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“Coward” driver “used car as weapon” against cyclist

Judge tells Damon Browning he was lucky to avoid jail following road rage attack in Exeter

A judge has branded a driver who used his car “as a weapon” against a cyclist a “coward” in relation to a road rage incident in Exeter last year in which he asked a food delivery rider if he wanted to “sort it out” before knocking him off his bike.

Sentencing Damon Browning, aged 25, at Exeter Crown Court, Judge David Evans told him that he only avoided a custodial sentence due to guidance to try and avoid handing them down during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Devon Live.

The court heard that Browning became angry with cyclist Carl Bennett because he believed he had cut him up on a roundabout as they both headed towards a Tesco store.

Browning then repeatedly slowed down, letting Mr Bennett ride past him, before making a close pass on him, almost hitting him with the wing mirror of his car.

On the third occasion, he said to the cyclist, “Do you want to sort it out here?”

Mr Bennett replied, “Really?” and cycled off, then heard Browning revving his car’s engine.

He was struck from behind and landed on the car’s bonnet before falling on the ground, sustaining bruises on his back and head.

The crash left his e-bike wrecked and his phone and glasses broken, costing him £2,000 in total.

Browning, who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, drove off immediately afterwards.

In mitigation, Rachel Smith, defending Browning, said he suffered from autism and was panicking because his pregnant girlfriend, whom he was driving to a shop because she had a craving for a milkshake, had just vomied in the car.

He was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work as well as paying the victim £500 in compensation.

“You used your car as a weapon,” Judge Evans told him. “It is a matter of luck that the cyclist was not more seriously injured. Witnesses saw you deliberately rev up your engine and collide with the back of his bike.”

“This was an incident of road rage, effectively, where your culpability was very high, although tempered by your autism.

“You drove into him from behind like a coward, thereby taking a very real, and importantly, an uncontrollable risk. You could have caused really serious injury or even death.

“I would be sending you straight to prison today. The only thing saving you is the pandemic and the conditions it has created in prison.

“With your autism, it would not just be difficult, it would be awful,” he added.

Browning was also banned from driving for two years and will have to take an extended retest before he can get his licence back.

Simon joined 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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