The Parish of St. Helier has slammed a key report used as evidence in the Clinton Pringle case as “misleading,” on the day it is made public for the first time following repeated requests by Bailiwick Express.
In a statement, the Parish said it feared the report would “rekindle” public debate over three-year-old Clinton's death after being hit by a van in 2016 and whether their road design, which minimises the differences between road and pavement, had played a part.
While the driver, Rebekah Le Gal, was sentenced for careless driving in relation to the fatal collision, many – including a forensic collision investigator – believed the road’s design to be one of the main reasons why the accident occurred.
A report was subsequently commissioned by Police to discover whether issues with Tunnell Street – a controversial ‘shared space’ area next to Millennium Park featuring a pavement without a kerb, no road markings and little signage – played a part in the fatal collision.
Extracts of the safety audit, which was conducted by UK engineer and road safety specialist Alexandra Luck, were read out during Le Gal’s Royal Court trial and contained strong criticism of the layout.
Pictured: Clinton Pringle was killed in June 2016 on the 'shared space' of Tunnell Street.
Since the trial, and the subsequent inquest into the three-year-old’s death, Express has pushed for the Luck Report to be made public, but was met with repeated delays because managers within the department holding the report wanted more time to “research” the potential consequences of releasing it.
In an unprecedented move, the Luck Report has now been released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) law – but accompanied by a lengthy statement by the Parish of St. Helier that had not been asked for. They had been made aware of the request and said they wanted to opportunity to comment.
Despite being used as key evidence in Le Gal’s trial, the Parish heavily criticises the findings of Ms Luck, who they say “failed to deal properly with the information she had been provided.”
Her report concluded that shadows cast across the street where Clinton was run over combined with bright patches of sunlight would have “minimised” the already “slight” differences between the pedestrian and road areas.
She added that there were “few visual cues” for those unfamiliar with the area that vehicles could be approaching.
Pictured: Ms Luck said that the road included very few features that would alert pedestrians to vehicles on the street where young Clinton was killed.
Ms Luck also stated the importance of achieving vehicle speeds of under 20mph and obvious features to show motorists that they are “entering a place where it is expected that road users will behave differently.”
She also raised the issue of why 2011 plans to install rising bollards to restrict access to the area were never followed through– something it has previously been suggested would have stopped Le Gal from being able to enter the area where the fatal collision occurred.
“The absence of the bollards from later design drawings, dated November 2011, suggest that these had been taken out of the scheme by this time, although there is nothing contained in the documentation provided to me which gives any explanation as to when, or why, this decision was made,” she mused.
Most damningly, however, she said that she did not observe a single driver modify their driving or speed as they approached the area where Clinton was killed in all the time she spent in the area.
Had a road safety audit been carried out after the road’s completion, Ms Luck concluded, “an opportunity would have been provided for improvements to have been made.”
Pictured: A plaque put up last month to remember Clinton Pringle.
But the Parish has blasted these findings as being based on “misconceptions” by Ms Luck, who they accused of ignoring “substantial differences in the practice in Jersey” compared with the UK.
They said that there was no legal obligation on them to carry out road safety audits, which were “not commonly carried out on all works” in Jersey. Nonetheless, they say they have since “voluntarily” opted to carry these out since January 2018 to meet UK best practice.
The statement also claims that the Parish never got to see Ms Luck’s report until after the trial. If they had the opportunity, they said that they would have raised a number of “issues” in it prior to its publication.
“The Parish is concerned that a number of inaccuracies in the Luck Report, and the Parish was given no opportunity through consultation with the author of the Luck Report to clarify the areas of concern. The Parish would have expected to be consulted given the previous cooperation with the investigation and the agreement that the report was due to be shared with the Parish,” it read.
Parish officials added that their “own road safety experts” who stated Ms Luck’s concerns weren’t entirely “applicable or valid.” They added that, following their own experts’ review, aspects of the road had already been changed, including reducing the “potential risk” of pedestrian’s not knowing the risk of cars approaching.
Pictured: Michael Pringle, Clinton's father, described the report as "truly independent" and agreed with its findings.
In their concluding comments, the Parish remarked that the report could create a “misleading impression” about what role, if any, the road played in Clinton Pringle’s death.
“It should be remembered in any discussion of this tragedy that the driver of the vehicle was convicted of causing death by careless driving.
“The Parish is concerned press and public debate will be rekindled based on the Luck Report which in isolation will present a misleading and confusing impression to those without all of the relevant facts. The tragic event in June 2016 will not be forgotten and the Parish will continue to do whatever it can to make the roads for which it is responsible in St Helier as safe as they can be.”
Clinton Pringle’s family are continuing their campaign against ‘shared spaces’. Last year, Clinton’s father, Michael, attended Downing Street to hand in documents raising concerns over the issue.
While commenting that the report should not “detract” from the actions of Le Gal that left the family “without our beautiful son", Mr Pringle told Express that it was still a damning indictment of the shared space layout.
“…This truly independent report goes to show just how poorly thought through the 'shared space' area at Tunnell Street was.
“The Parish will no doubt disagree with the content of this report but for me there are a number of serious failures on their part. The additional safety measures they have put in place in the two years since are minimal and fall adequately short of what I would consider acceptable to ensure pedestrian safety in this area.”
He went on to describe the lack of adequate signage at the time as “disturbing”, and repeated Ms Luck’s questions over the scrapped plans for bollards.
“We still don't know why proposals to introduce bollards and chicanery weren't taken forward. Whose decision not to take these forward and why?”
He later added: ”While not obliged by law, a safety audit of the area should have been carried out following the construction of the shared space.
“Other measures meant to slow vehicles on the approach to the area and ensure they drove safely also proved impotent. In my opinion physical barriers should be introduced including kerbs with minimum heights to separate road from pavement.”
Last month marked two years since the young toddler lost his life. A plaque commemorating "the bravest little lion with the biggest heart" was put at the point he was struck next to Millennium Park.
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