A pedestrian who was convicted of manslaughter after gesturing and swearing at an elderly cyclist moments before they fell into the path of an oncoming vehicle is reportedly planning an appeal against her three-year prison sentence.
‘Vulnerable’ Auriol Grey, 49, who is partially blind and also suffers from cognitive issues, was sentenced on Thursday following a retrial at Peterborough Crown Court.
CCTV footage showed the moment Grey gestured in a ‘hostile and aggressive’ manner towards grandmother Celia Ward, 77, and told her to ‘get off the f****** pavement’ in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, on October 20, 2020.
Seconds later Mrs Ward veered into the road before falling over the front of her bicycle and being struck by a car that was unable to stop. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
A source close to Grey’s defence team said she plans to appeal, having expected only a suspended sentence. Grey had denied manslaughter.
The court heard that until pre-sentencing Grey had expressed ‘no remorse’ for her actions and had walked off to a local supermarket before emergency services arrived at the scene of the crash.
Her lawyers are now launching an appeal after a bail application made today on her behalf failed.
The source told The Sun: ‘She was warned she could face a custodial sentence but had been anticipating a suspended sentence.
‘She is shocked and devastated by the outcome.
‘Her lawyer had desperately tried to get her out on bail during an appeal process but it was a failed application.’
The judgement against Grey has since been branded ‘extremely harsh’ by disability campaigners. Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK, told MailOnline: ‘This was a really tragic incident, where Celia lost her life, and I feel sadness and sympathy for all involved. The sentence given to Auriol does seem extremely harsh.
‘With the number of cyclists increasing, we need proper separation of pedestrians, cyclists and cars, so that we can all keep each other safe. Government and councils need to review guidance, to ensure safe streets.’
It comes as the local council was unable to confirm today whether or not bicycles are allowed on the pavement where the incident took place – despite the judge declaring it a ‘shared footpath’ at court.
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mrs Ward’s family and friends.
‘We cannot categorically say it is a shared use path as we could not find any legal records to evidence this.
‘Historically, we know it is used by cyclists and we will be looking at this location to see if there is any work required to make things clearer. We’d urge all users to take care and be considerate to each other.’
Peterborough Crown Court heard Grey lives in adapted special accommodation with no family and only one friend to rely on, and therefore has nowhere to place her possessions if put into the prison system.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Sean Enright acknowledged Grey’s health issues, but told her they ‘do not reduce your understanding of right or wrong’.
Judge Enright said he could only impose an immediate jail sentence, telling Grey she ‘resented the presence of an oncoming cyclist’ and her actions are ‘not explained by disability’.
‘This was a shared path for cyclists and pedestrians, I am sure you knew cyclists used the path, and were not taken by surprise,’ the judge said.
Grey’s lawyer argued there was ‘no intention to cause harm’. A probation officer also underlined her vulnerability if placed in the prison system.
Grey was described as ‘childlike’ and it was the probation officer’s opinion that she ‘does not pose an ongoing risk to the community’.
Her lawyer Miranda Moore KC continued: ‘She has nobody to support her apart from a friend and no family support at all. She has no financial support at all other than state benefits.
‘If she goes to prison today she would lose her home and has no one to store her possessions. She doesn’t know what would happen to them.’
But the judge said her actions were ‘not explained by disability’.
He added that Grey, of Huntingdon, had no mental disorder or learning difficulties and the pavement was 2.4 metres wide at the relevant point, describing it as a ‘shared path on the ring road’.
The court previously heard that police inquiries failed to establish whether the pavement was a shared cycle-way or not.
Judge Enright acknowledged the partial blindness, cognitive and mobility issues and cerebral palsy that Grey suffered from. But he added: ‘It does not reduce your understanding of right or wrong.
‘You have not expressed a word about remorse until today in the pre-sentencing notes. I accept the explanation from the counsel and that the difficulty you would face in custody and afterwards are considerable.’
But in the probation officer’s report read in court today, it stated that Grey has ‘difficulty expressing emotions of any sort overtly, but does write them down’.
Her barrister said: ‘That is her way of communicating the distress, remorse and empathy she feels for all the people involved and she showed these notes to the officer.
‘She does not express emotions as you or I might, but the probation officer was able to be aware of them and the acknowledgement of the devastating impact her actions have had on all.’
Mrs Ward’s widower, retired RAF pilot David Ward, said in a statement read to the court by prosecutor Simon Spence KC that the ‘clip of Celia’s last moments will haunt me forever’.
‘Rarely a day goes by without thinking of her and our happy life together but I can so easily burst into tears, as I have on so many occasions,’ he said.
The pair met in 1965 and in their retirement enjoyed playing golf and seeing the world on cruise holidays, the court was told.
‘I miss her terribly and after a year-and-a-half on my own felt the need to sell our house of 34 years and relocated to a retirement village near Romsey [in Hampshire],’ Mr Ward said.
He added he did this to be closer to family, including their daughter Gillian Hayter.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Hayter told of her mother’s ‘senseless and needless death lying in the road without those who loved her’.
She added that the ‘lack of any remorse from the accused cannot be underestimated in having a profound effect on us all’.
She continued: ‘I can still remember the details of the conversation on hearing my mother was killed in a cycling accident.