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Suspended sentence for lorry driver who killed cyclist and claimed he was unable to avoid hitting him

Prosecution rejected delivery driver's claim he was unable to pull over or slow down...

The driver of an Argos delivery lorry who said he was unable to pull over or slow down before he struck and killed a cyclist near Stockton-on-Tees in May last year - an assertion challenged by the prosecution - has been given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two and a half years.

Joseph Reed, aged 50 and from Willington, County Durham, had pleaded guilty at Teeside Crown Court to causing the death by careless driving of 61-year-old father of four Sean Ruff on the evening of 21 May 2013, reports the Northern Echo.

Mr Ruff, who worked as a finance director for demolition specialists Able UK, had been making his usual post-work bike ride before driving home to Cleadon, South Tyneside, when he was struck from behind by Reed’s lorry.

The court was told that he suffered multiple injuries and that death would have been almost instantaneous.

Christine Egerton, speaking for the prosecution, said that the victim would have been visible to the driver for a minimum of 9 seconds and a distance of 227 metres prior to the collision at 6.20pm on the A66 at Elton, near Stockton-on-Tees.

She said: "Witnesses said he did not brake or deviate, even after the collision. Some witnesses feared he was not going to stop, although he did do so.

"An accident reconstruction found he was travelling at 55mph on the 70mph limit dual carriageway."

She rejected claims made by Reed when he was interviewed by police that although he had seen Mr Ruff, traffic in the lane outside him meant he could not pull out, while vehicles behind meant he was unable to stop.

"Witness accounts do not support that, they say lane two was empty,” she said. "In any case, there was room for Mr Reed to pass safely while remaining in lane one."

Christopher Dorman-O'Gowan, speaking in mitigation on behalf of Reed, said: "He does not seek to blame Mr Ruff in any way.  A thoroughly decent man died that day, and a good man was at the wheel of the wagon."

Passing sentence on Reed, Judge Peter Armstrong said: “Cases such as this are a tragedy for all concerned.

"Nothing I can say will provide comfort or recompense for the family of Mr Ruff, any life is priceless.”

Addressing Reed, who was also banned from driving for 30 months, he added: "The effect on you has also been great, you have lost your job and your home, and you will have to live with the fact you have taken a life.

"Your inattention to the road that day was not momentary, but neither was it a prolonged period of inattention.

"In passing sentence, I am bound to follow the guidelines for judges in such cases,” he added.

Commenters on this story should please keep in mind that the families of those involved may be reading.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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