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Drink driver jailed for 32 months for killing cyclist in New Year's Day crash was "travelling well in excess of 20mph speed limit"

Craig Wagner told police he had "lost control" of his vehicle, officers finding the cyclist's helmet still embedded in the car's windscreen...

A drink driver who "lost control" of his car while "travelling well in excess of the 20mph speed limit" the morning after a New Year's Eve drinking session, hitting and causing the death of a cyclist, has been jailed for 32 months.

Laura Duncalfe suffered serious head injuries and later died on 23 January 2022, Craig Wagner admitting causing her death by careless driving while over the drink drive limit and being sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment at Newcastle Crown Court.

A reporter from Chronicle Live was in court to see Wagner sentenced and hear evidence about the collision on the morning of New Year's Day last year.

The court heard how Ms Duncalfe's Garmin cycling computer paused at 9.08am as she passed the entrance to a car park on St Lawrence Road in Newcastle, a collision occuring as 31-year-old Wagner, driving home the morning after a New Year's drinking session, lost control of his vehicle and hit the cyclist, the impact so severe that her helmet remained embedded in the windscreen.

Wagner immediately called for an ambulance and remained at the scene, where he told officers he "lost control because I was going about 30 maybe 40" and returned two positive breath tests for alcohol, one at the scene and one at the police station at 10.15am.

The latter test, the lower reading of the two, was 47 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath, above the legal limit of 35. In a subsequent statement, Wagner accepted that he was driving and said he had "pulled out to overtake a parked car" when the incident occured.

"My recollection is that I saw a cyclist on the road coming towards me," he said. "She moved towards my left and so I moved to the right to go around her, however as I did this she swerved back to my right as well, she was on the road not the pavement when the collision took place although I went onto the kerb afterwards.

"After the collision I went to her to provide assistance and I phoned an ambulance; I went back to my car to get something to put over her, I moved my car and the cycle in order to make sure the road was clear for the ambulance."

Prosecutor Ian West told the court how the incident had occured six hours after Wagner was seen in Newcastle city centre, at 3am, after an evening of drinking at a friend's flat and then in "a number of bars".

He said: "Between 7pm and about 9.30pm, the defendant and his friends were drinking alcohol in the flat prior to going into Newcastle by taxi. There, they visited a number of bars. The defendant is captured on CCTV footage in the city centre at after 3am.

"One of the friends returned at 4.45am to find the defendant sleeping in his bed. He woke him, and the defendant moved to the sitting room. At approximately 9am, the defendant left the flat and got into his car to return home. His route took him in a westerly direction along St Lawrence Road.

"The speed limit for St Lawrence Road at that point is 20 mph. While approaching a nearside left-hand bend prior to Foundry Court, the defendant's car moved into the opposite side of the road. The offside front wheel of his vehicle struck the kerb on the north side of the carriageway, deflating the front offside tyre, mounted the pedestrian pavement and collided with Laura Duncalfe, who was still seated on her pedal cycle."

The forensic collision report was clear when looking into the cause of the collision, stating "Craig Wagner lost control of his vehicle due to inattention whilst travelling well in excess of the 20 mph speed limit."

It continued: "Whilst he attempted to steer and brake prior to striking the kerb to his offside, he was unable to regain control of his vehicle prior to the impact. The front of Craig Wagner's Peugeot motor car collided with the pedal cyclist, Laura Duncalfe, at a point most likely to have been to the north side of the eastbound lane of the main carriageway, within the junction mouth, or a combination of these locations."

Wagner was jailed for 32 months and banned from driving for five years, any continuation of driving dependent on passing an extended driving test.

His legal representation, Paul Cross, called his client's actions a "momentary lapse" and argued Wagner is an "otherwise thoroughly upright citizen" with "genuine remorse".

"He remained at the scene of the collision and did what he could to help Laura," he said. "This case is undoubtedly a terrible tragedy for Laura and her family, but it is also a tragedy or the defendant who will lose his career and his house. Whether he will be able to start again from scratch is an uncertainty."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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9 comments

Avatar
HoarseMann | 9 months ago
0 likes

Putting this reckless driving to one side, the council need to improve this road. It's been a long time since I cycled down there, but I often used to encounter speeding drivers. It's a fairly wide, long, straight road with a wall to one side that just seems to encourage drivers to speed. It badly needs speed humps.

The other problem, is vehicles parking on the bend just opposite the entrance to the cycle route. The council need to extend the double yellow lines back down the road past the cycle route entrance. This would improve visibility and remove conflict between cyclists turning left onto the cycle route and oncoming vehicles overtaking parked cars.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/vqfTsbm7oFarA9Qe8

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 9 months ago
3 likes

What a lenient sentance for killing someone whilst speeding and pissed!

No chance of it being altered however as the sentence is very much in line with the expected for a death by careless driving charge where the driver is remorseful, admitted guilt, stopped and tried to provide assistance. 

The challenge here is why not dangerous driving? As stated already, what exactly is the threshold!?

Another example of how our current public services are failing and failing us... I assume the CPD accepted the plea / put forward the careless charge as it saved a lot of court time... saved a few quid basically. 

Avatar
Bungle_52 replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 9 months ago
1 like

Dangerous driving is of a standard which is WELL below that of a competent and careful driver. Killing a cyclist is almost always considered merely careless.

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Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
17 likes

Speeding while drunk and being innatentive enough to hit the curb on the other side of the road is "careless" and not "dangerous" is it? 

What does someone have to do to hit the threshold for dangerous driving? Serious question? Is there any circumstance where a person driving a car kills a cyclist and they consistently get charged with dangerous driving?

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martb65 replied to Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
14 likes

I'll let you know, I'm in process of claim against an incompetent driver. And police want him charged with dangerous driving and causing serious injury . But lets see what the cps decide, I'm not holding my breath 🙄

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Patrick9-32 replied to martb65 | 9 months ago
2 likes

Good luck, I hope you get the outcome you, and they, deserve. 

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RicCycleCoach replied to Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
3 likes

even when someone is charged with dangerous driving, i'm still curious what it takes to obtain what is or was the maximum sentence (of 14 years). I wrote to the Home Secretary or something like a Justice Minister a few years ago to ask and he couldn't help either (too depressing to try to remember this). (it was in relation to the double killing of 2 car occupants in Eastbourne, by someone who'd stolen a car, had no insurance, was on coke, and may have already been out on licence). 

But yeah, how the f*ck is this not dangerous driving?

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Bigfoz replied to Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
2 likes

Surely any driving resulting in a collision where someone is hurt is dangerous by definition? If it was safe, there would be no injury and no collision. 

Note - deliberately using collision and not "ah shame it was an accident hey"...

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SimoninSpalding replied to Patrick9-32 | 9 months ago
2 likes

To me we should get rid of drunk driving as an offence in it's own right. To my mind drunk/ drug driving is prohibited because it is dangerous, and therefore it should be one of the examples/ definitions of "dangerous driving" (It certainly falls well below the standard I expect of other drivers).

If someone is killed as a result of drunk driving, the dangerous bit should be unarguable, the only possible defence would be proving you didn't kill the victim, that something else did. Showing some humanity, helping your victim, pleading guilty etc should not automatically reduce the senctence, but failure to do so should impact on early release/ licence conditions.

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