Pastor who left cyclist paralysed ‘wishes to reach out to say sorry’
A Christian pastor who left a cyclist paralysed with "life-changing injuries" wants to meet her victim to say sorry "face to face", a court heard yesterday.
Defence counsel Neil Moore told Antrim Magistrates Court that Elaine Adu (47) "struggles on a daily basis to accept the fact that as a result of her driving, a person has been left with life changing injuries".
The cyclist she hit, Mark Millar, suffered a fractured spine and has been left paralysed from the waist down, needing a wheelchair.
Mr Moore revealed that now the case is over, Adu "hopes a day will come when she can actually meet Mr Millar and apologise face to face".
"She's a decent, honest, law abiding citizen who will never get over the fact that she has caused life changing injuries...and she wants to reach out, face to face, and say 'I'm sorry for what happened'," said the experienced counsel.
Adu spoke outside court shortly after Deputy District Judge Liam McStay ordered her to complete 80 hours community service and imposed a year-long driving ban.
An emotional Adu said: "I'm just truly sorry for the Millar family. I pray for him, I pray for his wife and his family everyday."
Although appearing on the court list as Elaine Oliver, the court heard that Adu is her married name.
At an earlier hearing Adu, originally from Scotland but now living at Greenvale Manor in Antrim, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily injury to Mr Millar by driving without due care and attention on the Lisnevenagh Road on June 10 last year and to having a defective tyre.
Yesterday a prosecuting lawyer outlined how Mr Millar was taking part in a 100-mile time trial cycle race that Sunday morning when he was stuck by Adu's car.
Both Adu and Mr Millar had been heading towards Ballymena when his bike ended up under the car and he struck the bonnet.
The lawyer said officers who arrived at the scene could see Mr Millar had sustained a spinal injury and the cyclist is now "paralysed from the waist down".
Police who examined Adu's car discovered that the front near side tyre was balding over its shoulder but the court heard that forensic engineers do not consider that to have been a contributing factor.
The PPS lawyer said while the day was overcast, it was day light, the road was dry and there was no issue over sunlight dazzling drivers.
Adu was breathalysed and her phone and iPad were seized but all findings were negative.
According to estimations, the PPS lawyer said Adu had been travelling at around 50mph and Mr Millar at around 25mph on the busy dual carriageway.
The pastor told officers in interviews "she couldn't explain how it occurred".
Lodging an impassioned plea in mitigation for Adu, a pastor at the Christ Embassy Church in Belfast, Mr Moore described it as a "truly, truly tragic case" which was at the higher end of road traffic cases that could be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
He said given the fact that Adu had not been drinking, there were no issues with her eyesight, she wasn't on medication that would affect her driving and she hadn't been using her phone or tablet, "there's quite simply no reason for this to have happened...but she accepts that she caused life changing injuries to someone she simply did not see".
The lawyer told the court that "through other sources, we have been made aware that Mr Millar is progressing considerably well".
Turning to Adu, he said the pre-sentence probation report "is exactly what I would have expected" for a pastor who had children and a completely clear record.
Mr Moore said it was his submission that while obviously significant harm had been caused, there was low culpability on Adu's part and the case "does not pass the custody threshold".
"I'm being very careful not to down play in any regard the tragedy that's befallen the Millar family," said Mr Moore adding that Adu, "is a lady who has shown immense remorse from the outset". Deputy District Judge Liam McStay said it was his view the case fell somewhere between the lower end of momentary inattention and borderline dangerous driving at the higher end of the scale.
Highlighting that Mr Millar "suffered terrible injuries," the judge said the case "could not make it more plain to members of the public that we have to share the road and have to be aware of each other".
"It causes me great difficulty that we have this situation where injury has been caused to a man on a piece of metal by a vehicle, whilst perfectly legal, coming at speed into contact with him," said the judge.
He told Adu while she had "not tried to make any excuses," she had no real explanation for the accident which came about as a result of a situation which "one can readily imagine that most people driving in the road encounter".
Judge McStay also told her she "could not present to the court in a more wholesome way", however he added, "I have to bear in mind" how seriously injured Mr Millar was in the accident "and that cyclists need the protection of the court".
"I consider that in all the circumstances the public is best served by you paying back into the community, in your skilled way, by way of unpaid work," said Judge McStay. "It's a tragic case - a tragic case for you Mrs Adu, but it's Mr Millar that we have to reflect on at the end of all this," he told the defendant.
Adu was also fined £50 for the defective tyre.