Death crash driver back in court

A DRIVER from Wooler who killed his best friend in a road crash less than three years ago has been given 200 hours of unpaid work after admitting driving while disqualified.

Thomas Walsh, 22, of Nesbit Farm Cottages, appeared in court in Berwick last Thursday, where he pleaded guilty to that offence and one of driving without insurance.

In May 2009 Walsh was sent to a young offenders’ institute for a year, serving six months, and was banned from driving for four years after being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

His best friend, James Buckham, 24, also of Wooler, died in a crash when the car driven by Walsh flipped onto its roof just outside the town in June 2008.

Kerry Gate, prosecuting, told magistrates last week that police driving up The Peth in Wooler on March 16 saw Walsh riding an unregistered quad bike, not wearing a helmet.

The officers stopped and arrested him. In interview, he admitted that the quad was not road legal and that he had no insurance and was disqualified from driving.

Mrs Gate said that Walsh told officers that he had planned to push the quad bike to fields and then ride it off-road to his mother’s house, a couple of miles out of the town.

Ian O’Rourke, defending, said his client had been at a friend’s house and added: “In a moment of stupidity, that he knows was wrong, he rode it through the town centre of Wooler.”

Mr O’Rourke said that there was no suggestion Walsh was riding the quad dangerously and said he made a ‘full and frank admission’ to police.

He added that Walsh had undertaken training and education while serving his earlier custodial sentence and now worked as an electrician part-time for his father.

Mr O’Rourke said: “This is a blip for someone who has been doing extremely well.”

Magistrates asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared by Nicola Bridgeman of Northumbria Probation Trust and the case was stood down for a time to allow this to be done.

When brought back before the bench, Miss Bridgeman told the court that Walsh ‘fully identified’ why his actions were wrong and how riding the quad had posed a risk of harm to the community.

She added that there was concern about Walsh’s attitude towards driving and the risk that he could commit further motoring offences.

Miss Bridgeman recommended that a 12-month community order be imposed with a quantity of unpaid work.

Mr O’Rourke added: “He accepts this was an extremely foolish thing to do and accepts that he needs to be punished for it.”

Magistrates agreed to go along with the recommendation and imposed a 12-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work for the offence of driving while disqualified.

For the offence of driving without insurance, Walsh was given six penalty points, fined £140 and ordered to pay costs of £85 and a £15 surcharge.

Walsh will also have to sit an extended driving test to regain his licence, which was imposed following his initial ban.