Horror smash driver spared jail

Joe Leonard
Joe Leonard

An elderly motorcyclist suffered horrific injuries in a road smash near Scarborough - but the driver who was at fault walked free from court.

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 sports car ploughed into an oncoming motorbike whose rider Alan Atkinson, 72, was driving on the correct side of the A171, York Crown Court heard.

Mr Atkinson, who was thrown onto a grass verge, suffered devastating injuries including five broken ribs, a punctured lung, three broken toes and a severe knee injury which required skin grafts.

The ex-military man spent three weeks in hospital and, a year on from the accident, 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, stayed at the scene to tend to Mr Atkinson until emergency services arrived, said prosecutor Laura Addy.

He couldn’t explain why his car had drifted over the double white lines in the middle of the road.

Leonard, who works as a bar manager and volunteers as a charity fundraiser, was arrested and charged with causing serious injury through dangerous driving. He admitted the offence and appeared for sentence on Friday.

Ms Addy said that Leonard, who had been on a weekend trip to Whitby with his girlfriend, 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.

“He thought the motorcyclist had (just) caught his wing mirror,” she added. “He pulled up, saw the damage to his car and was somewhat confused as to how that had happened, because to his mind he was on the right side of the road at the point of impact.”

Ms Addy said that Mr Atkinson, a retired scaffolder of Fylingthorpe, 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.

He was airlifted to James Cook Hospital in Whitby and was not discharged until July 4.

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 drifted inexplicably over the double white lines,” added Mr Adlington. “He became aware he was over them but he hasn’t corrected his road position in time.

“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.