A DRIVER who killed one of England’s top veteran cyclists when he ploughed into him during a road race in North Yorkshire has been spared jail after a court heard how his brief lapse of concentration led to a devastating accident that “could have happened to anybody”.
Leonard Grayson, 75, died instantly when he was hit during a 100-mile time trial along the A19 near Thirsk.
Peter Barraclough admitted causing his death by careless driving after he took his eyes off the road for a matter of seconds when a lorry on the opposite carriageway caught his attention.
Barraclough, 30, from East Cowton near Northallerton, initially thought he had hit a bird before he stopped, looked in his mirror and realised he had careered into Mr Grayson, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, described the incident last August as “an extremely tragic road traffic accident”.
He said Mr Grayson, who lived in Garforth, West Yorkshire with Kathleen, his wife of 49 years, was “by all accounts, a remarkable man who belied his years”.
“In his younger years he was a nationally-renowned amateur cyclist winning many cups and trophies,” he said.
Mr Grayson, who has a daughter, gave up cycling in the 1960s to spend time with his family but returned to the sport in the 1980s and rekindled his success, the court heard.
“He regained national recognition, this time as a veteran rider,” Mr Makepeace added.
He said the “passionate” cyclist took part in 100-mile-plus races against men half his age and “had many friends in the cycling world and was clearly very well respected”.
When he died he had completed 83 miles of the “gruelling” 100-mile route at an average speed of more than 20mph - a feat the judge described as “an amazing capacity for a man of his age”.
Barraclough had been working in nearby Topcliffe and was driving his Alfa Romeo along the A19 within the speed limit shortly before the accident, the court was told.
“There’s no evidence to suggest Mr Barraclough was speeding,” Mr Makepeace said.
He added that signs were in place warning motorists of the event, which Barraclough later told police he had seen.
Police accident investigators said Barraclough would have seen Mr Grayson for at least nine seconds.
But the defendant admitted he had been looking at a low loader lorry on the opposite carriageway just before the crash, the court was told.
“Mr Grayson was quite simply there to be seen but it’s equally apparent Mr Barraclough clearly didn’t see him,” Mr Makepeace said.
“He drove his car into the rear of the cycle, causing the bike and rider to go over the roof, smashing the windscreen.”
Other motorists stopped to help, including a doctor, but “it was clear nothing could be done for Mr Grayson”, Mr Makepeace said.
“All of the evidence shows that Mr Grayson died instantaneously at the point of collision. There could not have been any suffering. He could not have been aware of what happened.
“It’s plain that the loss to Mr Grayson’s friends and family is absolutely incalculable.”
Barraclough went into shock as he stood beside the road, “crying out in anguish”, he said and was heard to say “it was a split-second thing. I’m going to jail”.
Mr Grayson was wearing a helmet, high-visibility clothing and had an LED light on the back of his bike, the court heard.
There was no evidence to suggest Barraclough was using a mobile phone or was under the influence of drink or drugs.
He admitted the offence during police interviews and pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
Ian West, who represented Barraclough, told Mr Grayson’s family, who were in court: “On behalf of Peter Barraclough, can I express his sincere condolences to Kathleen Grayson and her family?
“He could not be more remorseful. He is a decent man, a hard-working man. His life is scarred by this tragic accident as well, as I’m sure Mr Grayson’s family understands.”
Mr West said it was a horrific accident and a case of “there but for the grace of God go I”, adding: “It’s the sort of accident that could happen to anybody.
“Nothing will take from Peter Barraclough the fact he will have to live for the rest of his with the knowledge that he killed a man.”
Judge Peter Bowers said Barraclough was a “decent”, “outstanding” man whose brief error had led to a terrible tragedy that has scarred so many lives.
He described Mr Grayson as “one of the best top veterans in this country” and said: “It is clearly a devastating life-shattering event for his family.
“There are always two tragedies in cases like this. By far the greatest is the victim of this.”
He told Barraclough, who has no criminal history: “You’re intelligent, decent and, from the reports and evidence I have seen, an outstanding young man.
But he added: “Your driving did, in my judgment, fall substantially below what was acceptable.”
He decided not to jail Barraclough immediately, but gave him a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to do 250 hours of unpaid work.
He also banned him from driving for 18 months.