A Bournemouth cyclist has been jailed for 12 months following an incident in which he rode through a red traffic light and collided with a nine-year-old girl, leaving her with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. Philip Benwell, aged 38, had pleaded guilty last month to the charge of causing grievous bodily harm.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard that Benwell had been cycling "erratically and very fast" on his road bike as he rode downhill towards a crossing at Branksome Beach on 26 July this year, reports the Bournemouth Echo. He estimated his speed at 30mph.
Earlier reports suggested that he mounted the pavement, but according to the newspaper’s latest report, Benwell “veered into the opposite lane” as he neared the traffic lights, just as nine-year-old Leila Crofts was crossing with her au pair, named as a Miss Canibano. The pair were out for a walk with the family’s dog.
Initially, Benwell fled the scene but handed himself to a police station the following day after officers made an appeal. Sentencing Benwell him, Judge Peter Johnson said: "Miss Canibano was blameless, Leila was blameless.
"You are the only one who is to blame. This was an incredibly selfish criminal act. You took a serious risk in order to save a few seconds on your journey.
"Having struck her you callously picked up the bike and continued on your journey, leaving her lying unconscious in the road.
"This fractured her skull and shattered her family's life in one instant."
In a report read out to the court, a probation officer said that Benwell "shows an incredible degree of remorse. I have never interviewed anyone so sincerely remorseful for their wrong doing, whose concern is so focused on the victim rather than themselves.”
Leila spent two weeks in intensive care at Southampton General Hospital. The incident has left her with problems with her vision as well as her memory.
Her mother, Chanine Boulton, quoted on Mail Online, said: “'After the accident we feared she may have been left with disabilities but she is doing incredibly well.
“She had to re-learn how to walk and read music which she has now done, and has been home schooled since the accident. She is returning to school in January and is keen to do a 10k run to raise money for charity.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.