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Drug driver sentenced to 21 months in prison for killing cyclist – seconds after using his phone to text friend

Kornel Marcinek was also driving over the speed limit and without insurance when he fatally struck 33-year-old cyclist Joe Burton from behind

A motorist who fatally struck a cyclist while driving over the prescribed limit of cannabis, without insurance, up to 10mph over the speed limit, and seconds after texting on their phone has been sentenced to 21 months in prison.

25-year-old Kornel Marcinek, who pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving whilst over the specified limit of a controlled drug and causing death whilst uninsured, was also disqualified from driving for two years and ten months after killing 33-year-old cyclist Joe Burton in July 2021.

Marcinek was travelling at around 37 to 40mph in the 30mph zone on Southampton’s Hill Lane when he ploughed into the back of Burton, who had been cycling home from a barbecue at the time of the incident, reports the Southern Daily Echo.

Southampton Crown Court heard that the motorist, who had just recently passed his test, had smoked cannabis earlier that day and, just 21 seconds before hitting the cyclist, had used his phone while driving to text a friend.

> Drugged driver who killed two cyclists jailed for 11 years

Following the collision, Burton was rushed to Southampton General Hospital with severe head injuries, but died the following morning.

On Thursday, prosecutor Edward Warren told the court that, while Burton should have been clearly visible to the driver, the sound of braking was “almost instantaneous with the sound of the collision” and that “no avoiding action was taken until the brakes sounded”.

The court was also told that Marcinek’s fatigue from playing football earlier that day and his inexperience as a driver, combined with his intoxication, contributed to his lack of awareness.

Defending the driver, Tom Wright argued that Marcinek had only shared one cigarette with cannabis in it with a friend on the day of the collision.

Wright said: “He’s a recreational user and doesn’t have a dependence upon the drug. [But] he accepts that it was simply wrong for him to have driven with the drug in his system alone.”

Judge Nicholas Rowland concluded by telling the driver that he “ought to have seen and avoided” Burton, and that “no sentence I can pass will undo that tragedy”.

> Tougher laws on mobile phone use while driving set to take effect

Following the sentencing, Joe’s wife Anna, who he had just married months before, described the cyclist as “an amazing person” who was “loved by everyone he met”.

His mother Christine said that she hopes her son’s death will act as a catalyst to improve conditions on the road for cyclists.

She explained that, according to research she conducted herself, there have been 80 serious incidents involving cyclists in Southampton in recent years, ten of which have proved fatal.

“That is just in one city,” she said. “That is too many. As a nurse and as a carer, I’m very risk averse.

“Talk about them. Do healthy pursuits. [Don’t] take intoxicating substances. If you have got an influence on young people, do not encourage them to take intoxicating substances.

“Think about preventing accidents.”

PC Lucy Hawkins, from Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, added: “When Marcinek got into his vehicle that evening, knowing he was under the influence of drugs, he had absolutely no regard for the danger he posed to other road users.

“His selfish and thoughtless actions meant the life of a popular, happy and well-respected man was cut short. Joe’s family and friends will now have to live with the catastrophic consequences of this incident for the rest of their lives.

“I hope this case will once again highlight the dangers of driving whilst under the influence of drugs and the responsibility that falls on all drivers to drive their vehicles safely and with regard to all other road users.” 

Ryan joined 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.

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