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Kent motorist branded "a danger to cyclists" by judge is jailed for 10 months

Anger at cyclists riding two abreast led to Martin Hook knocking one off bike, causing him and fellow rider broken bones

A judge who sentenced a Kent motorist to ten months in jail has described him as “a danger to cyclists” following an incident last year in which he became so frustrated by a group riding two abreast that he knocked one off his bike, causing him and a fellow rider broken bones.

Martin Hook, aged 58 and from Marden where he runs a motorcycle business, had pleaded guilty to two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

He was also banned from driving for three years and will have to take an extended retest to get his licence back, reports the Kent & Sussex Courier.

One of the cyclists knocked over in the incident in September last year as they returned from a race, Lee Staples, broke his hand while the other, Darren Squirrel, a serving police officer, sustained a broken collarbone.

James Ross, speaking for the prosecution, told Maidstone Crown Court that Hook was driving to Tenderden with his two daughters when he encountered a group of cyclists on the road ahead.

“He was irate about them cycling two abreast, rather than single file,” he said.

As he passed them, he used his horn and drive his vehicle “a couple of inches away from one,” Mr Ross went on.

“The defendant got in front of them and was waving his arms in anger and shouting.

“He carried on until he came across the second group of cyclists.

“They included Darren Squirrel and Lee Staples. He drove close to Mr Staples and knocked his bike, causing him to crash into Mr Squirrel,” he added.

Speaking in mitigation on behalf of Hook, defence barrister Ian Henderson said he had been in business difficulties since the recession and that his client had been frustrated by what he believed was a lack of regard among cyclists for other road users.

“He was in a very stressful environment,” Mr Henderson said. “In that stressful environment he found himself in contact with the cyclists.

“He was frustrated by what he saw as cyclists not paying much regard to other road users. They were straddled along the road.

“He accepts he pointed and remonstrated with the first group. He didn’t intend any collision. He doesn’t recall there being contact. He accepts there must have been some.

“He is a hard working family man and these offences are utterly out of character,” Mr Henderson added.

Passing sentence on Hook, Judge Charles Macdonald QC said he was “satisfied the cyclists were deliberately endangered.”

He told him: “You are an honest, hard-working family man. There will be hardship as a result of the sentence for your family as a result of your driving.

“In my judgment, there is no true remorse here and no real insight. You are, and remain, a danger to cyclists.”

The Kent & Sussex Courier’s report of the case did not mention that riding two abreast is permitted under the Highway Code, something that was pointed out to the newspaper in the comments.

Rule 66 of the Highway Code says: “You should… never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”

The custodial sentence imposed on Hook contrasts with some that have been handed down recently in cases where motorists have been convicted of the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment compared to five years for the offence in this case.

Last month, lorry driver Paul O’Callaghan was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving of cyclist Tarsem Dari in Southall, West London, in July 2013.

In July last year, David Cox, the lorry driver who pleaded guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving at Bow Roundabout of Brian Dorling as he rode to work also received a suspended sentence.

The issue of sentencing in cases where a vulnerable road user such as a cyclist or pedestrian is the victim is currently been reviewed by the government following pressure from organisations including British Cycling, CTC and RoadPeace.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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