Death crash driver told he will be going to jail

Date: Tuesday 4th July 2017

A FORMER Motherby man has been told a prison sentence is “inevitable” after he was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving on the A66 in a head-on collision near Keswick.

Calum Wilkinson (25), now of Eaigle Terrace, Main Road, Flimby, denied that his driving, which caused the death of 82-year-old David Bennell, of Braithwaite, was dangerous.

The jury was told during a three-day trial at Carlisle Crown Court that Wilkinson had admitted his driving on 29th April last year was careless, but prosecutor Mr. Richard Haworth said: “Pulling out into the face of an oncoming car is not careless — that was downright dangerous”.

Wilkinson, who was living with his parents at Motherby, was driving home, eastbound on the A66, in a Volkswagen Bora after clocking out from his workplace at New Balance, Flimby, at about 4pm.

The collision occurred shortly before 4-45pm, close to Portinscale. Mr. Bennell, who was driving a Toyota Avensis, was making a “five-minute” westbound journey back to his home, having been in the Keswick and Portinscale area.

Mr. Haworth said Mr. Bennell — who died in hospital on 1st May as a result of the “horrific injuries” he had sustained in the crash — had been in good health and was very active, carrying out various works and duties in the Cumbria area.

Eye-witness Christopher Constable, a self-employed mechanic, of Cockermouth, said that when he first saw Wilkinson’s Volkswagen it was in the middle of the road overtaking traffic, then, quite suddenly, the car veered to the right into the opposite carriageway.

“Once he had overtaken the car he was passing, there was nowhere in front of him to pull back in,” said Mr. Constable.

He said he had already started to brake when he saw the Volkswagen veer across the carriageway. After getting out to see what he could do to assist at the crash scene, he disconnected the Toyota’s battery to make it safe from a fire point of view.

Footage from a camera mounted to the windscreen of a wagon was also played to the jury. The prosecution said this showed Wilkinson joining the A66 and immediately carrying out an overtaking manoeuvre, which resulted in him marginally contravening a double white line regulation, before the fatal crash took place nine minutes later.

Giving evidence to the court, Wilkinson said he had no knowledge of the crash and his first memory afterwards was of his family arriving at the hospital. His injuries had included a bleed on the brain, a ruptured spleen and fractures to a bone in his arm and nose.

Mr. Haworth asked him: “Why did you pull out into the face of an oncoming car?” Wilkinson, who admitted the crash should not have happened, replied: “It’s possible I had to take an evasive manoeuvre for an unknown reason. I must have made a mistake and that will be with me for the rest of my life”.

Mr. Gerard Doran, defending, said: “There is no doubt this is a tragic case. The consequences of these tragic events will live with those affected for a long while to come.

“It is a sad fact of life that accidents on the roads do happen and they happen because people on the road make mistakes — a momentary lapse of concentration or a misjudged situation. Accidents that occur as a result of a non-deliberate, non-dangerous mistake should not be seen as dangerous driving.”

After the jury returned a unanimous verdict that Wilkinson was guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, sentencing was adjourned to 21st July. He was granted conditional bail and given an interim driving ban, but warned by Judge Peter Davies that a prison sentence was “inevitable”.