A motorist who left a 51-year-old former army major “for dead on the side of the road” has had a 12-week prison sentence overturned on appeal.
61-year-old William Jones, from Burton, Staffordshire, has instead been given a suspended sentence and was banned from driving for a year after leaving Cathal O’Reilly critically ill with a broken back, protruding leg bone and other serious injuries in a hit and run incident in September 2021.
According to Staffordshire Live, Jones, who submitted a positive breath test in the hours after the collision (though blood analysis put him below the legal alcohol limit), must also undertake 200 hours unpaid work and attend 20 rehabilitation days.
O’Reilly, a former major in the Irish Guards who later worked as a business consultant, was cycling on the A55 near the village of Valley, Anglesey, when he was struck by Jones on 19 September last year. The 51-year-old was riding to Holyhead from his home in London, in order to catch a ferry to Dublin to visit his parents, a 32-hour trip he’d undertaken previously.
In a victim impact statement, O’Reilly said that after being struck by Jones, he had been “left for dead on the side of the road”. He was taken to hospital in Bangor before being transferred to the Royal Stoke University Hospital’s major trauma centre, where he underwent 22 hours of surgery in two days, and remained in a critical condition for five days.
He suffered a broken back, protruding leg bone, and required a skin graft, along with multiple other injuries. O’Reilly’s DNA was also found on flesh embedded in the damaged car belonging to Jones, who failed to stop at the scene.
Police later found Jones’ car at a Premier Inn in Holyhead. The 61-year-old, who was also preparing to board a ferry to Dublin, was breathalysed by police and returned a positive test, though later blood analysis showed that he was below the legal alcohol limit.
Branding Jones a “despicable coward” for leaving him with devastating injuries, O’Reilly said that following the incident, “My life has changed beyond recognition. I am lucky to be alive”.
Jones admitted to careless driving, failing to stop after the incident, failing to report it, and driving an uninsured car.
He stated in court that when he struck O’Reilly, he assumed he had hit a bollard, a claim which a Caernarfon Crown Court judge said “beggars belief”.
The 61-year-old was originally ordered to serve a 12-week prison sentence. But after appealing that verdict on the grounds, according to Jones’ barrister, that there had been a “conflation of penalties” by the original court, the jail term was suspended for one year. He was also banned from driving for 12 months.
Despite telling the court that “it would be inhuman not to have a huge sense of humility and sympathy for the victim in this case”, Jones’ barrister Simon Killeen claimed that the motorist was of good character, had serious health concerns, and was well under the drink-drive limit according to later calculations, before pointing out that instances of careless driving did not carry a prison term.
Recorder Neill Owen-Casey allowed the appeal, noting that the original sentence appeared to have been imposed based on the gravity of O’Reilly’s injuries and the effect on the cyclist’s life, and that there was no specific offence related to causing serious injury by careless driving.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.