A cyclist was left with broken bones and a punctured lung after being rammed off the road by a VW driver.
But Thomas Robinson, 28, the driver of the Golf hatchback that struck the cyclist, was spared an immediate prison sentence yesterday after Judge Jason Taylor QC heard the man’s autism played a part in his actions.
Prosecutor Kaj Scarsbrook told Swindon Crown Court the victim had been out cycling on his road bike on Sunday, July 30, 2017. He had reached Malmesbury at around 11.40am and planned to stop for a coffee.
As he pedalled down St Dennis Lane in the town centre, Robinson’s VW Golf pulled out in front of him. The cyclist shouted at the car, then passed comment as he continued cycling alongside Robinson’s Golf on the two-lane street.
The cyclist turned right onto the High Street and, as the Golf had been in the lane to turn left, assumed the car had gone in the opposite direction.
Mr Scarsbrook said: “Halfway along the High Street he heard a loudly revving engine behind him. He heard the squealing of tyres and felt himself being propelled forwards.”
Robinson had rammed the bicycle from behind, tossing the cyclist into the car’s windscreen and over the roof.
The driver said he had “panicked”. He continued down the street, hitting a parked silver Peugeot then a red Toyota. He turned left onto Gloucester Street and struck a wall. A witness described the Golf going at a high speed, with a smashed windscreen and a “wheel that looked as though it was about to fall off”. The hatchback finally came to a halt at the junction of Bristol Street and Foxley Road after he hit a lamppost and wall.
Mr Scarsbrook said: “The Crown say this was a short incident with a prolonged aftermath of bad driving.”
Police arrived and tested him for drugs and alcohol, both of which proved negative.
The cyclist was taken to hospital. He had a punctured lung that was leaking oxygen into his chest, had broken his right collarbone and a number of ribs and had badly grazed his legs.
Interviewed by the police two and a half months after the incident, Robinson claimed he had stalled his car a number of times. The cyclist had gesticulated at him, he said. He was still in first gear as he accelerated towards the bike. After hitting him he had panicked and fled. He had not intended to harm the man, he told detectives.
Defending, Simon Goodman told the court his client suffered from a number of mental disorders, including autism. His mental disorders had played a part in the offence.
He asked the judge to consider suspending any prison sentence Robinson received. “That would be the constructive and appropriate way forward so the work identified in so many places in the material before your honour can start to happen and the risks to everybody – not least to Mr Robinson himself – can be addressed.”
Mr Goodman said there had been delay during which his client had not been in trouble.
Robinson, of Tetbury Road, Sherston, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He had previously faced charges of wounding with intent and dangerous driving. Six trial dates had been set down then later adjourned.
Swindon Crown Court Picture: ADVER PHOTOGRAPHER
His case was the first for which the judge used new mental disorders sentencing guidelines, which came into force last month, to inform his approach to sentencing. The guidelines allow judges to consider how a defendant’s offending had been affected by their mental health conditions.
Judge Jason Taylor QC told Robinson the offence he faced carried a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. “This case is a particularly serious example of its type. Had somebody without your mental health disorders been sentenced three years and three months after the event the sentence after trial would have been four years.
“Giving you a third reduction on that because of your mental health disorder because it’s directly related to why you drove as you did, then giving you a further third credit for plea that brings the sentence down to 21 months.”
There was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation, the judge said. Robinson’s 21 month prison sentence was suspended for two years. He must do 250 hours of unpaid work and up to 60 rehabilitation activity days.
The defendant, who voluntarily gave up driving two years ago, was also banned for two years. He must pass an extended retest if he wishes to regain his licence.