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Killer driver jailed for eight and a half years

Uninsured, unlicensed driver failed to stop after hitting 74-year-old rider

A driver has been sentenced to eight and a half years in jail and banned for ten years for killing a cyclist in Wolverhampton last year and failing to stop.

Rider George Searle, 74, was riding on the A449 Stafford Road, Wolverhampton when he was hit by Kile Straker, 24 who was driving ablack Seat Leon.

Straker had been travelling at speeds averaging 60mph in the 40mph zone just after 12.30pm on Thursday 11 July 2013. A white van pulled out to overtake Mr Searle, a lifelong cyclist who had raced alongside Wolverhampton legend and TV commentator Hugh Porter, but Straker,  undertook the van and hit the rider, inflicting fatal injuries.

Passers-by rushed to Mr Searle’s aid, but nothing could be done to save him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Straker failed to stop at the scene of the collision and the damaged car was recovered later that day at a local garage. Straker was arrested just over six weeks later after enquiries by collision investigators. He was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and causing death while uninsured.

On October 10, Straker pleaded guilty to the charges and was yesterday sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court to eight and a half years in prison and disqualified from driving for ten years.

After the sentencing Mr Searle’s family said: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helped George on that tragic day, the people who stopped and helped him, the Ambulance Service and the police.

"No sentence will ever bring our Dad, Husband and Grandad back. We will forever miss George, he was a true gentleman, a kind and loving man."

The Express and Star reports that Emma Wynne-Owen, Senior Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Kile Straker was fully aware that he was banned from driving, but knowing this and the fact he had no insurance, he still drove his car at high speeds carrying out illegal and dangerous manoeuvres along a busy road in Wolverhampton, which ultimately resulted in him colliding with and killing George Searle.

“After the collision, rather than stop and seek emergency help for Mr Searle, the defendant drove off in order to escape the fact that he should not have been driving on a public highway.

“He was traced as the owner and driver of the car, but he denied being the driver of the car. However, today he has been found guilty of causing the death of Mr Searle.

“Our thoughts are today with the family and friends of Mr Searle.”

PC Claire Byrne, from the Collision Investigation Unit, said: "This collision has had a devastating effect on the family of Mr Searle, who not only had to deal with the loss of their loved one, but also had to endure a lengthy process to bring Straker to justice.

"We are pleased with the sentence today, which will give him time to contemplate the consequences of his actions."

Commenting on the sentence, CTC campaigns manager Roger Geffen told road.cc: "When passing sentence, the judge had to take into account that Straker was uninsured at the time of the collision due to a previous driving conviction; that he was performing a dangerous ‘undertaking’ manoeuvre at speed (60mph on a 40mph road); and that he fled the scene of the crime.  On the other hand, he pleaded guilty, which entitles him to a one-third discount off the maximum 14 year sentence.  So his 8½ year jail term is not far off the maximum he could have been given.

"CTC’s Road Justice campaign would question though whether his 10 year driving ban is long enough – especially since much of it will coincide with his time in custody.  It is longer than most – the UK courts rarely impose bans of more than three years.  Yet a person with his track record surely ought to face a life-time ban, so he knows he will go back to prison if he ever drives again."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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