hour. To pass the Atlas omnibus, prisoner took the outside line of traffic. When passing between the 'bus and the refuge, when the front of the car was about level with the 'bus-horses' tails, we first saw the two children crossing, and prisoner at once put on the brakes. He tried to turn on his right side, but was blocked by the refuge. After striking the children the car was brought to a standstill in about its own length—15 ft. It is untrue that the car was ever on this morning going at 15 to 20 miles an hour. At my first examination before the magistrate (on August 6) I said that prisoner was driving at 15 to 20 miles an hour; I afterwards corrected that, because I meant 15 to 20 kilometres an hour.
To Mr. Gill. When I first saw the children they were just passing by the 'bus-horses' heads. It is not correct that when the accident happened they were 10 to 14 yards in front of the omnibus. I did not see the tricycle. Before the magistrate on August 6 I was rather excited and confused. Afterwards when I thought about my evidence I looked in a book, and found that five English miles are equal to eight kilometres. I knew there was a difference between a mile and a kilometre, but I did not know the exact difference. The
car in question was taken to Paris a fortnight ago; I do not know whether the police were informed that it was going to be taken away. The defects to the car on August 6 were such that great damage would have been done to it if it had been driven at a greater speed than 15 miles an hour; could have gone at 15 to 20, but that would have damaged it.
ROBERT EVRARD (prisoner, on oath). I have been for five months chauffeur to Colonel Thompson, who is now in America. I have been a chauffeur for four years and have driven in France and in America. This is the first accident of any kind that I have had anywhere. On August 6 this car had the main lever of the front spring broken, and the water pump was leaking; to drive the car at any speed in those conditions would have caused great damage to the engine. On approaching the refuge at the top of Hare-wood Place I was going at about 10 or 11 miles an hour. I had caught the Atlas omnibus about the middle of Harewood Place, and I proceeded to pass it, which there was plenty of room to do. As I got to the tails of the 'bus-horses I suddenly saw the two girls; they seemed to shoot out from the horses' heads; instead of crossing straight they came slantways on to me. I tried to give a turn on my steering wheel quickly on the right; at the same time I put both my pedals down, one applying the foot-brake and the other disconnecting the engine. I could not turn to the right; I could feel my wheel bumping against the pavement of the refuge; as I went on the girls came to me and the car struck them. I pulled up in about the length of the car. I did everything I possibly could be avoid the accident. It is quite untrue that I was talking to anybody on the car or looking in another direction, or that I failed to put the brake on until after striking the children.
Cross-examined. My principal experience of motor-driving has been in America and in France. In France there is the general rule that you must drive at the pace you think right, but in some of the cities there are speed limits, even of five miles an hour. These two children "came to me"; they ran together right on to the car. At the speed of 10 or 11 miles an hour the car could be pulled up in about nine or 10 yards. It is true that I did not sound the horn; I had no time. It is not necessary to second the horn every time you pass a vehicle; it depends on the traffic. I never thought anybody would be fool enough to try to cross before the 'bus-horses' heads—so near to them. I did not slow up as I was passing the 'bus; I was not going fast enough to slow up. I heard no shouting; my motor makes more noise than anything else.
Re-examined. The road was pretty clear of traffic at the time. I am still in Colonel Thompson's employment. My intention is to go at once to France to do my military service, and afterwards I have Colonel Thompson's instructions to go to him in America.
CHARLES BOURGNE , a maker of non-skidding tyres, said that he was sitting on the back of the motor car on this journey; the pace was not more than 10 to 12 miles an hour. The children came right in front of the car as it was passing the omnibus, and it was quite impossible for prisoner to avoid them; they were only three or four yards ahead of him. Prisoner put on the brake, and the car stopped in 1 1/2 or two yards; it nearly stopped dead. In witness's opinion it was quite impossible for any chauffeur to have avoided the children.
GASTON BARRIE , chauffeur (examined through an interpreter). I was sitting in this car, behind Ellis. At the time of the accident the speed of the car was 10 to 12 miles an hour; it was not possible to go quicker owing to the traffic. While the car was passing between the 'bus and the refuge the two girls came out in front of the 'bus, and it was impossible for prisoner to avoid the accident. He could not turn to the right side because of the refuge, nor to the left because of the 'bus. The car was stopped within its own length.
Cross-examined. I do not speak English; at the station I made a statement, but not even partly in English. Ellis translated; it was taken down in English, Ellis read it to me in French, and I signed the English. According to the written statement, I said, "I cannot say what speed we were going, but the car stopped in two or three yards." What I said was that I could not tell exactly, but that it was 10 to 12 miles. I swear I did say that, though it is not in the writing.
O'GUSTAVE PARANIER , of Lambie's Garage, High Street, Bloomsbury, said he examined the car on August 7. He described the defective state it was in, and explained how serious damage and danger would be caused by the driving of a car in that condition over 13 or 14 miles an hour.
GEORGE FREEMAN LAUFBERY , proprietor of a chemical works at Chaulnes, France, said he had known prisoner since his birth; he was an excellent mechanical and careful chauffeur, and a good steady young man.
PAUL ELLIS , recalled, said that he acted as translator when Barrie made his statement to the police. Before signing the English statement it was read over to him by witness; nothing was said in the way of fixing so many miles an hour.
(Monday, September 16.)
Verdict, Guilty of manslaughter.
Mr. Justice Bray in passing sentence said he took the jury's verdict to imply that they found that prisoner was reckless in driving as he did. The evidence showed that this car was driven along Oxford Street, one of the most crowded thoroughfares in London, at at least 16 miles an hour, although at the time, owing to the position of the Atlas omnibus, it was impossible for prisoner to see whether anybody was crossing the road or not. No doubt it was
unlucky for prisoner that these girls should have been passing at the very moment, but it was the duty of persons driving in the streets of London to anticipate such things as that, and they must not go on blindly because they thought the road was clear in front of them, when there were obstacles in their way which prevented their seeing whether the road was clear or not. It must be thoroughly well-known that persons who drove motor vehicles in this way must be punished. Sentence, six months' hard labour.
BEFORE THE RECORDER.
(Friday, September 13.)