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Sentence & five-year ban was maximum magistrates could impose

A Nottingham lorry driver who failed to stop after hitting a cyclist and causing massive life-threatening injuries has been jailed for 16 weeks and banned for five years.

The Nottingham Post reports that Wayne Salmon, 52, carried on with his deliveries after hitting Gus French, 56 on February 1.

Salmon said he had been blinded by the sun and thought his 7.5-tonne lorry had clipped a kerb or wall.

Prosecutor Jennifer Fitzgerald told High Peak Magistrates’ Court, in Buxton, that when witnesses spoke to him a short time later and told him he had collided with a cyclist, he shrugged his shoulders.

French sustained a serious brain injury, and neck and spinal fractures. The force of the impact was so severe it detached his ribs from his spine. He was airlifted to hospital and has not yet recovered.

Maximum sentence

Salmon admitted failing to stop and driving without due care and attention.

The sentence of 16 weeks imprisonment was the maximum magistrates could impose. They said this was the worst traffic offence they had ever heard in court.

Presiding JP Mr Hickman told Salmon: “You were in charge of a 7.5 tonne vehicle. By your own admission, you were blinded by the sun but did nothing to alter your driving and in addition your windscreen was dirty, further reducing visibility.

“You were aware you had collided with something but you know not what and didn’t stop but slowed momentarily and then accelerated.

“Later, witnesses told you about knocking someone down and the witnesses say you seemed disinterested and shrugged your shoulders in clear disregard for what you had done.

“You left life-changing and life-threatening injuries to Mr French.”

“Lives changed forever”

French’s wife Tracy told the court she had been warned he could be left in a persistent vegetative state if he survived.

“Gus and us, as a family, are left with a life sentence. From that day our lives changed forever,” said Mrs French.

“We can’t forgive the driver for leaving Gus at the scene.”

Saul Comish, mitigating, said: “[Salmon] said he was dazzled by the sun light coming from between the hill to the extent that he could not see clearly and was following the centre of the road.

“A car has come toward him and he has moved toward the nearside. He accepts he should have seen and should have avoided Mr French.”

Mr Comish said Salmon accepted the consequences were devastating for Mr French and his family.

“He deeply regrets that pain and suffering he has caused,” he said.

Road Justice

Many will see this latest case as another example of an overly-lenient sentence handed down to a driver whose carelessness maimed a vulnerable road user.

The CTC, through its Road Justice campaign, and British Cycling have long campaigned for tougher sentences in more serious cases and especially for longer bans for drivers who have demonstrated they are not fit to be in charge of a motor vehicle.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling recently announced a full review of all driving offences and penalties, along with tougher penalties for disqualified drivers who kill or injure other road users. He said: “I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties.”

CTC’s Road Justice coordinator Rhia Weston welcomed the plan to review all driving penalties and offences. She added: “CTC’s Road Justice campaign also wants to see much greater use of driving bans for those who commit driving offences without wilful risk taking and wider use of non-custodial options such as vehicle confiscation.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.