Accountant distracted by phone jailed after killing Redbourn cyclist

Mark Greenwood

Mark Greenwood - Credit: Archant

An impassioned plea against a jail sentence was made by the partner of a cyclist who died after being struck by a motorist who was sending and receiving text messages before the collision.

But despite a victim impact statement to St Albans Crown Court by Susan Ullman, the partner of Mark Greenwood who died in the accident in January, 2014, 26-year-old accountant John Michell, who used his mobile phone even though he had been driving home along a dark and unlit road in Redbourn, was jailed for 21 months.

Sentencing him, Judge Bright said that the use of mobile phones by people when driving was “like an epidemic”.

The court was told that in a period of two minutes and 21 seconds leading up to the collision, Michell composed three What’s App messages and read - at least once - two messages he’d received.

He was communicating with woman he had met online earlier but had never met in person. The messages were described in court as “trivia.”

But it meant that because he was badly distracted, he drove into the rear of 57-year-old Mr Greenwood who was ahead of him and cycling home from work at the Abbeyfield Society in St Albans along the A5183 Redbourn Road.

Mr Greenwood, a keen cyclist, had been wearing a high viz jacket and other motorists had been able to see him.

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But after being struck by Michell’s Volkswagen Golf, he was thrown from his bike and died from multiple traumatic injuries.

By complete coincidence, the court was told that although the two men did not know each other, they lived in the same apartment block in Redbourn at the time.

Michell pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving on the evening of January 9, 2014.

Before sentencing, Ms Ullman’s statement was read out in which she said that despite what had happened, she still did not want Michell to be sent to prison which she said would be another ‘life lost’.

The court heard that when Mr Greenwood had finished work that evening, he set off for the cycle ride to Redbourn along the A5183.

He had on his fluorescent bright cyclist anorak and a helmet and work colleagues knew him to be conscious of road safety.

He was seen by a number of motorists on the A5183 riding slowly and in a straight line near the kerb.

But as Michell in his silver VW Golf came up behind, he failed to spot Mr Greenwood because of the text messages he was sending and receiving.

The collision occurred at approximately 6.25pm and at the scene Michell told a police officer that as he was driving, he had received a message on his phone. He glanced down at it and when he looked up the cyclist was there.

When police examined Michell’s phone, they discovered he had been having a What’s App conversation with the woman who ater told police how, two days after the crash, Michell had said: “It was my fault because I was looking at my phone.”

The court was told that following the collision, Michell had moved to Northampton and given up his career in accountancy.

His barrister John Dye said he was genuinely remorseful and had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder because of what had happened that night.

Passing sentence, Judge Bright said he was satisfied that the cause of the collision had been because Michell was distracted by his phone.

While he had listened to Ms Ullman’s plea, he had a duty to the public to send out a message ‘loud and clear’ that those who used mobile phones when driving could expect prison sentences if their actions resulted in the loss of a life.

As well as jailing Michell, Judge Bright disqualified him from driving for three years.