A judge has told an unlicensed and uninsured driver who seriously injured a cyclist than fled the scene that he had escaped jail “by the skin of your teeth.” In response to the case, the national cycling charity Cycling UK has repeated its call on the government to make good on its pledge to reform sentencing in road traffic cases.
The male cyclist sustained life-changing injuries when he was hit by a car driven by 23-year-old Brandon Tate in Washington, Tyne & Wear on 16 June last year, reports the Sunderland Echo.
The motorist, from South Shields, failed to stop but reportedly returned to the scene on foot shortly afterwards to ask how the victim was faring, but failed to call the emergency services, South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard.
He then left again, and sent his step-sister and her two children, all of whom had been passengers in the borrowed Peugeot car at the time of the crash, back to the scene.
The step-sister, who was described as “distraught,” took 15 minutes to call 999, with the court told that she possibly delayed through not wishing to implicate Tate.
The cyclist sustained injuries to his foot and leg, including a damaged artery, and was in hospital for 12 days afterwards.
Grace Taylor, prosecuting, said: “He decided to hold back and not take the bend. The Peugeot came around the bend on the wrong side of the road and collided with him.
“The first contact was the front bumper, which hit his knee, and the wheel hit his foot.
“He was ejected from the bike, and came to rest on the other side of the road. The Peugeot was nowhere to be seen.
“He was crawling along and he saw the defendant walking, and he asked if he was alright. [The victim] said that he needed an ambulance.
“He said he then heard the sound of car wheels screeching. He then saw a woman and two children.”
Tate, who had no prior convictions, admitted failing to stop after an accident, driving without insurance and driving without a licence.
District Judge Kathryn Meek sentenced him to an 18-month community order and ordered him to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work.
She told him: “You leave for your own reasons, your own cowardly reasons. There’s so many things that you have done wrong here, and I don’t mean bad decisions, criminally wrong. It must have been clear to you there were significant injuries.
“You panicked and you panicked because you knew you shouldn’t have been driving the car, you knew you shouldn’t have been in the car.
“You went off, leaving the injured person and two young children and your step-sister at the scene, having to deal with it.
“Your step-sister was, presumably, torn about how to deal with the situation,” she added. “You are so lucky this wasn’t worse.”
Tate was also banned from driving for 18 months, and was ordered to pay costs of £85 and a £95 victim surcharge.
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at the charity Cycling UK, told road.cc: “It’s nearly seven years since the [fthen] Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling promised a full review of road traffic offences and penalties, but there’s been scant action to progress this since.
“Tougher penalties for ‘hit and run’ drivers who leave the scene of a collision where they knew, or ought to have known, that the collision was likely to have resulted in serious or fatal injury, should have been looked at within this review, and is something Cycling UK has repeatedly called for.
“The maximum penalty for that offence is six months custody, which is perfectly adequate in most cases, but where a victim is left in need of urgent medical attention yet the driver flees without calling for assistance, delaying the provision of a breath test, the courts should have greater sentencing powers.
“There has to be consequences for running away rather than remaining at the scene, calling for help, providing a breath test and co-operating, otherwise there’s almost a perverse incentive to leave.
“The government can take the first step to fixing this and other anomalies with our road traffic laws by doing what it promised in 2014 and reviewing traffic offences and penalties.
“Over 12,000 people have died on our roads since they made that commitment, and further delay is simply disrespectful to the victims of road crashes and their families,” he added.
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.