A MOTORIST who drove on and left an ex-Irish Guards major fighting for his life on a dual carriageway after colliding with his bike had a 12-week jail term turned into a suspended sentence today (June 17).
A Caernarfon Crown Court judge said it “beggars belief” that William Jones claimed he thought he hit a bollard.
But Jones, who spent five days in prison before being bailed by another judge pending his appeal against sentence, could remain free.
The 12-week jail term was suspended for a year and he must do 200 hours’ unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity days.
He will be able to get his driving licence returned after 12 months.
Jones, 61, unemployed, of Goodman Street, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, admitted failing to stop in his Peugeot 207 at Valley, Anglesey, after the accident, failing to report it, being uninsured, and careless driving.
Cathal O’Reilly, 51, had cycled for 32 hours from London and was five miles from Holyhead port where he planned to catch a ferry to Dublin, when his bike was struck on the A55 – causing devastating injuries, magistrates at Caernarfon were told.
Today, barrister Simon Killeen, for Jones, said: “It would be inhuman not to have a huge sense of humility and sympathy for the victim in this case.”
But Jones was of good character, had serious health concerns, back calculations suggested he would have been well under the drink-drive limit, and careless driving didn’t carry a prison term.
Mr Killeen said there had been “conflation of penalties” by the original court.
Recorder Neil Owen-Casey, sitting with two magistrates, allowed the appeal.
He said it seemed the sentence imposed had been in light of the gravity of the injuries and impact on Mr O’Reilly, who heard the appeal hearing on a video link.
There is no specific offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
Richard Edwards, counsel for the prosecution, said the collision occurred on the night of September 19.
Mr O’Reilly had left his London home on his bike the previous day, heading to Dublin to see his parents.
“He’s an experienced cyclist and it was a journey he had undertaken previously,” Mr Edwards said.
Some witnesses recalled clearly seeing him in his bright yellow jacket on the A55 while others indicated they had some difficulty until the last moment. The bike had lights.
Major O’Reilly, who’d become a successful business consultant, said in an impact statement that he had been “left for dead on the side of the road.”
He had been taken to hospital at Bangor and then transferred to the major trauma centre at the Royal Stoke University Hospital where he underwent 22 hours of surgery in the first two days.
He had been critically ill for five days with a broken back, protruding leg bone and other injuries and needed a skin graft.
His DNA was on flesh embedded in the damaged Peugeot car.
The major had captained Sandhurst and army rowing crews at Henley.
He branded Jones a “despicable coward” for leaving him and going to a Premier Inn at Holyhead where police found the car.
“My life has changed beyond recognition,” the victim added.
“I am lucky to be alive.”
Mr Edwards said several hours after the collision Jones had given a positive breath test, but blood analysis put him below the alcohol limit. He’d been heading for Ireland, too.
Explaining his health, Mr Killeen said Jones had an “old” high level of drinking.