A court has heard that a farmer who knocked a cyclist off his bike veered across the road while reaching across his dashboard for his mobile phone. The Exeter Express reports that Kenneth Tucker was given a suspended nine-month sentence and a three-year driving ban, and was also disqualified from keeping animals as a result of an unconnected investigation.
Exeter Crown Court was shown footage taken from a police speed camera unit on Topsham Road in Exeter in February. Tucker’s van could be seen within a line of cars and Tucker himself was seen holding or trying to grab a device on the dashboard at the moment the car veered.
Cyclist Philip Latimer-Pearson was knocked off his bike by the manoeuvre and left lying by the side of the road. He sustained two fractures to his leg as a result of the collision and is still limping.
Tucker admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving and also five animal welfare offences.
Tom Bradnock, prosecuting, said the animal welfare offences were uncovered after complaints from members of the public to Devon Trading Standards.
Cattle, pigs and sheep had been kept in filthy conditions in dangerous pens. On one occasion a dead sheep had been left to rot in a field for more than a month, while another sheep had to be put down after becoming emaciated.
Paul Grumbar, defending, said Tucker had devoted his life to looking after animals but that the 47-year-old had not realised that his failing health had made it hard for him to cope. He also argued that his use of the mobile phone at the time of the collision was another result of his failing physical and mental abilities and not a deliberate action.
Judge Erik Salomonsen said he was sparing Tucker an immediate sentence because of his poor health, but added that his deteriorating condition meant he should never drive or keep animals again.
In September, the Government announced plans to double the penalty for illegal use of a handheld device such as a mobile phone while driving to a £200 fine plus six penalty points.
However, road safety organisations believe that this will be insufficient deterrent since many motorists who drive while using handheld devices believe they won’t be caught.
Cycling UK recently expressed its support for the AA Charitable Trust's #NeverTextDrive campaign with Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer, Duncan Dollimore, commenting: "Now is the time to make distracted driving, like texting and driving, as taboo as not wearing a seatbelt or drink-driving.”