Driver spared jail over causing death of motorcyclist
Christine Anne Jones (21) gets community service after admitting causing death of Richard Carson (40)
Christine Anne Jones, who wept throughout her sentencing at Downpatrick Crown Court, expressed “deep remorse” for causing Richard Carson’s death and the effect it has had on his widow and two children.
A 21-year-old woman who admitted causing the death of a Bangor motorcyclist was on Thursday spared a jail term after she was handed 120 hours of community service.
Richard Carson, a 40-year-old father-of-two, lost his life after his motorcycle was involved in a collision with a Peugeot 206 being driven by Christine Anne Jones on the Crawfordsburn Road in Bangor on July 14th, 2013.
Despite saying she checked three times before turning right into Blackwood Golf Club, Jones - from Kinross Avenue in Belfast - pulled out into the lane Mr Carson was approaching her on.
Mr Carson, a senior manager for an IT company who was described in court as “an experienced and careful rider”, was thrown from his bike and landed on the road 54 metres from the point of impact. As a result of the collision, his bike caught fire.
Jones, who wept throughout her sentencing at Downpatrick Crown Court, expressed “deep remorse” for causing Mr Carson’s death and the effect it has had on his widow and two children.
As well as being ordered to serve 120 hours of community service, Jones was banned from driving for two years by Judge Piers Grant, who told her she had “failed to properly and effectively check the oncoming lane was clear for oncoming vehicles before attempting to turn right” in a manoeuvre which he said was “recognised as one of the most frequent causes of accidents”.
Judge Grant said: “I am satisfied that your culpability arose from a momentary lapse of concentration,” adding: “It is clear you will carry a considerable burden for the rest of your life.”
The judge said road collisions involving vehicle drivers and motorcyclists, as highlighted in a recent advertising campaign, outlined the importance of drivers being “aware of the presence of motorbikes and their riders” on our roads.
Speaking after sentence was passed, Mr Carson’s father-in-law Ian Graham said: “We were not expecting a prison sentence, but it seems very light for the loss of a husband and father.”
Earlier this week, Crown prosecutor Laura Ivers revealed that Jones was initially charged with causing Mr Carson’s death by dangerous driving - a charge she denied.
Death by dangerous driving
However, when Jones was charged with causing death by careless driving, she admitted the offence.
Ms Ivers said that prior to the fatal collision in July 2013, Mr Carson had been cutting the grass on a “warm summer’s day” before deciding to take his motorbike out.
Mr Carson, who the court heard had “grown up around motorcycles” and was an experienced rider, bought petrol at a filling station in Ards and was driving on the Crawfordsburn Road in the Bangor-bound lane when the collision occurred.
Jones, who at the time worked part-time in Blackwood Golf Club, had just dropped colleagues off at Bangor train station and was returning to work.
She was turning right into the golf club when she drove into Mr Carson’s lane as he approached in the opposite direction.
As she made the manoeuvre, his bike collided with the front nearside of her car.
Two medics who happened to be in the area tended to Mr Carson as he lay on the road. Despite being rushed to nearby Ulster Hospital, he died due to multiple injuries.
‘I have killed him’
Ms Ivers said following the collision Jones was “hysterical” and was heard to say “Where is he? I have killed him.” She was taken to hospital, where she was treated for shock.
She later told police she had checked three times before crossing into the other lane to turn right, and that she neither saw nor heard the motorcycle coming in the opposite direction.
The court heard an expert concluded that the headlights of Mr Carson’s bike “would have been in a position to be seen at the point in the road where the defendant’s vehicle was positioned before turning right”.
He also concluded the motorbike “would have been visible” to Jones for a number of seconds prior to her being in his lane.
During the police investigation it emerged that Jones, who was involved in the fatal collision two days before her 20th birthday, should have been wearing corrective glasses when driving.
However, when police checked her eyesight, Jones “displayed no difficulties or impairments”.
The court also heard that at the time of the collision, three of the four tyres on Jones’s car were “below the standard of road use”.
Ms Ivers said that despite maintaining her stance that the incident was not her fault, the fact Jones subsequently pleaded guilty to causing Mr Carson’s death by careless driving indicated she now “accepts criminal responsibility for that which occurred”.
A defence barrister said that apart from a speeding matter for which his client attended and passed the Speed Awareness Course, Jones came before the court with a clear record.
Revealing Jones had been studying before the incident but has been unable to return to her studies, the barrister said she was from a good family background and had spent time working as a volunteer for a local charity.
He said that as a result of what occurred, Jones has been diagnosed with anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. The incident had “a very significant impact on her life”.
Adding this was a case where Jones did not see the motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction, he branded the fatal collision “a momentary inattention that had had catastrophic results”.
Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Grant acknowledged the “irreplaceable loss” to the Carson family following the death of a “good husband, loving father and decent man” - but that jailing the driver would not bring the deceased back.