A motorcyclist who suffered life-changing injuries in a road smash on the Whitby to Scarborough road has spoken of his ordeal following the sentencing of the driver responsible.
In an exclusive interview with the Whitby Gazette, Alan Atkinson, 72, of Fylingthorpe, said the incident has had devastating consequences: "I had to re-learn to walk in hospital because my knee was smashed. Staircases are also a problem – I have to use my stick. It’s just as well I am retired otherwise I could have never gone back to scaffolding. It’s changed my character, I used to be really easy going but now I have got a really short fuse."
The driver responsible, Joe Leonard, 26, wasn’t speeding or overtaking but “inexplicably” drifted onto the wrong side of the road as he approached a bend on the brow of a hill at Cloughton Bank.
Leonard’s Toyota MR2 car ploughed into Mr Atkinson’s motorbike, which was on the correct side of the A171, York Crown Court heard.
Ex-military man, Mr Atkinson, who was thrown onto a grass verge and suffered devastating injuries including five broken ribs, a punctured lung, three broken toes and a severe knee injury which required skin grafts, was airlifted to James Cook Hospital where he spent three weeks.
Almost a year on from the incident he still suffers from serious physical and psychological trauma. The court heard his life had been torn apart and he now needed a walking stick to get around.
Leonard, of Barugh Green Road, Barnsley, couldn’t explain why his car had drifted over the double white lines in the middle of the road.
He was arrested and charged with causing serious injury through dangerous driving. He admitted the offence and appeared for sentence on Friday.
Prosecutor Laura Addy said that Leonard could feel the rumble of his wheels going over the Cat’s Eyes but didn’t get back in the right lane until it was too late.
Ms Addy said that Mr Atkinson, a retired scaffolder, was a hugely-experienced driver and motorcycle rider. At the time of the crash on June 22 last year he was wearing a high-visibility jacket and had his lights on to ensure he was visible to other motorists.
In a victim statement read out in court, he said the “long-lasting” effects on his emotional well-being and others in his family had gone “far beyond the (physical) injuries”, to the extent that he had sought counselling.
“It’s had an impact on his family life, his confidence, his leisure activities and his general, overall well-being,” said Ms Addy.
Defence barrister Nick Adlington said Leonard was a “thoroughly decent young man who made one momentary bad driving error” and was now wracked with remorse.
He added: “The error lasted a matter of seconds (but) has had catastrophic effects… and that’s something that he is going to have to live with for the rest of his life.”
Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said it remained unfathomable as to how Leonard drifted onto the wrong side of the road.
He told the defendant: “The impact (on Mr Atkinson) hasn’t just been broken bones, cuts and bruises: it has had a devastating impact on virtually every aspect of his life.
“His partner says it’s something like post-traumatic stress that he suffers from. He hasn’t been able to ride a motorbike, which was a massive part of his life, and becomes agitated very quickly.”
Mr Stubbs said that given these dire consequences, prison would be entirely justified, but added that because of Leonard’s laudable community work, otherwise good character and the fact that he had “contributed massively” to raising funds for cancer charities, he could suspend the inevitable jail sentence.
Leonard was given a 13-month suspended prison term and 100 hours’ unpaid work. He was banned from driving for two years.