Driver's ‘catastrophic misjudgement’ led to the death of a motorcyclist near Rugby

He was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 12 months and banned from driving for a year

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 8:48 am

A well-respected university academic made a ‘catastrophic misjudgement’ when, despite having seen him, he pulled out of side road into the path of a motorcycling pensioner near Rugby.

Keen biker Christopher Parkin desperately swerved to try to avoid lecturer Michael Richardson’s Land Rover on the Fosse Way – but to no avail.

He suffered multiple fractures and a traumatic brain injury when he hit the 4x4, and later died of his injuries in hospital, Warwick Crown Court has heard.

Michael Richardson

Richardson (32) of Stratford Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, initially denied causing the 73-year-old’s death by careless driving, but later changed his plea to guilty.

After an adjournment for a report to be prepared on him, Richardson, a lecturer in human geography at Newcastle University, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 12 months.

Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that at 12.15 on a Sunday afternoon in July 2019, Richardson was driving his Land Rover Discovery along Bow Lane towards the Fosse Way near Monks Kirby.

It was a dry, clear summer’s day, and when Richardson, whose wife was with him, reached the junction with the Fosse Way, where he planned to turn right, he stopped.

Michael Richardson

Mr Parkin was approaching on the Fosse Way, which has a 60mph speed limit, from his right, at 40-60mph on his Honda CV600.

“As he approached, the defendant drove into the junction, turning right as he did so. Mr Parkin tried to take evasive action, but sadly to no avail.”

His machine hit the off-side of the Land Rover, and his head struck it’s A-pillar before the Honda, with him still on it, went over a grass verge, through a hedge and ended up in a field.

Witnesses, including a student nurse, rushed to help him until paramedics arrived and he was rushed to Leicester hospital where he was almost immediately moved into intensive care.

He had multiple fractures including many to his face, and as his condition worsened the decision was taken to withdraw life-sustaining treatment – with the cause of death attributed to a traumatic brain injury, said Mr Simpson.

Richardson told police at the scene that he had seen the rider, who was ‘a long distance away’ – and when he made the right turn ‘it felt like he had accelerated into me.’

And he added: “I tried to move over to my left, but he rode into me.”

When he was later interviewed, he said he had stopped at the junction and waited for two motorcycles to go past, and saw another motorcyclist in a white helmet but believed he had time to make the right turn.

Richardson said he had completed the turn, but that ‘the motorcyclist had changed course and seemed to increase its speed.’

Daniel Oscroft, defending, said: “He is genuinely sorry and remorseful. This was a catastrophic misjudgement which led to a fatal accident.

“Mr Richardson paused at that junction before pulling out. He didn’t chance it, this was a misjudgement.

“His impression is that Mr Parkin had accelerated towards him, although there’s no evidence to suggest that took place. It is also clear, however, that Mr Parkin crossed over onto the oncoming side before the collision took place.

“The point at which the collision took place was fully on the defendant’s side of the carriageway. The defence case is that Mr Richardson had fully completed the manoeuvre.

“It appears Mr Parkin quite understandably tried to take evasive action and swerved to the right.”

Mr Oscroft, who described Richardson as ‘a well-respected academic,’ pointed out that his wife is a doctor and had tried to give assistance at the scene.

Sentencing Richardson, and banning him from driving for a year, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told him: "As you turned right Mr Parkin on his motorcycle was travelling in the opposite direction.

“You had seen him, and your judgement was that you had enough time to make that turn nevertheless.

“He tried to slow down and swerved to take avoiding action, and it is one of the tragedies of the case that it may have been that swerve that put him into contact with you.

“That is not to put any blame on him, he should never have been in a position where he needed to take avoiding action.

“The effect on his wife and children in incalculable. No words can really express the loss this family has suffered. It is the action of a moment, and the effects last forever.

“It is to their credit that they take a generous view towards you. They regard this as an accident. It does pass the custody threshold, but it is a sentence I am able to suspend.”