Jail for driver who caused South Shields biker's death

Michael Lewthwaite died after colliding with Peter Anderson's post van.
Michael Lewthwaite died after colliding with Peter Anderson's post van.

A postman who caused the death of a South Shields motor bike rider in a tragic early morning crash has been handed a jail sentence of over six-months.

Michael Lewthwaite, 49, died after colliding with Peter Anderson's postal van as it performed a U-turn on the A187, near to the entrance of the Tyne Tunnel, at about 6.50am on June 12 2014.

Anderson, of Ancroft Avenue, North Shields, denied causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving but was convicted of the charge following a two-day trial at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

The 52-year-old was slapped with a 26-week jail sentence, banned from the road for 18 months and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,200.

But the father of two walked free from court after being given bail pending an appeal against the verdict being lodged.

The court heard that Anderson had carried out the U-turn manoeuvre numerous times to pick up a work colleague at a bus stop on the other side of the road.

District Judge Bernard Begley said this repeated use of the manoeuvre had made him 'complacent' - and meant he did not exercise due care as, unbeknown to him, a fast-moving KTM bike approached.

The court heard that a driver travelling in front of Mr Lewthwaite had to 'break sharply' to avoid hitting the van while another motorist shouted 'oh no' when he saw the van moving into the other side of the road.

Road users at the time gave evidence that Anderson had said to them 'What have I done' and 'sorry, I didn't see him' after the incident.

District Judge Begley told Anderson: "I find your previous experiences of carrying out this manoeuvre made you complacent.

"That complacency caused one driver to break sharply and another to say 'oh no'. They were not expecting anything like this, which I can well understand."

District Judge Begley said Anderson had proved 'honest to a fault' - after admitting in a police interview just days after the collision that his driving had been careless.

Brian Payne, prosecuting, saidp: "It is telling that he assessed his own driving as careless during police interview. He was driving a vehicle with limited rear visibility.

"You may feel that the defendant, driving such a vehicle, would be required to take extra care before commencing any manoeuvre.

Mr Payne said he could've avoided the risk of the U-turn by continuing to a roundabout further down the route in order to pick up his colleague.

Mr Payne said just 'three or four seconds' may have made the difference between life and death on the fateful morning.

He added: "Four seconds, three seconds difference and we might have had nothing more than a case of a badly frightened van driver or motorcyclist.

Nick Cartmell, defending, said that had Mr Lewthwaite had been travelling in excess of the speed limit and had overtaken a line of cars at the time of the collision.

He said the collision was a tragic fate of misfortune.

He said: "Mr Lewthwaite was travelling at speed and overtaking multiple cars. There wasn't criminal carelessness that merits a finding of criminal culpability."

In a statement summarised by prosecutor Brian Payne, the family of Mr Lewthwaite said they were 'satisfied' that justice had been done by the returning of a guilty verdict.

Mr Payne said; "They are satisfied that justice has been seen and heard to be done."

He said the grief-sticken loved ones had been put through further 'suffering' by the length of time taken for the case to be brought to court.

The court heard that Anderson had initially been told no action would be taken against him before the family requested the decision be reconsidered by the Crown Prosecution Service.

District Judge Begley, sentencing Anderson, said he accepted he was truly remorseful and took into consideration his exemplary driving record of more than 30 years.

Chief Inspector John Heckels, head of Northumbria Police's Operation Dragoon team, said; "This incident shows the devastating impact one individual can have when they don't concentrate on the road.

"This tragedy was totally avoidable and quite simply should never have happened.

"I am glad a judge has seen fit to hand down a custodial sentence but I know this will not bring Michael back to his devastated family."