AN UNINSURED motorist drove on and left a Sandhurst-trained Irish Guards major – turned successful business consultant – fighting for his life on a dual carriageway, a court heard yesterday (June 6).
Cathal O’Reilly had cycled for 32 hours from London and was five miles from Holyhead port in Anglesey, where he planned to catch a ferry to Dublin, when his bike was struck on the A55 – causing devastating injuries, magistrates were told.
William Jones, 61, unemployed, of Goodman Street, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was also heading to Ireland on September 19.
Jones admitted failing to stop in his Peugeot 207 at Valley after the accident, failing to report it, being uninsured, and careless driving.
Magistrates at Caernarfon jailed him for 12 weeks, and a 12-month driving ban will start on his release for failing to stop and report what happened.
Court chairman Richard Farmer told him: “This is something which has changed Major O’Reilly’s life and we feel the only appropriate punishment is prison.”
Bail was refused pending an appeal against the sentence to the Crown Court.
There is no specific offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
Prosecutor Diane Williams said a woman had been driving near Valley at 8.25pm when she saw what she thought was rubbish at first.
She then realised it was the cyclist and there was debris from the car.
Major O’Reilly’s breathing was “difficult”, his face was covered in blood, and his helmet had come off.
The prosecutor said a nurse had also stopped at the scene and emergency services were called.
Major O’Reilly 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.
Mrs Williams said his DNA was on the Peugeot car.
The major had captained an army rowing crew at Henley.
He branded Jones a “despicable coward” for leaving him and noted that Jones had the money to pay for an hotel and ferry ticket yet didn’t insure the car.
“My life has changed beyond recognition,” the victim added.
Police found Jones at a Premier Inn at Holyhead and he was under the influence of alcohol, said the prosecution.
He gave a positive breath test but claimed post-driving drinking.
Chris Dawson, defending, said: “Mr Jones, while driving on the A55, failed to notice the presence of Major O’Reilly on his cycle and accepts there was a collision which left Major O’Reilly with the devastating injuries.
“It’s a really sad case.”
The solicitor said Jones thought he’d hit a bollard.
He was horrified when told what had happened by the police.
Mr Dawson said there was a proposed new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, carrying a jail term, but it hadn’t been introduced yet.
Had Jones stopped, then the court would have a maximum penalty of a fine and ban.
“He would dispute he knowingly left Major O’Reilly on the road,” the solicitor added.