Belfast Telegraph

Head-on smash biker should not have been on road, says judge

Remorse: Keith Johnson
Remorse: Keith Johnson

By Paul Higgins

A motorcyclist who caused a head-on crash with another motorbike causing serious injuries to its pillion passenger has been jailed.

Keith Johnson was sentenced to seven-and-a-half months in prison yesterday.

Ordering Johnson to spend the same period on licence, Newry Crown Court judge Gordon Kerr QC told the 27-year-old that while he accepted his remorse was genuine, "this was an extremely bad piece of driving by someone who should not have been on the road at all".

Also imposing a two-year driving ban, the judge added that by overtaking on a bend where "he could not have safely seen what was coming in the opposite direction", he had caused serious injuries to Maurice Dowd.

Mr Dowd was the pillion passenger on his friend's bike as they drove along the Aughnacloy Road in Banbridge.

When Johnson crashed into them overtaking on a blind bend, he was thrown into a hedge and had to be airlifted to hospital. The court heard last week that he suffered multiple fractures, "had to learn how to walk again", and had to use a metal Zimmer frame for a time.

Johnson, from Bannview Heights in Banbridge, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily injury to Mr Dowd by driving dangerously on the Aughnacloy Road on April 8 last year.

He also admitted riding a motorcycle without insurance.

Prosecuting counsel Geraldine McCullough told the court that at about 4pm that day Johnson's motorbike was in the process of overtaking a van when Mr Totten riding the other bike "encountered the defendant on the wrong side of the road".

Both Mr Totten and Johnson braked and tried to avoid the collision, but both moved closer to the hedge and they impacted, leaving Mr Dowd lying in the hedge badly injured.

Johnson admitted he had been driving without insurance and conceded that he made "a bad judgment call to overtake" on a part of the road where he had a restricted view ahead.

Defence counsel Justin Byrne urged the court not to jail Johnson as there would be "absolutely no benefit to society" in doing so.

Judge Kerr said despite Johnson's guilty plea, good character and clear remorse, which he had set out in a "moving personal letter" to the judge, he could not find any exceptional circumstances that would allow him to suspend the jail sentence.

As Johnson was taken to the cells, he told his parents in the public gallery: "I love you."

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