Motorist with numerous convictions for using a hand-held mobile phone imprisoned following the death of a cyclist.
Cyclist killed in Hampshire
Family of a cyclist killed by a motorist using a mobile has criticised the courts for not banning the perpetrator earlier despite multiple, similar, convictions, the BBC said. Lee Martin, 48, of Basingstoke, Hampshire, was hit by a van in August 2015 and died in hospital. He was taking part in a cycling event on the A31.
Christopher Gard, 30, of Alton, Hampshire, admitted causing death by dangerous driving in court. He was imprisoned for 9 years. Gard was also in court weeks earlier – again, having used a hand-held mobile behind the wheel – but was allowed to keep his driving licence despite having received enough penalty points to be banned.
How penalty points work
Motorists in the United Kingdom are typically banned if they receive 12 penalty points within 3 years. This criteria, however, falls to 6 points within 2 years for the newly qualified. Each motoring offence equates to a number of points. Examples include:
- failing to stop after an accident (5 to 10),
- exceeding the speed limit on a motorway (3 to 6)
- driving without due care and attention(3 to 9).
However, a perpetrator might escape a ban if it would cause undue hardship such as – perhaps – loss of income and family home. On top of the prison sentence, Mr Gard has now been banned for 14.5 years.
Mr Martin's death “totally avoidable”, family says
A Martin family statement said: "The great tragedy about Lee's death is that it was totally avoidable. The defendant had been convicted of using his phone at least 6 times prior to the event.”
"Only 6 weeks before Lee's death, he (Mr Gard) was in front of magistrates pleading hardship if he lost his driving licence. He was, once again, being convicted of using his phone whilst driving and should have been losing his licence due to having too many points.”
The statement continued: "Each previous conviction on his licence had been for using his phone whilst driving. The magistrates chose to allow the defendant to keep his licence. Whilst Lee's death is clearly the fault of the defendant, we feel that the legal system is somewhat to blame.”
Judge criticises perpetrator
Judge Susan Evans, QC, told Mr Gard while sentencing: “Regrettably, there is nothing this court can do today that will in any way ease the distress for those of Mr Martin's family and friends. You showed an arrogant disregard for the safety of others on the road."
She continued: "On June 30th last year - just 6 weeks before you collided with Mr Martin - you were convicted after trial of driving whilst using a mobile phone. On that day, you put forward to the magistrates that you would encounter special hardship (if banned).
"You assured the magistrates you wouldn't use your phone (and) that you would lock it in the boot of a car in a bag", Evans emphasised.