Woman who caused cyclist to fall into path of car has manslaughter conviction overturned

By John Mercury May 9, 2024

A woman who shouted and waved aggressively at a cyclist on the pavement, causing her to fall into the path of a car, has had her conviction for manslaughter overturned and walked free from court.

CCTV showed Auriol Grey shout “get off the f****** pavement” as Celia Ward approached her in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, in October 2020.

The 77-year-old then veered off the 2.4m-wide path into the road.

Mrs Ward, a grandmother, died after she was struck by a car.

Grey, who has cerebral palsy and was described by her lawyer as “partially blind”, was given a three-year jail sentence in March 2023 after being convicted of manslaughter.

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March 2023: Woman jailed over cyclist’s manslaughter

But the Court of Appeal ruled today that the manslaughter conviction should be overturned and she walked free from court.

Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mrs Justice Yip and Mrs Justice Farbey, said: “In our judgment, the prosecution case was insufficient even to be left to the jury.”

She added: “In all the circumstances, we have no hesitation in concluding that the appellant’s conviction for manslaughter is unsafe.”

Celia Ward (right). Pic: PA
Celia Ward (right). Pic: PA

Following the ruling, Grey’s family said: “Whilst we welcome the decision of the Court of Appeal our thoughts today are also with the Ward family and I am sure a day doesn’t go by when they don’t remember their tragic loss.

“There has been unnecessary and prolonged suffering and vulnerable people like Auriol need better support from the justice system – we hope lessons will be learnt.

“After a tough start she has strived over decades to build a normal life without seeking attention and we don’t underestimate the difficulties she will face rebuilding this.”

It was decided earlier this year, in March, that Grey could appeal against her sentence.

At the time, it was argued that Grey’s sentence had been “excessive” and that an autism diagnosis secured after the trial may have made a difference in the case.

Auriol Grey leaves the Royal Courts of Justice. Pic PA
Auriol Grey (centre) leaves the Royal Courts of Justice. Pic: PA

The court had heard that Grey had been charged with unlawful act manslaughter – which requires an unlawful action to take place that caused death.

However, her lawyers argued to appeal judges that no such “base offence” was ever identified during the trial.

Adrian Darbishire KC, for Grey, said: “The trial seems to have proceeded on the basis that some kind of unlawfulness, undefined and unspecified, was sufficient to found this offence of homicide.”

Dame Victoria and her fellow appeal judges agreed, ruling that jurors were not asked to decide “the fundamental question of whether a base offence was established”.

The senior judge continued: “The appellant’s actions that day contributed to Mrs Ward’s untimely death… Had Mrs Ward not died we regard it as inconceivable that the appellant would have been charged with assault.”

Grey’s actions were described as “hostile gesticulation” during the trial.

But this, Mr Darbishire said in the appeal, was “not a crime, otherwise we would have 50,000 football fans each weekend being apprehended”.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had responded to the appeal, with its barrister Simon Spence KC telling the court it was accepted that “common assault as the base offence was not identified by name”.

After the judges had given their ruling, Mr Spence asked for Grey’s case to be sent back to the crown court for a retrial, which was denied.

In a separate statement, Grey’s legal team said that neither Mrs Ward’s family nor Grey’s “should ever have been put through this ordeal”.

They said: “As the court found, once the legal elements of the offence were properly understood, it was clear that there was no proper basis for Ms Grey to be convicted of manslaughter, or indeed any offence. As a result, her conviction was quashed.

“Ms Grey simply should never have been charged.”

The lawyers continued: “Mrs Ward should never have been faced with the choice between cycling on the pavement or cycling on a busy and dangerous ring road.

“Had a clear and well-signed cycle path been in place, safely separating vulnerable pedestrians such as Ms Grey, this accident would never have occurred.

“Equally, misconceived prosecutions and wrongful convictions such as this cause untold pain to all those affected, including the family of the deceased, as well as the person wrongly accused.”


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