A 72 YEAR old black cab driver found guilty at the Old Bailey of causing death by careless driving of a motorbike pillion passenger was consoled by the family of the victim after he was given a non-custodial sentence.
The court heard that Jerome Lee had picked up a family of four and was taking them to their home in Farringdon Road at around 8:45pm on 21 February 2017.
The jury was told that Lee had made a U-turn near to a junction with Clerkenwell Road and crashed into the path of an oncoming speeding Ducati motorcycle.
Rider Shaun Hoffman was thrown to the ground and survived but passenger Claire Beretti was thrown a “considerable distance” and suffered serious head injuries. She was declared dead at the scene.
Mother-of-two Jessenia Gonzalez was in the back of Lee’s silver taxi with her husband and children and told the court in a statement that Lee had appeared to move his head to check for traffic before performing a U-turn.
Describing the collision she said: “There was a screeching of brakes and a loud crunch and I knew right away that we had hit something. I remember seeing the girl somersaulting through the air like a gymnast. She flew so high, turning and then landing.”
Prosecution counsel Joel Smith told the jury:
At the time that the defendant decided to turn around and perform a U-turn, a red Ducati motorcycle was travelling in the other direction nearby, going up the Farringdon Road.
Traffic lights at the junction were staggered and at the time the defendant performed a U-turn, the traffic lights at the junction were showing red to him but green to northbound traffic.
“Given what was said by the defendant at the scene, he appears he incorrectly assumed the lights were showing red in both directions and that he would be able to perform a U-turn without running into oncoming traffic. He was wrong and the prosecution say he was careless.”
The jury heard that Mr Hoffman was riding his bike at 40mph – twice the speed limit – and that he was prosecuted for speeding and pled guilty. The court was also told that the tinted visor on his crash helmet was illegal. Mr Hoffman said he had not been aware of this.
Lee denied causing death by careless driving but was found guilty by a majority verdict of 10-2. He received a non-custodial 12 month community sentence.