Learner driver from Bristol killed cyclist during car manoeuvre
A TRIP to buy fish and chips led to tragedy when a cyclist was killed by a learner driver.
Mikael Rodriguez was having a lesson with his mum in Hillside Road, St George, when he dropped her off at a shop to collect some food, Bristol Magistrates' Court heard.
He turned the car around on his own but as he did so, 48-year-old James Bowen came out of a junction on a bike and collided with the Vauxhall Astra.
Mr Bowen died several days later as a result of his injuries and the driver was charged with causing death by driving while unlicensed.
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Rodriguez, of Goffenton Drive, Fishponds, pleaded guilty to the offence and was given an eight-week curfew.
The 26-year-old was also disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay £85 costs.
But Mr Bowen's family, who attended court yesterday, said the sentence was "disgusting".
His aunt, Rosemary Hurley, said: "He walked away with a silly sentence. He's killed somebody.
"James' mum has lost a son, and her husband just before that. I think it's disgusting."
Causing death by driving while unlicensed is a relatively new offence that came into law two years ago.
Even if the driver is not believed to be at fault, he or she can be charged with the offence. A similar charge can be brought if a driver involved in a fatal accident was disqualified or had no insurance.
The maximum sentence the charge can attract is two years in prison but jail sentences are only generally given when there are aggravating factors, such as failing to stop after the accident or previous motoring convictions.
Eight members of the two families involved sat at the back of court, including Mr Bowen's mother, her two sisters and their husbands and the defendant's mother and sister.
The incident happened at around 6pm on October 24 last year, the court heard.
May Li, prosecuting, said: "Mr Rodriguez had dropped his mum at a nearby shop, and he was driving unaccompanied.
"His mum owns the car and he is a named driver but is a provisional licence holder, so should have been accompanied at the time.
"There were cars parked on either side of the road, and the Astra approached the entrance to a junction on the left-hand side.
"Mr Bowen emerged from the junction almost at a right angle, and the cycle was travelling on the wrong side of the road. Vision was obscured by a legally parked van."
The court heard that Rodriguez braked but Mr Bowen hit the car and suffered serious injuries, from which he died several days later.
A police investigation followed, which showed the Astra was driving at not less than 33mph in a 30mph zone.
The collision was unavoidable, the investigating officer said, and there were no defects on the car.
Rodriguez had one previous, unrelated offence from 11 years ago, the court heard. He is unemployed but used to work in security.
Mark Linehan, defending, said: "There is nothing I can say today to bring comfort to the
family of Mr Bowen.
"If Mr Rodriguez could turn the clock back, he would. Every day since he's thought of little else.
"He was not in any way at fault for this accident. He remained at the scene, he co-operated fully with the police.
"Following that incident he's never sat in the driver seat of a vehicle again."