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Texting driver jailed for 9 years for killing cyclist appeals sentence

Christopher Gard, who had 8 previous convictions for mobile phone use, killed Lee Martin in August 2015

A van driver who jailed for nine years in September after being found guilty of killing a cyclist in Hampshire through dangerous driving is appealing against his sentence.

Christopher Gard, aged 30 and from Alton, had been sending a friend a text to plan a dog walk when he crashed into 48-year-old cyclist Lee Martin, who had been riding in a time trial on the A31 at Bentley.

> Nine years in jail for texting driver who killed cyclist

At his trial, Winchester Crown Court heard that Gard had eight previous convictions for using a handheld mobile phone illegally at the wheel, and that after the fatal collision he had immediately tried to delete three text messages. He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment.

Just six weeks before the crash that caused Mr Martin fatal injuries on the evening of 12 August 2015, Gard had convinced a magistrate to let him keep his driving licence.

BBC News reports that the Court of Appeal has passed Gard’s application for leave to challenge the sentence imposed on him to a “full hearing” to be held on a date to be confirmed.

After Gard was convicted in September and banned from driving for fourteen and a half years, Darrell Martin, the brother of the victim, said that the legal system had failed to prevent the tragedy happening.

"There were opportunities to stop the man from driving around,” he said. "Just six weeks before he had persuaded a magistrate not to take his licence away and promised to lock his phone in the boot.

He added: "The text message – think about how inane this is – it was about meeting his mate later and taking his dog for a walk. That's what killed my brother."

Rob Heard, road safety sergeant for Hampshire, said: "The majority of people know they should not be using their phone while driving, but appear not to understand what a huge distraction it is and what a risk they are taking. This terrible collision just shows the consequences of using your phone while driving and how it can ruin lives.

"It is a totally unacceptable risk to take. Gard had been given many opportunities to change his ways and still took the risk, causing a totally innocent person to lose their life.

This week, police forces across England and Wales have launched a nationwide clampdown on drivers using handheld mobile phones. A similar operation in May found 2,323 people breaking the law.

> Police crack down on mobile phone driving

Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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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