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Driver who admitted killing time trial cyclist spared jail to care for his mother

Court told that Mark Beresford had smoked cannabis night before crash that claimed life of Darren Maironis, but was below drug-drive limit

A driver who had been smoking cannabis the night before he killed a cyclist has been spared jail so he can continue to care for his mother, after he admitted causing death by careless driving, an offence that carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

Darren Maironis, aged 48, died at the Royal Stoke University Hospital on 18 July 2021 from injuries sustained the previous day when Mark Beresford turned right across the path of the cyclist. Maironis was taking part in a time trial, and crashed into the side of Beresford's Ford Transit van.

The victim, a father of three who taught maths at secondary school, was a well-known figure on the time-trial scene in north west England, with his Velotik racing team among those to pay tribute to him after his death.

> Two cyclists killed days apart while riding in time trials

The crash happened at 3.40pm on 17 July 2021 in Goostrey, near Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, at the junction of Chelford Road and Bridge Road, reports the Knutsford Guardian.

Jayne Morris, prosecuting, told Chester Crown Court that Beresford “had been following his mobile phone sat nav system which was in a holder to the right side of the steering wheel. 

“The instructions were spoken and on the approach to the junction the defendant was instructed by the satellite navigation system to turn right.

“But travelling in the opposite direction was Darren Maironis who was taking part in a time trial cycle event. 

“An eye witness expected the defendant to stop and wait before turning right but he didn't and turned into the path of Mr Maironis.

“In her statement she [the eyewitness] said: ‘I couldn't believe my eyes when it didn't stop, it wasn’t going particularly quickly but it just kept going’.

“She then heard a dull bang and saw debris fly to the right of the van and added, ‘I knew the van must have hit the cyclist but I just couldn’t believe it’.

“The defendant then began to reverse and although she sounded her horn but the defendant’s van struck her car. 

“She immediately went to assist Mr Maironis who was lying in the road, seriously injured. 

“As she did so she heard the defendant say, ‘I just didn't see him’ and ‘He was coming so fast’. 

“He appeared to be in shock and said that he hadn't seen Mr Maironis.

“Police officers arrived at the scene at approximately 4pm to find the defendant was sat on the ground talking to a paramedic. 

“He was upset and shaken. He provided a sample of breath and a drug wipe, both of which were negative but police thought he was acting strangely. 

“He was lying on the floor, speaking in a childlike manner and his pupils were very small.

“As a result, the officers performed a Preliminary Impairment Test but following his performance, in particular his walk and turn test in which he swayed and began to lose balance on the return steps, the fact that he missed his nose on one of the nose touch tests, failed to bring his hand down as instructed and required lots of prompting they suspected impairment.”

A blood sample taken from Beresford four hours after the crash found that he had 1.7 micrograms of tetrahydocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, per litre of blood in his system, slightly below the legal limit of 2mg. 

In mitigation Tom Gent, defending Beresfod, described his client as “a kind-hearted man” who was remorseful about causing the death of Mr Maironis, and said that imposing a custodial sentence on him would mean he would be unable to care for his mother.

 “There is not a day goes by when the defendant does not think about the consequences of his actions,” Mr Gent said. “He is truly consumed with remorse and tormented by his feelings of guilt.”

He claimed that Beresford had been blinded by the sun and that he panicked following the fatal crash.

“His own recollection of the aftermath is that he was acutely distressed and extremely emotional,” the lawyer claimed.

“His behaviour at the performance of the various tests can properly be attributed to a reaction to the collision rather than the consumption of cannabis the night before. He did not for one minute believe that he was over the limit.”

Mr Gent added: “His immediate imprisonment will have a harmful effect on others, in particular his elderly mother Sandra for whom he cares and provides for financially. 

“He cares for his mother, supports her and supports her financially. They live together under the same roof. 

“If an immediate custodial sentence is imposed, she fears she will lose the family home as the mortgage payments will not be made.”

Judge Simon Berkson handed Beresford a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered him to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work. 

He told him: “This is properly described as a tragic case in which a 48-year-old man with three children was killed.

“You should have seen him, and you shouldn’t have carried out the manoeuvre when you did.

“There is ample evidence of your considerable remorse, however the guilt and anxiety you are suffering is nothing compared with that of Darren’s family,” the judge added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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11 comments

Avatar
Flâneur | 11 months ago
18 likes

"she heard the defendant say, ‘I just didn't see him’ and ‘He was coming so fast’. "

How'd he know how fast the cyclist was travelling if he didn't see him?

From "another paper":

"He later told police he was dazzled by the sun" BS Bingo

Disproved even by his own defence counsel, who said "Prior to turning the sun was high in the sky"

Another lying PoS let off by a PoS of a judge

Oh, and judging by the pics, he looked "under the influence" even at his sentencing

FFS

Avatar
chrisonabike | 11 months ago
11 likes

Punishment doesn't restore life but no mention of a ban to protect the rest of us?  After all getting tonked wasn't an unforseeable accident.  Chosing to drive while likely still stoned and massively increasing risk wasn't something no-one could have prevented.

The mitigation was pretty much the full bingo - a great reference for future defence barristers:

 - "truly consumed with remorse and tormented by his feelings of guilt". Worth a go to angle for the get off "No sentence I pass can be worse than having to live with your guilt - so I'll not bother".
 - blinded by the sun
 - panicked following the fatal crash
 - acutely distressed and extremely emotional afterwards.  This and previous can excuse / explain any failure to act decently or even lawfully afterwards.
 - "did not for one minute believe that he was over the limit.”  Pretty sure "I did not believe I was pissed" wouldn't fly... anyway when finally tested under the limit, so that's OK then...
 - punishment will harm others.  Seems as long as you've got some friend or relative you help out in any way you can cite that.  After all it's not fair on them, they didn't break the law...
 - And ultimately "I need to drive".  It's cruel and unusual punishment to have to find an alternative.  Even though in this case he was living in the same property as the person he cared for...

Avatar
Hirsute replied to chrisonabike | 11 months ago
9 likes

I was about to mention blinded by the sun.

How the hell can anyone offer this up as mitigation?

If he was so concerned about his mother, why the cannabis use ?

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 11 months ago
2 likes

Hirsute wrote:

I was about to mention blinded by the sun. How the hell can anyone offer this up as mitigation? If he was so concerned about his mother, why the cannabis use ?

Sun - it's the incompetence paradox again, no?  "Have sympathy on my client - none of us is a perfect driver and because they were overwhelmed this shows they were put in an impossible position..."  I guess that works because we *are* empathetic and we (IIRC most adults can drive) *do* probably recognise times we've not driven well.

Unfortunately we miss the corollory of this.  a) It's not a great idea to let humans drive without a lot more safety engineering to than we have now to stop them making so many mistakes and mitigate the consequences if they do.  b) It's a terrible idea (for non-drivers) to prioritise the more dangerous road users and leave the more vulnerable to depend on the perfect behaviour of others for safety.

Smoking dope - I'm sure most barristers could get sympathy with some line of argument like "under the stressful circumstances of having to work, care for his mother AND share the house with her you may understand why my client became reliant on drugs / alcohol..." (Note more "have to"...)

Avatar
Backladder replied to Hirsute | 11 months ago
9 likes

Hirsute wrote:

I was about to mention blinded by the sun. How the hell can anyone offer this up as mitigation? If he was so concerned about his mother, why the cannabis use ?

I've raced that road many times in the past, there is more sun coming out of my arse than would be in his eyes and sightlines at that junction are good with a wide grass verge, the only thing he got right is that the cyclist was going fast, well he would be because it is at the bottom of a hill, that only proves that he saw him and pulled out anyway! Murder in my book!

Avatar
eburtthebike | 11 months ago
2 likes

If they can estimate the level of alcohol in blood after the passage of a few hours, why not cannabis?  If the level of the drug was 1.7 micrograms per litre of blood, slightly below the legal limit of 2mg, what was it at the time of the crash?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 11 months ago
7 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

If they can estimate the level of alcohol in blood after the passage of a few hours, why not cannabis?  If the level of the drug was 1.7 micrograms per litre of blood, slightly below the legal limit of 2mg, what was it at the time of the crash?

The active ingredient, THC, is fat soluble, so there's a big variation in how quickly it leaves the body. Also,  if the test is looking for metabolites, then they can hang around for much longer. The accuracy wouldn't be sufficient to prove a specific dosage after a period of time.

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
13 likes

I can understand a suspended sentence for the sake of his mother, but there's no mention of a driving ban. Should be a lifetime driving ban for killing someone - why give him another chance to kill again?

Avatar
Surreyrider replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
3 likes

I can't.

Avatar
RicCycleCoach replied to hawkinspeter | 11 months ago
12 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

I can understand a suspended sentence for the sake of his mother, but there's no mention of a driving ban. Should be a lifetime driving ban for killing someone - why give him another chance to kill again?

no, really, i can't. if he was really interested in providing care for his mother then he shouldn't have driven after taking drugs. he was obviously impaired sufficiently that the police thought it strange (more so [from the description above] than if it was just shock). hopefully, someone beats him to within an inch of his life. i'm sure if he was in prison - where he really should be - social services or someone would be able to provide care for his mother. or maybe not. Too be honest who cares. What about Darren's family? the whole thing is total bollocks. what a piss poor sentence. 

Avatar
RicCycleCoach replied to RicCycleCoach | 11 months ago
6 likes

yet another piece of shit who kills a cyclist and basically nothing happens. 

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