A driver who told police he thought he had hit a wheelie bin when he killed a cyclist has been sentenced to seven years in jail for causing death by dangerous driving.
Michael Rollason initially denied causing the death of Terry Brown, 47, on February 18 last year, but on the first day of the trial entered a guilty plea to the charge of causing death by careless driving.
During the trial the prosecution argued that should be found guilty of the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving.
The jury at Liverpool Crown Court agreed and returned a unanimous verdict this afternoon.
Judge Andrew Menary, QC, described Rollason’s behaviour as “callous and irresponsible” and said there was “precious little evidence of remorse”.
He said: “You demonstrated callous disregard for the welfare of the man you had hit.”
The Liverpool Echo reports that Mr Brown was riding along on the A57 Warrington Road, Bold Heath, when he was hit by a Rollason's Vauxhall Astra at 6.35am.
The force of the impact snapped his bike in two.
But Rollason, 39 did not stop, and spoke to his insurers about coverage for the damage to his car.
He told police he thought he had hit a wheelie bin and said that he could have been distracted by an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror.
The court heard that Rollason has previous convictions for motoring and theft offences, including a drink-driving ban.
Simon Christie, prosecuting, said scene of the crash was a single carriageway, two-lane road with a 50mph speed limit, that, was “mainly straight and wide”.
Mr Christie said: “Terry Brown was riding his cycle entirely lawfully and properly when he was struck by a silver Vauxhall Astra driven by this defendant, who was travelling in the same direction.
“Mr Brown was wearing a helmet and high visibility jacket and had a red flash light on the cycle.
“He was riding entirely properly but there was a collision in which he was killed and his bike snapped in half and sent high into a nearby hedge.”
The court heard that after leaving the scene, Rollason rang his insurers.
Mr Christie said: “He lied to his insurance company. He said that the collision had happened the previous evening and that he had struck a wheelie bin. A complete lie.
“He chatted with the insurance company about his no claims bonus and whether he should claim for the windscreen and other damage.”
Rollason chose not to give evidence in his defence and offered the court no explanation for his actions.
Defending, Stephen Thomas said: “He admitted that he hit something but he can offer no explanation for it and I’m afraid even if he did give evidence in this case he would not have been able to take matters any further.”
Judge Menary said Rollason had a “bad record” with previous convictions including aggravated vehicle taking, drink driving, burglary and theft.
He said: “You struck the cyclist because of a gross level of avoidable distraction. No other sensible explanation is possible.
“I am satisfied there was a significant lapse in your attention on the road that day.
“Quite what caused that significant lack of attention remains a mystery.
“Only you know for sure what happened that day and why it was your car struck the cyclist on a long straight stretch of road when he was clearly there to be seen.”
Judge Menary banned Rollason from driving for eight years and ordered the confiscation of the Astra.
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.