Texting motorist given nine years in prison for killing cyclist

Christopher Gard had eight previous convictions for using his mobile phone at the wheel and was jailed for nine years for the death of Lee Martin

(Photo: Lonpicman/CC3.0)

A motorist with eight previous convictions for using his phone while driving has been sentenced to nine years in prison after admitting causing the death of a cyclist.

Christopher Gard, 30, was checking a text message when he hit cyclist Lee Martin, 48, on the A31 in Hampshire in August 2015.

According to the Basingstoke Gazette, Gard convinced magistrates to let him keep his license just six weeks before the fatal incident and also admitted lying to police about using his phone when questioned about Mr Martin's death.

Mr Martin was taking part in a time trial event on the road when the collision occurred at around 7.30pm on August 12, 2015. Gard was texting immediately prior to hitting Mr Martin with his Ford Transit van.

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PC David Mitchell said: "This was a tragic loss of life that has left Mr Martin’s family devastated. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and extra care must be taken by motorists.

"Gard took the decision to send and receive text messages despite the risk to the safety of other road users. He remained unaware of the presence of Mr Martin or any other cyclists up to the point of collision.

"I hope that the sentence imposed by the judge today will remind others of the risks. Like many drivers, Gard didn’t think a collision would occur while he was using his phone. He put himself and others in massive danger by doing so and in this case the consequences were tragic. It is never acceptable to take this risk."

Winchester Crown Court heard that Gard then took the "deliberate and calculated" action to delete three text messages from his phone to try and hide the fact that he was using it.

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In a statement released by Mr Martin's family, the cyclist was described as a charismatic person who will be missed by his wife, two children and family.

"Lee Martin was tragically killed on 12th August 2015 whilst doing something which he was passionate about. He was cycling. He was totally innocent. Lee was a responsible, experienced and safe cyclist who was considerate to other road users," the statement said.

"The great tragedy about Lee’s death is that it was totally avoidable. The defendant had been convicted of using his phone at least six times prior to the event. Only six weeks before Lee’s death he was in front of magistrates pleading hardship if he lost his driving licence.

"He was, once again, being convicted of using his phone whilst driving and should have been losing his licence due to having too many points."

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It added: "Whilst Lee’s death is clearly the fault of the defendant, we feel that the legal system is somewhat to blame. The leniency shown in this case on the defendant, and the lack of understanding of the serious nature of using a phone whilst driving has resulted in Lee Martin’s death. Whilst this carries on, there will be more families in this tragic situation."

Gard was jailed for nine years in prison and banned from driving for 14-and-a-half years by the judge at Winchester Crown Court.

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