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Drunk driver ran over 10-year-old cyclist – then drove home with bike wedged under car

Keith Vernon was jailed yesterday after court heard he ignored pleas of witnesses to stop following crash in West Sussex

A drunk driver who ran over a 10-year-old cyclist in West Sussex then drove home with the youngster’s bike wedged under his car has been jailed for two and a half years.

The victim, from Pulborough, was cycling along Church Street, West Chiltington, with his father and another rider when the local resident, 76 year old Keith Vernon, who lives in the village, struck him from behind.

The child was thrown over his bike’s handlebars and onto the road, with Vernon continuing to drive over him despite shouts from the two other cyclists as well as members of the public for him to stop.

He then reversed over the boy, destroying his cycle helmet – as shown in the picture below, supplied by Sussex Police – before driving away.

Keith Vernon case - victim's cycle helmet (via Sussex Police)

The incident happened at around 10.20pm on 6 October last year, with the victim sustaining a broken collarbone, fractured vertebrae, a fractured pelvis, a dislocated hip and facial injuries.

Police officers went to the address of the registered keeper of the Renault Twingo car involved in the crash and found it unattended, with the driver – subsequently identified ads Vernon – having mounted a kerb and with the bike still wedged underneath the vehicle.

Vernon, who is retired, was breathalysed and found to be more than twice the legal limit for drink-driving, returning a reading of 77mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath in his system. The legal limit is 35mcg.

He pleaded guilty in February at Worthing Magistrates’ Court to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, drink-driving and failing to stop after a road traffic collision.

Yesterday, he was sentenced at Hove Crown Court to two and a half years in jail and was also banned from driving for four and a half years.

Jailing Vernon, Judge Shani Barnes said that he had made a conscious decision to drive despite being drunk, and rejected his claim that he had not seen the cyclists, and that he did not know the victim was under his car.

She said that he had sought to protect himself over anyone else, deciding to go home and making no attempt to call 999 nor to return to the scene.

Senior Investigating officer, Sergeant Richard Hornsey of Sussex Police said: “Vernon was driving home after drinking in a local pub and was over the drink-drive limit when he collided with the cyclist. This was clearly a traumatic incident for those directly involved, but it has also affected the wider community.

“Vernon ignored the pleas of the bystanders, which included the child’s father, and they described the wheels of the car spinning as Vernon tried to drive away while the child and the bicycle were trapped underneath.

“The child was wearing a cycle helmet which received significant damage but protected him from a more serious head injury.

“Vernon drove for over a quarter of a mile through the village with the bicycle trapped under his car, but at no point did he stop to check if the cyclist was still underneath, which shows a complete disregard for the safety of other road users,” he added.

Simon joined road.cc 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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49 comments

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PRSboy | 2 years ago
7 likes

Its an interesting thought... should people have a responsibility to report those they know are driving after having consumed excess alcohol?  Particularly licenced premises. 

In my job for example I have a legal responsibility to report someone I suspect of money-laundering, and face jail if I do not.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to PRSboy | 2 years ago
5 likes

The linked article does state he was drinking at a local pub. 

Assuming it was the only one in the village, he lived less then 500m away. So that is a 6 mins walk albeit pavement-less roads. Easy enough to decide I'm too drunk to drive that and will leave my car in the car park and get it in the morning (although obviously that means having any sense at all in that state.) Instead I'm guessing the thought was it is only a two minute drive away so I should be fine. 

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Daveyraveygravey replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
0 likes
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

The linked article does state he was drinking at a local pub. 

Assuming it was the only one in the village, he lived less then 500m away. So that is a 6 mins walk albeit pavement-less roads. Easy enough to decide I'm too drunk to drive that and will leave my car in the car park and get it in the morning (although obviously that means having any sense at all in that state.) Instead I'm guessing the thought was it is only a two minute drive away so I should be fine. 

 

It's a funny place, West Chiltington.  It's also more of an area than a village, sort of strung out.  Lots of very big houses, at least two pubs, one or two shops.  There wouldn't be a lot of traffic around at 10 pm, so really a 6 minute walk should not have been beyond the perp.

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brooksby replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
4 likes
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

The linked article does state he was drinking at a local pub. 

Assuming it was the only one in the village, he lived less then 500m away. So that is a 6 mins walk albeit pavement-less roads. Easy enough to decide I'm too drunk to drive that and will leave my car in the car park and get it in the morning (although obviously that means having any sense at all in that state.) Instead I'm guessing the thought was it is only a two minute drive away so I should be fine. 

Well, of course!  I mean - expecting him to walk home in that state? That would be dangerous...

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Hirsute replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
8 likes

Might get hit by a drunk driver !

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Tired of the tr... | 2 years ago
7 likes

The report doesn't say if the driver had any points on the license or a previous history of bad driving. People don't just suddenly get drunk at age 76 and totally lose control after a life of responsible driving, so I do wonder if it wasn't the first time and he previously had just been lucky not to cause any collisions before.

We really need to catch bad drivers before they cause harm like this.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Tired of the trolls here and gone cycling instead | 2 years ago
2 likes

Where was he drinking and why did they let him drive off? He was going home so I'm guessing a pub or friends house. 

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Tired of the tr... replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
7 likes

In the villages I know it's not unusual that everybody knows that someone always drives drunk, but "fortunately the police are lenient around here because they know you can't live here without a car" (real quote).

There's a lot of social pressure in the wrong direction, and for a local pub landlord it's not actually so easy to stop a drunk unless he's already a total outsider. In the end we need enforcement from police there and can't rely on social control alone.

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brooksby replied to Tired of the trolls here and gone cycling instead | 2 years ago
9 likes
Stephan Matthiesen wrote:

In the villages I know it's not unusual that everybody knows that someone always drives drunk, but "fortunately the police are lenient around here because they know you can't live here without a car" (real quote).

There's a lot of social pressure in the wrong direction, and for a local pub landlord it's not actually so easy to stop a drunk unless he's already a total outsider. In the end we need enforcement from police there and can't rely on social control alone.

There was a story on one of those Police-Speed-Interceptors-Traffic-Cops shows, I think it was an old episode (they usually are).

A "member of the public" had phoned in to say that "Bob" was in the local pub, had driven there, and usually drives home again after he'd had a skinful.  So 'Our Policeman' was sent to hang around nearby in a marked car while another policeman sat in the pub car park in an unmarked car.

It took about ten minutes before 'Our Policeman' said to camera, "That woman has walked past twice now", and another ten before he got a call from headquarters saying that the local FB page had a warning that the police were hanging around to 'entrap' people...

Both police cars had to leave, their covers blown, because people were more concerned about 'entrapment' than about someone drunk driving...

The segment ended with them going past a little later, noticing that the vehicle they were looking for had moved and tracked it down, finding the owner locking it up and walking into his house.  He was three times over the limit.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
6 likes

That is part of the problem with a large proportion of the population being drivers and not always following the letters of the laws, they see Speed Cameras as only money making machines, Drink Driving Campaigns (especially at Xmas) being something to take Police away from the real crimes and other things like Mobile Phone stops as entrapment. 

 

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festina replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
9 likes

I never understood the argument of "speed cameras are just there to make money" because if you weren't speeding then you wouldn't have to pay anything. It's not tax.

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eburtthebike replied to festina | 2 years ago
3 likes
festina wrote:

I never understood the argument of "speed cameras are just there to make money" because if you weren't speeding then you wouldn't have to pay anything. It's not tax.

It is a tax; on stupidity and arrogance.

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ktache replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
2 likes

It was a shocker, that one.  Everyone knew the law was there, but talk about self entitlement of the nasty drunk driver.

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brooksby | 2 years ago
7 likes

If he was claiming that he had no idea anything had happened, why did he reverse before continuing on his journey?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

That was my throught as well. 

"I was driving home with no one else on the road when my car went bump and then started to make a hell of a racket. Natually I reversed to see if that made any difference and one set of high pitched noise did stop but the rest continued so reversing did do something. Then I got home, parked on my drive and went to bed",

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Hirsute replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

He was drunk. He may have selected the wrong gear.

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Dave Dave replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
4 likes

He wasn't 'drunk'. Mildly tipsy, perhaps, but nowhere near what is normally considered drunk. We rightly set the blood-alcohol limit very low, where you are not noticeably impaired, and being double that limit is still a level where the impairment is not enough to be a major factor in causing someone to mow down a cyclist. (Obviously fear of being caught mowing down a cyclist while over the limit explains what happened next, and is a huge aggravating factor.)

That doesn't excuse anything, but it does point to his driving being this terrible while sober, which is an even more terrifying thought.  

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Mybike replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
0 likes

Everyone is different. So you cant say he was just tipsey also his age might play a part. He was double the limit.

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essexian | 2 years ago
6 likes

I wonder whether this "person" will be welcomed back into the village when he has served his time. 

Frankly, I would not wish some who had done that to a child living anywhere near me.  

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Bungle_52 | 2 years ago
8 likes

Yet another driver thinking they have a better chance if they leave the scene of the accident rather than stopping. Until sentencing takes more account of failing to stop I fear this attitude will continue to be prevalent. Lets see what our representatives in parliament have to say about this in relation to the Ryan's Law petition which is now at 103,493 signatures and has been waiting 12 days for a debate date. I'm not holding my breath.

Also, in yesterdays debate on sentencing Dame Vera Baird had this to say which I find interesting.

"But victims do say quite clearly that they have concerns about making causing death by dangerous driving and causing severe injury by dangerous driving have much higher penalties, because of the factor I mentioned before: it might deter prosecutions, or it might deter juries, who can pretty easily see themselves in a driving seat when something goes wrong, from convicting. So they have that reservation.

I think the telling line is that victims are not sure why there is such reliance on custodial sentencing for people who may have driven dangerously but are not dangerous people. Is it not better to use driving bans more effectively and not to allow such leeway about the unfairness of it but to make them pretty well automatic? That is their take on it, and I do not think I can second-guess them." (Citation: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill Deb, 20 May 2021, c114)

The article doesn't say much about the victim but I hope the child makes a full recovery. I can't imagine how the parents are coping.

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Jenova20 | 2 years ago
5 likes

"Yesterday, he was sentenced at Hove Crown Court to two and a half years in jail and was also banned from driving for four and a half years."

What is the actual point of that "sentence"? There's no reason to obey the law when this is the punishment. It's an outrage to decency and the rule of law. These soft touch judges should be sacked.

EDIT: Jeez, even the Daily Mail pro-car, anti-cyclist mob are fuming at that sentence.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9601793/Drunk-driver-ran-10-yea...

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panda replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
6 likes

This must have caused circuit-failure in the typical daily mail reader's brain.  On the one hand the response to any article about sentencing has to be outrage at the leniency and a call for a return to the halcyon days of capital punishment, but on the other hand he was an elderly gent going about his constitutional right to drive home from his local after a skinful and doing the world a favour by reducing the number of cyclists on the road by 1.  Which side to come down on?

More importantly, does anyone have a medical update on the young lad?

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Hirsute replied to panda | 2 years ago
4 likes

Sussex Police page just says "Thankfully, he is now recovering."

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Hirsute replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Partly because a number think the child was killed...

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Jenova20 replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
3 likes
hirsute wrote:

Partly because a number think the child was killed...

Well, you can't expect them to actually read an article before heading to the comments...

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Grahamd replied to Jenova20 | 2 years ago
0 likes
Jenova20 wrote:
hirsute wrote:

Partly because a number think the child was killed...

Well, you can't expect them to actually read an article before heading to the comments...

Their attention span only lasts the time it takes to read the headlines.

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes

Totally agree with all those calling for a life time ban for this sad excuse for a human being.  However, the article doesn't mention whether he will have to sit a retest, which I think may be a requirement in cases like this.  Can anyone rather more informed than me confirm this?

If it is true, he's never going to pass and will never drive again.

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Dave Dave replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
5 likes

Retests are required after a ban. I very much doubt he'll be driving again - legally, at least - due to the cost of insurance after a ban, and because he'd need a load of driving lessons - also expensive - to pass a modern test. I wouldn't put it past his sort to drive without insurance or license, though.

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mike the bike replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

......  However, the article doesn't mention whether he will have to sit a retest, which I think may be a requirement in cases like this.  Can anyone rather more informed than me confirm this? ...... 

It is at the court's discretion whether or not a retest is required.  In most cases it is not.

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TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
8 likes

2 and a half years?  That is an absolute f@#king joke.  I'm guessing that will be because he will have had a previously unblemished record, will be a gammon of the community etc etc.

Why would they not want him banned for driving for life.  He is obviously entirely unfit to be allowed behind the wheel of a car.

 

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