Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Cyclist death: Texting van driver 'had six previous offences'

Lee Martin Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Lee Martin was taking part in an organised cycling event in Hampshire

The family of a cyclist killed by a texting driver has hit out at the courts for not banning his killer on six previous court appearances.

Lee Martin, 48, from Basingstoke, died in hospital after he was hit by a Ford Transit van on 12 August 2015.

Christopher Gard, 30, of Alton admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for nine years.

The Martin family said Gard should have faced tougher action for previous offences of using a phone at the wheel.

Father of two Mr Martin was taking part in an organised event on the A31 near Bentley in Hampshire when he was hit by Gard's van.

Image copyright Hampshire Constabularly
Image caption Christopher Gard had been in court six weeks before Lee Martin's death

In a statement, the Martin family said: "The great tragedy about Lee's death is that it was totally avoidable.

"The defendant had been convicted of using his phone at least six times prior to the event.

"Only six weeks before Lee's death he was in front of magistrates pleading hardship if he lost his driving licence. He was, once again, being convicted of using his phone whilst driving and should have been losing his licence due to having too many points.

"Each previous conviction on his licence had been for using his phone whilst driving. The magistrates chose to allow the defendant to keep his licence.

"Whilst Lee's death is clearly the fault of the defendant, we feel that the legal system is somewhat to blame.

"The leniency shown in this case on the defendant, and the lack of understanding of the serious nature of using a phone whilst driving has resulted in Lee Martin's death."

Hampshire Constabulary said Gard was texting immediately prior to the time of the crash.

PC David Mitchell said: "Gard took the decision to send and receive text messages. He remained unaware of the presence of Mr Martin or any other cyclists up to the point of collision."

Gard, who had admitted causing death by dangerous driving, was also banned from driving for 14-and-a-half years at Winchester Crown Court on Monday.

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