Wednesday, October 10, 2012

British cop spared jail after hitting musician cyclist with 'catastrophic, life changing injuries' while driving 68mph in a 30 zone

Putting a British cop in jail is very, very difficult. Approaching a humped bridge at speed is a pure moron act and the cop is not a moron -- just grossly irresponsible

A police officer who caused 'catastrophic life-changing' injuries to a cyclist while responding to an emergency call in his van has been spared jail.

David Lynch, 31, was found guilty of dangerous driving earlier this year for hitting Joseph Belmonte after driving over a humpback bridge in Hackney, east London at 68mph in a 30mph zone.

Horrified eye witnesses described hearing a ‘loud bang’ before the musician was propelled onto the bonnet then thrown towards a tree like a ‘rag doll’.

Mr Belmonte, who was just a week away from releasing his debut album, spent nine days in an induced coma after suffering brain, spinal, and facial injuries, as well as a broken right arm and finger.

Lynch, a former British Transport Police officer, who had since resigned from his job, was today given an eight-month suspended jail sentence at Southwark Crown Court.

Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC, sentencing Lynch to eight months in prison suspended for 12 months, said: 'What has weighed significantly with me is your intense guilt, remorse and utter distress at the injuries you caused that day, coupled with your immediate and appropriate response not only at the scene but in your determined efforts afterwards, until you were told it was inappropriate, to seek information about the welfare of Mr Belmonte.'

Lynch, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, was also ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service and told he must be electronically tagged and subject to a 7pm to 6am curfew for 12 weeks. He was also banned from driving for 15 months and ordered to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs.

The court heard how Lynch and front seat passenger PC Gary Thomas, had been racing to assist a colleague at Hackney Downs station on March 31 last year.

Lynch had come on to the rise of the unmarked bridge in Queensbridge Road at 68mph while in a 30mph zone. He had reduced his speed to 63mph before his vehicle 'took off' and became 'airborne' - landing so hard that it made gouges in the road.

The police officer 'lost control' of the van, which swerved to the left, hitting the kerb, and then to the right, hitting Mr Belmonte from behind at a speed of 45mph.

The judge described the speed at which he drove over the bridge as ‘very dangerous’. He said: ‘You lost control of the vehicle, first steering to the left and clipping the curb and then to the right and hitting Mr Belmonte from behind at a speed of 45mph.'

The court heard that Mr Belmonte, 31, who was not wearing a helmet, was in a medically induced coma for nine days after the collision and suffered spine, knee, brain and facial injuries.

He had a broken right elbow and little finger which resulted in him having to learn to play the guitar again.

He also suffered severe psychological effects and his head and associated brain injury mean he is likely to be left with permanent cognitive impairment.

Lynch had already pleaded guilty to careless driving but denied one charge of dangerous driving.

The court heard that the married father-of-two had two previous speeding convictions. In 2005, before he joined British Transport Police, he was banned from driving for two months and fined £250 for driving at 98mph on a motorway. In 2008, he was handed a fixed penalty notice for driving at 40mph in a 30mph zone.

Judge Pegden said he was persuaded to suspend the sentence by what he described as Lynch’s ‘intense guilt, remorse, and utter distress’ at the injuries he caused Mr Belmonte and a ‘raft of fine character references’.

He said: ‘In my view you have shown these general characteristics over the last 18 months and no doubt will bear them for the rest of your life.’

The court was told he had driven 500 response calls in an 18-month period since qualifying as a response driver.

Lynch had told jurors he had had no time to react to the cyclist after his vehicle left the ground as he came over the brow of the hill. He said: ‘As I tried to gain control of it in that split second I saw the cyclist on my left hand side. ‘In the course of my correction I hit the cyclist from behind causing him to come off and on to the near side of my bonnet. ‘I was braking the whole time so after the impact he was thrown forward as my vehicle decelerated. ‘The cyclist was thrown forward and came to a stop by a tree.

‘It felt like the blink of an eye. It happened that quickly from impact to stepping out of the vehicle.’

Defence counsel Ben Summers had said it was important to balance Lynch’s ‘momentary lapse’ against the ‘much longer lasting, perhaps permanent consequences for Mr Belmonte’

He said: ‘It is difficult [to pass sentence] in the particular circumstances of this case because this is a case in which there was no decision, for reasons of bravado, thrill-seeking or aggression, to drive in a way that was at least potentially dangerous, this was an officer responding in the course of his duty to an emergency call.’

Reading from Lynch’s letter of resignation he said: ‘Given the media coverage of my case I would not wish to cause the BTP any further embarrassment, but, more than that, I feel I can no longer carry out the roles and responsibilities associated with my position. ‘I feel morally obliged to give up the role which I’ve cherished for the last five years.’

Earlier this year singer-songwriter Mr Belmonte, also known as Pepe, said: I miss my life as it was before the accident. I was young and living the life of a working musician cycling round London looking for venues to play and musicians to play with.'

Speaking after the officer’s trial in August, the musician’s mother Patsy Belmonte, from Weybridge, Surrey, said: ‘Pepe was just a week away from launching his first album when he was hit.

‘He has since spent 15 months recovering. It has had a huge impact on every area of his life, including his career and his independence. ‘Physically, he will never be the same.’

Original report here

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