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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 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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Dave Dave replied to TriTaxMan | 2 years ago

We need an update on the sentencing legislation to ban people from driving for life. In practice, having been banned makes it incredibly expensive to drive legally after the ban expires, even if someone repasses their driving test, so someone the perp's age is unlikely to ever drive again unless they do so without insurance.

Secret_squirrel replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
1 like

Possibly we need to also educate the judge's involved on the nuances of sentencing.   "A 4 year ban with compulsory retest" has much better PR optics than "a 4 year ban".

Dave Dave replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
1 like

Afaik, anything over a 12 month ban means the license is revoked and must be re-applied for with a new test. But not sure of the details - I think sometimes judges can extend the ban without requiring retest, but normally it's the presumption.

OldRidgeback | 2 years ago

As a parent I can only imagine what the father went through as he witnessed that. I hope the lad recovers physically and that both him and his father get some counseilling, which they'll probably need after a traumatic event like that.

As for the driver, a permanent ban would be appropriate. I'm actually curious how far it was between the pub and his home. I expect it was only a short distance he could've walked.

Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

As the father of 2 kids that helmet photo makes me feel physically sick.  If that had happened to me I wouldn't ever want him out of prison, let alone driving at 80+ yrs old.

Some things are unforgivable.

Darren Hunt replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

Same here, the poor lad is about the same age as my son! There is no way the driver should be allowed to hold a license ever again! 

cidermart | 2 years ago

Yet another quality piece of British justice. The system is clearly broken and needs complete restructuring away from the hands of these utter fucknuggets.

hawkinspeter | 2 years ago

I fail to see the benefit to the public in letting this monster ever be in control of a vehicle again.

Zjtm231 | 2 years ago

Surely an appeal for review on that sentence

the little onion replied to Zjtm231 | 2 years ago

It's not the jail sentence that bothers me so much, but I'm generally quite sanguine about the social benefits of long jail sentences - they are largely ineffective.


However, this is EXACTLY the sort of case where the revocation of the driving license is way, way too short. Justifies at least 10 years, if not a lifetime, of not driving.

Dave Dave replied to the little onion | 2 years ago

In practice, it is effectively a lifetime ban. Insurers won't forget about the incident; insurance will be almost impossible to get, and ridiculously expensive where it exists. Rough guesstimate, we're talking £10k+ a year. 

Secret_squirrel replied to Zjtm231 | 2 years ago

Sadly I dont believe any of his charges were severe enough to appeal the sentencing.  You can only appeal the length of sentence on the "grade A" charges like Murder and Manslaughter.  For lesser sentences the appeals have to be on points of law or the operation of the trial itself.

pmurden | 2 years ago

He should be banned for life and in my opinon and sentenced for much longer. Despicable. That poor child!

Christopher TR1 | 2 years ago

Whaaat?! How low can you go?!

Normally I would see any custodial sentence as a comparitively good outcome. However, in this case, given the unbelievable level of calousness and cowardice, and given that it is only by sheer luck that the victim (a 10 year-old child FFS) survived at all, I'm gobsmacked at the leniency!

There is absolutely no reason to ever let this cretin back behind a steering wheel again. He will be 80! He's not going to become a better driver or a better person.

There's not even a reason to ever let him out of jail.

essexian | 2 years ago

2 and a half years????!!!!!

What on Earth do you have to do to get a decent sentence in this rat hole of a country? Just checked and the maximum for this is 5 years. So, a third off means it should be 3 1/2 at least. Joke?

And why is this moron ever allowed to drive again? 

This makes me rather angry.

Compact Corned Beef | 2 years ago

2 and a half years - good. Now add a permanent ban from driving, even if the chances of him passing an extended retest at over 80 are slim.

FatPantani replied to Compact Corned Beef | 2 years ago

I would have hoped a permanent ban would have been automatic, and the sentence is underwhelming in itself.

Without condoning the driver's behaviour; howeve in any way, and at risk of provoking a severe reaction too, (as a non parent), I am surprised that a child of that age, even though accompanied by a parent, was out at that time of night on a weekday, presumably with school the next day? Hopefully too, the cycle was fully equiped with adequately performing and visible lights.

When I was aged 10, my bedtime would have been 9pm on a good day, so I am surprised at the timing of the accident involving a child as reported.

I would also think that the pub concerned is likely to locally have had/will develop a reputation for condoning drink driving, and will hopefully suffer the consequences to it's reputation and business, or have future licensing reviews or restrictions applied.

Hirsute replied to FatPantani | 2 years ago

Wow, good effort in victim blaming in your first post.
Were schools even open back then?
The cycle helmet has a light fitting, so you decide.

ktache replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago

He was out with his dad.

Sunset on Oct 6th was 6:30, so it was dark relatively early, and drink and drug drivers, and smartphone drivers are out at all times.


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