South Shields van driver knocked down biker then went silent over £6k repair bill, court told

A South Tyneside van driver who knocked over a biker - then stopped contact with him after being asked to fork out £6,000 in private repairs - could be jailed.

Lee Watling, 37, was at the wheel of a works’ van which reared off grassland and into the motorcyclist’s path in Finsmere Place, West Denton, Newcastle.

At the scene, Watling, of Gainsborough Avenue, Whiteleas, asked his victim not to inform his insurance firm of the smash, borough magistrates heard.

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The man agreed, and the pair exchanged several text messages until the suggested repair bill was sent to Watling, who then fell silent.

South Tyneside Magistrates Court.South Tyneside Magistrates Court.
South Tyneside Magistrates Court.

Police were informed, and he was charged with a string of motoring offences in relation to the accident on Friday, August 21, 2020.

He pleaded not guilty on the basis he was not the driver, but then failed to attend his trial in March – and was found guilty in his absence.

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Magistrates have now ordered an all-options report, which leaves open the possibility Watling could be put behind bars when sentenced on Tuesday, May 24.

Prosecutor Claire Armstrong said: “The complainant was on his motorcycle, doing between 16mph and 18mph.

“He says that he was 3m from a junction with Greenvale Avenue, and was checking that all was clear.

“He felt an impact on the left side of his bike, and was knocked off. The van had driven from a grassed area to the pavement and into the road.

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“The van had only driven about 3m before it hit. The defendant approached and asked if he was alright.

“He saw a white Transit tipper with ‘Total Build’ on the front and back doors.

“The complainant was concerned that the van was going to be removed and so recorded it on his mobile phone.

“The driver said that he didn’t want to go through his insurance to repair. He said that he was Lee from Total Build."

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Miss Armstrong said the biker, who suffered soft tissue damage, gave Watling his mobile number so as to exchange driving details, and several messages passed between them.

She added: “He then informed him that the repairs were going to be about £6,000.

“The defendant said that he couldn’t afford to pay, and then ignored calls, he stopped responding.”

Watling was found guilty of driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and failing to give information identifying the driver.

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The court heard he had several motoring convictions dating back to 2001, with his most recent being for dangerous driving in 2019.

David Forrester, defending, said: “He doesn’t accept that it was him that was at the wheel at that time.

“He didn’t attend the trial for whatever reason, I think there was a misunderstanding about the date.”

Magistrates granted Watling unconditional bail ahead of sentencing at the same court.