Driver spared prison after killing motorcyclist due to 'genuine mistake'

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A judge has ruled a crash that killed a motorcyclist a "genuine mistake", caused by an "error of judgement" on behalf of the driver involved.

Sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge Patricia Lynch accepted Francisco Javier Ayala's guilty of causing death by careless driving plea, following the crash on September 16 last year, which killed biker Derek Benad-Smith.

Originally, Mexican-born Ayala pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. However, he changed his plea on the day of the trial.

Ayala told the court that he believed he was travelling on a one-way road when he collided with Benad-Smith's BMW motorcycle at 10pm, causing the biker to fly into his windscreen.

The 52-year-old construction project-planner died later that night from the injuries sustained in the crash on Honey Lane, Waltham Abbey.

Judge Lynch accepted that the road had no proper signage, and the road markings were so faded that they were 'invisible'.

She imposed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered him to pay £2,800 prosecution costs. Ayala was also disqualified from driving in the UK for 12 months.

Speaking to the defendant, Lynch said: "You have accepted that you caused the death but the death was a consequence of a genuine mistake.

"I have read the experts' reports from both sides which demonstrate that that genuine mistake was due to the unusual width of the carriageway of this particular piece of road, through the lack of proper signage and due to the absence of visible road markings.

"The experts said the condition of the central lines and cats' eyes was so poor as to render them invisible to the driver in the prevailing conditions which were a wet road and the glare from the street lights. It was simply an error of judgement."

Benad-Smith left behind three sons and his partner of four years, Peggy Stephanou.

In a statement, she commented: "All our dreams and plans gone in an instant. How he died was horrific. He was a strong, active man who loved life to the full. To see him broken and knowing he was lucid.... will haunt me for the rest of my life."