Driver who lost consciousness and killed cyclist given suspended sentence

Medical experts uncertain whether motorist fell asleep or if incident due to undiagnosed Parkinson's Disease

by Simon_MacMichael   March 12, 2013  

Justice (Lonpicman, Wikimedia Commons)

A 73-year-old motorist who killed a cyclist has received a six-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to causing his death through careless driving, although medical experts are not certain if he fell asleep at the wheel or whether undiagnosed Parkinson’s Disease lay behind the incident.

Cyclist James Greenwood, aged 74, died in hospital from multiple injuries sustained when he was struck from behind by a car driven by John Plummer on Darlington Back Lane in Stockton last November, reports the Northern Echo.

Sentencing Plummer at Teeside Crown Court, Judge Peter Bowers said: "This sort of case raises a lot of emotions, and I have to be careful that I reflect in any sentence not only the tragic outcome, but also the culpability you must bear for the death of another human being."

David James, defending Plummer, said in mitigation that he was unaware that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and that he was not feeling tired prior to the incident.

He added that Plummer, who lost his partner when she was killed by a vehicle on a zebra crossing ten years ago, did not plan to drive again.

Shaun Dodds, speaking for the prosecution, said that speeding was not a factor in the case, and that Plummer recalled having seen Mr Greenwood and getting ready to overtake him.

The court heard from neurological experts who revealed that Plummer had been suffering from undiagnosed Parkinson’s Disease which could have caused the incident, although they believe it is more likely that it was due to his falling asleep momentarily at the wheel.

Plummer had admitted causing death by careless driving at his trial last month, but denied the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving, according to a report in the Evening Gazzette.

“In light of all the material and evidence that the prosecution now have they are taking the position not to proceed against you the charge on the first count,” said Judge Lee Spittle, who was sitting at the trial.

“They have accepted your plea on the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving,” the judge added.


11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Is there a case for proper medicals? Nothing is perfect but the current system....

Drivers have to understand driving is a privelege not a right! Which means tests and medicals to insure drivers are fit and safe.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1889 posts]
12th March 2013 - 10:12


mrmo - your right but it will open a whole can of worms with pressure being put on all road users to follow suit with similar tests and the added prospect of insurance for bike users - albeit that would be impossible to oversee.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3235 posts]
12th March 2013 - 10:49


stumpy not so sure, afterall car drivers are licensed to use the road, bikes, horses and pedestrians aren't? Would anyone call for compulsary medicals for all pedestrians before they are allowed out?

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1889 posts]
12th March 2013 - 11:12

1 Like

Car drivers would all be rather alarmed if they thought that those dangerous HGVs were being driven by people that were medically unfit ( Sigh

posted by cookdn [18 posts]
12th March 2013 - 14:06


mrmo - sorry mate, should have made myself clearer - obviously not peds but all other road going vehicles. Big Grin

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

posted by stumps [3235 posts]
12th March 2013 - 15:06

1 Like

stumps, I know you meant cyclists, just where do you draw the line? horses and cyclists don't have a licence, are we to say a kid is to have a medical before they go out to play?

Yes there are some who would call for licencing, same as the road tax lot carry on about bikes not being taxed, which if bikes were taxed by the current emmission based rules would cost them more money????

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1889 posts]
12th March 2013 - 17:53


The culpability you must bear! He just let him off with killing someone. I'm sure they are sorry, he doesn't plan to drive again after all, but another motorist gets away with murder.

posted by Fatbagman [21 posts]
12th March 2013 - 19:46


Judge Lee Spittle, sounds like he is right out of the Wild West, 'Dang it Joharn, I told yerzs to drive careful now. You've only gone and run over one of them there cyclistic fellas. Be more careful next time.' Frontier justice for bikers.

I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1814 posts]
12th March 2013 - 19:55


Did they take the driver's license away from him - just to make sure that he doesn't drive again?

posted by Speedy1319 [24 posts]
12th March 2013 - 20:29


It may be that the man may not plan to drive again, to quote his lawyer, removal of licence and an order to pass an extended test should he wish to do so again would help to ensure it. All after a stiff driving ban of course.
The medical idea is OK, after all everyone who drives a car is in charge of at least 750kg of metal moving at significant speeds close to vulnerable humans, peds or riders. This is an awesome responsibility when considered like this and is not to be granted or taken lightly. I would have no problem with a regular check on fitness, reaction times, eyesight before applying for a renewal of licence to drive.


posted by doc [167 posts]
13th March 2013 - 16:02


Like Speedy And Doc above I have grave reservations about the fact that the court did not take away this persons licence. I would have thought that it was a given in a case such as this.


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [733 posts]
14th March 2013 - 10:08