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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Car driver who ploughed into cyclists near Carlisle fined

A cyclist, badly injured in a crash, said he bears no animosity towards the driver who caused it.

Related: Praise for support offered by cyclists after Cumbrian crash

Related: Cumbrian crash cyclist leaves hospital but recovery will take months

Related: Carlisle dentist badly hurt in road crash forced to close surgery

Dentist Peter Priestley, 55, from Carlisle, spent a month hospital and was so seriously injured that he had to close his Cecil Street Practice.

Surgeons had to replace his hip after the accident.

Mr Priestley was one of five cyclists from the Border City Wheelers group who were hurt when a car ploughed into them last July.

Derek Johnstone, 64, from Gretna, has been found guilty of causing the crash on the service road between Carlisle and Gretna.

He was fined £225 at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court for driving without due care and attention. The mechanic must also pay £620 court costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge, and had seven points placed on his driving license.

Mr Priestley, the most seriously injured of the cyclists, said: “None of us feel any personal animosity towards Mr Johnstone.

“Yes, our lives have been changed because of the incident – not just for us, but most certainly for our loved ones as well. It’s good to finally understand what happened and it should be another step in the process of moving on with our lives.”

Mr Priestley, of Lowry Hill, has no recollection of the crash on July 31 that left him with a shattered left hip.

He was airlifted to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle before being transferred to a hospital in Sunderland.

He was walking with the aid of a stick when he attended the trial of Johnstone, of Main Street, Springfield, who pleaded not guilty.

Vicky Atkinson, prosecuting, said Johnstone was driving his Rover 25 towards Gretna when he tried to overtake the group of cyclists. He pulled out into the opposite lane, where a red Citroen Saxo was coming towards him.

Slamming on his brakes, he forced the Saxo into an emergency stop that sent it skidding out of control across the northbound lane. It hit the cyclists and a roadside barrier.

Errainne Lawrence was a passenger in the car, being driven by her friend David Beeby from Annan.

She said: “It all went really fast. I know that when he hit the brakes, the back of the car swung out and that’s when we hit the barrier. I had my hands over my eyes to stop the glass from getting in.”

The Saxo was written off and the cyclists were strewn across the road. Mr Priestley was thrown over the barrier, while his clubmates Nigel Athroll, Dave Rawle, Paul Gavin and Chris Dale were left with various injuries.

Richard Clewes, defending Johnstone, said his client had only moved out slightly to see if it was safe to overtake. When the Saxo then skidded, he was forced into the opposite lane to avoid it.

He added: “It could be because the car eventually stopped there, that image was ingrained into the minds of the witnesses.”

But magistrates found this was wrong, after evidence from witnesses including the driver of the car behind Johnstone.

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