Woman who had manslaughter conviction quashed ‘should never have been charged’

A “vulnerable” pedestrian whose manslaughter conviction was quashed after she shouted and waved her arm at a cyclist, causing her to fall into the path of an oncoming car, “should never have been charged”, her lawyers have said.

Auriol Grey was seen on CCTV shouting at retired midwife Celia Ward to “get off the f****** pavement” in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, causing her to fall into the road in October 2020.

Grandmother Mrs Ward, 77, of Wyton, Cambridgeshire, died after she was struck by a car in the incident.

Ms Grey, who has cerebral palsy and partial blindness, denied manslaughter but was found guilty after a retrial and was jailed for three years in March 2023.

Auriol Grey court case
Celia Ward died in October 2020 (Cambridgeshire Police/PA)

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

The court heard Ms Grey, who attended the hearing after she was granted bail earlier this year, was charged with unlawful act manslaughter – which requires an unlawful action to take place that caused death.

However, her lawyers told appeal judges that no such “base offence” was ever identified at the trial.

In a statement issued by firm Hickman and Rose after the ruling, Ms Grey’s legal team said: “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.”

They added: “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.”

Auriol Grey court case
A CCTV image of Celia Ward falling from her bike into the path of oncoming vehicle (Cambridgeshire Police/PA)

“Mrs Ward should never have been faced with the choice between cycling on the pavement or cycling on a busy and dangerous ring road,” they said.

“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.”

In Wednesday’s judgment, Dame Victoria said that the jury were not asked to decide “the fundamental question of whether a base offence was established” by prosecutors, Ms Grey’s former legal team or in directions from the trial judge at Peterborough Crown Court, Judge Sean Enright.

Dame Victoria 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.”

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”.

Asked by the appeal judges what actions could have been deemed common assault if it had been identified, Mr Spence said: “The walking towards the cyclist, the gesticulation with her left arm towards the road and the words, ‘get off the f***** pavement’.

“Those words are capable of turning a gesture and nothing more into an unlawful act.”

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

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