Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland cancer specialist Windrum forgiven for fatal car crash in Isle of Man

Cancer specialist Philip Windrum killed Kevin Baker in a collision on the Isle of Man
Cancer specialist Philip Windrum killed Kevin Baker in a collision on the Isle of Man
Kevin Baker

By Jon Harris

A top Northern Ireland doctor who killed a retired policeman in a road accident is to keep his job after the dead man's widow issued a heartfelt plea for mercy, saying she had forgiven him.

Cancer specialist Philip Windrum was visiting the Isle of Man for the annual TT races when the collision happened.

Windrum (49), from Dundonald, pulled out of a side road in his car and veered into the path of oncoming motorcyclist Kevin Baker.

Mr Baker (69) attempted to take evasive action but ploughed into Windrum's Nissan Juke and suffered multiple fatal injuries in the impact. He was airlifted to hospital but died that evening.

Last year Windrum, a consultant haemotologist who works at Antrim Area Hospital, was convicted of causing death by careless driving but was spared jail and ordered to complete 100 hours community service after a judge accepted the doctor had made an "error of judgment".

He was also banned from driving for a year and ordered to take a retest.

The case came before a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) in Manchester last week.

Windrum, who is chairman of the Northern Ireland Cancer Network, faced possible career ruin after his fitness to practise medicine was found to be impaired.

But a disciplinary panel instead suspended him for a month after reading a letter from Mr Baker's widow Kathryn calling for Windrum not to be punished.

In her letter addressed to Dr Windrum himself, Mrs Baker said the doctor was "in her prayers", and added: "I express my extreme sadness at the outcome of this tribunal.

"I cannot understand why you should be punished twice and I pray for the minimum sanction possible.

"We miss my husband. He loved his bikes and he lived for them. He died doing what he loved, at a time he loved, on an island he loved."

The tragedy occurred on June 4, 2017, when Dr Windrum was on his 16th visit to the TT motorcycle sports event and had been watching the racing from a farm with his father Norman.

When the road reopened to traffic after the racing finished, Windrum pulled out of a farm track and was turning right on to the A3 when Mr Baker, who had also been watching the races, suddenly appeared ahead over the crest of a hill.

Eyewitnesses said Mr Baker slammed on the brakes on his Yamaha machine and tried to veer away, but only had two seconds to react and went into the side of Windrum's car.

A biker travelling behind Mr Baker was also injured when he collided with the Yamaha as he applied the brakes.

Windrum, who denied careless driving, said he had checked the road in both directions before emerging from the track and insisted there was nothing in the road as he pulled out.

He said: "The first thing I saw was a helmet. It was a considerable distance from me at this stage. I thought I had sufficient time to complete my manoeuvre and get into the right-hand lane."

He described the impact as "feeling like an explosion" and thought he and his father, who was in the front passenger seat, were going to die.

Windrum's lawyer Matthew McDonagh told the hearing: "The doctor's seniority in the trust must be taken into account in this case.

"A sanction against him will have an impact upon the (health) trust and patients in Northern Ireland.

"There are 1.7 million people through the country - 500,000 are covered by the trust.

"His work stretches from northern Belfast to the north coast and Mid-Ulster to Belfast and what happens to him will have a real impact on that trust to serve its patients and provide patient care."

He added: "Something did happen and the consequences were catastrophic and he will accept that and never forget that but this was a momentary lapse in the doctor's judgment."

Mr McDonagh continued: "The response of the deceased's widow when she knew of the impairment outcome was that it can't be good for him to continue with this hanging over his head and she said he was in her prayers.

"Her personal and heartfelt letter showed considerable kindness towards the doctor."

Sarah Donaldson, who works for Macmillan Cancer Support in Belfast, told the hearing: "Dr Windrum told me about the driving incident in 2017, but from my perspective, there has been no impact on his work.

"He has gone over and above what is required of somebody in his position, from a personal point.

"You can see the hurt and pain and it's obviously had an impact on him and his family, but it's had no impact on his role. I felt sorry for him and his family."

MPTS panel chairman Mrs Claire Sharp said Mrs Baker was "clearly very understanding" but rejected pleas for no action to be taken against the doctor.

She added: "Her views were undoubtedly uncommon, given Dr Windrum's actions resulted in the death of her husband, but did not in themselves constitute an exceptional circumstance to justify taking no action.

"Further, it noted evidence regarding the additional pressure suspending Dr Windrum from practice may cause his colleagues and the potential negative impact on patient waiting lists and patient care.

"The tribunal considered Dr Windrum's conviction to be a serious offence and determined that a period of suspension would promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession, and promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession in an appropriate, proportionate and least restrictive manner possible.

"It would send a signal that causing death by driving without due care and attention is not consistent with the standards expected from the medical profession."

During Windrum's trial, Mrs Baker submitted another letter which one court official said "showed human compassion beyond anything I have ever experienced".

She said: "From the outset I asked that no prosecution take place in relation to my husband's accident and his subsequent death. It was and remains my belief that nothing the court can do will change the circumstances.

"Dr Windrum made an error of judgment for which both he and I have to live with the devastating consequences.

"I have forgiven him and bear him no malice.

"I therefore ask you to pass no sentence on Dr Windrum. Having to live with this experience must be far worse than any punishment you can give him."

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