“No evidence” drug-driver caused teen cyclist’s injuries, says CPS

Prosecutors defend decision not to charge motorist who was 4x permitted limit for cocaine by-product

The Crown Prosecution Service has defended itself from not bringing charges against a drug-driver who left a teenage cyclist seriously injured.

George Pennick, aged 74, was found to have more than four times the permitted limit of benzoylecgonine, a by-product of cocaine when police tested him after he was involved in a collision with the 13-year-old cyclist in Stockton last July, reports the Northern Echo.

The youngster, who has not been named, sustained a brain injury as well as several fractures, contusions and lacerations and a damaged left leg.

Pennick pleaded guilty on Wednesday at Teeside Magistrates’ Court to driving while above the drug-drive limit and was fined £120 plus costs of £85 and ordered to pay a £32 victim surcharge. He was also banned from driving for 12 months.

However, no charges were brought relating to the standard of his driving or the injuries the teenager sustained, with a spokesperson saying there was “no evidence” that the motorist was at fault.

"When deciding what charges to bring in any criminal case, the decisions of our lawyers are taken in strict adherence to the code for crown prosecutors,” the spokesperson said.

“This means that, to charge someone with a criminal offence, they must first be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.

“In this case, two independent witnesses stated that they had seen the injured party ride his bike into the path of George Pennick’s car, despite nearby traffic lights showing a green light to road users.

“There was no evidence to suggest that the manner of the defendant’s driving was at fault but, as is standard procedure for all drivers involved in road accidents, he was subsequently subjected to a blood test.”

The spokesperson added: "The results of this test showed that the defendant was driving while above the specified limit for the controlled substance Benzoylecgonine, a breakdown chemical indicating previous cocaine use, to which the defendant pleaded guilty at first hearing."

The victim’s family described the sentence as “very lenient” and called for tougher sentences against drug-drivers.

“Being four times over the legal limit to drive under the influence of drugs should be regarded as an extremely serious offence, but the sentence in this case seems very lenient indeed,” they said after the trial.

“We understand that this is the law as it stands, but we strongly believe this should change to act as a deterrent so no-one else ever thinks it is acceptable to get behind the wheel having consumed drugs.

"We are deeply saddened at the very poor choices of the driver of the car which hit our son, the consequences of which have had an indescribable impact on our family and will do so for years ahead as our son bravely continues with his recover.

“Having seen our son in hospital, lying gravely injured and being warned he may not pull through, is a trauma which will be with us forever.

"We consider ourselves blessed every single day that he survived, and are so eternally grateful to the wonderful medical staff who saved his life, including an off-duty nurse and doctor who happened to be on the scene and whose role was crucial in ensuring he is still with us today.

"His road to recovery will be long and very difficult, but he has a loving family around him to support him every step of the way,” they 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.

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