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'Pathetic' reparation for cyclists

Stuff.co.nz: 'Pathetic' reparation for cyclists

By ALASTAIR BULL - NZPA Last updated 18:57 17/02/2010

A friend of four cyclists knocked down by a young woman driver on a popular Auckland waterfront road last year has described the reparations she has been ordered to pay as "pathetic".

Jennifer Lee Speakman, 20, was disqualified from driving for six months and ordered to pay $1000 reparation to each of the cyclists she bowled over on Tamaki Drive when sentenced in Auckland District Court today.

She had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of careless driving causing injury following the incident, on September 26 last year.

One cyclist, Greg Paterson, received critical injuries including a fractured skull, swelling to the brain and bleeding into his spinal fluid. He still has pain and problems with balance.

The other three received lesser injuries, among them a broken patella and cracks to vertebrae in the neck.

Speakman wept as Judge Eddie Paul outlined the injuries the cyclists received.

He said Speakman failed to see the cyclists when she drove out of Cliff Road, into Tamaki Drive.

He agreed with Speakman's lawyer Frank Hogan that her culpability in law was low, as she had no previous charges, was not speeding, had not otherwise driven erratically and not taken alcohol or drugs.

However, Judge Paul also said the consequences of what Mr Hogan said was a moment's inattention was "all too obvious".

Speakman's insurance will cover the loss of property suffered by the cyclists, but reparation for emotional harm was up to the judge and he ordered she pay $1000 to each victim but no fine.

The cyclists did not wish to speak after the court hearing but a spokesman for them, John Carter, said they were upset with the sentence.

"The charge of careless driving causing injury has a minimum penalty of loss of licence, maximum of $4500 and three months of prison. I have to ask, what would it take for someone to receive the maximum penalty allowable?"

Mr Carter said he didn't think imprisonment would have been the right sentence, "but I think the reality is that their financial losses are substantial and $1000 reparation per victim is pathetic".

Though Speakman pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, Mr Carter said the cyclists were disappointed the only apologies she delivered were a few words through her lawyer and a verbal apology passed to Mr Paterson via police some months ago.

He said he hoped New Zealand drivers would think more carefully about other road users following this incident.

Speakman did not comment after the sentencing.

The collision prompted a road user safety forum to be set up to look at ways of improving safety on Tamaki Drive, a 10km stretch of road along the Waitemata Harbour waterfront which is the busiest cycle route in Auckland.

Initiatives identified by the forum and Auckland City Council led to the council announcing today that it had committed up to $455,000 to improve safety along Tamaki Drive.

Council road safety spokesman John Lister urged more than 600 cyclists who attended a breakfast to announce the measures to ensure they did not ride through red lights.

"Council has heard first-hand from pedestrians who have been hit by cyclists running red lights along the waterfront, so it's timely to remind all road users that the rules are there for everyone's safety."