By LUKE SALKELD
PUBLISHED: 12:00 EST, 19 December 2013 | UPDATED: 19:30 EST, 19 December 2013
The Facts of the Situation
- Philip Benwell, 38, knocked over Leila Crofts as she used a zebra crossing
- He left the scene as she was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries
- Cyclist pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and was jailed
- Leila, now 10, from Dorset, is making a good recovery from her injuries
Philip Benwell, 38, who left a girl of nine fighting for her life after knocking her down on a pedestrian crossing has been jailed for 12 months
A cyclist who knocked down a schoolgirl and left her for dead after jumping a red light at 30mph has been jailed for a year.
Philip Benwell, 38, smashed into nine-year-old Leila Crofts as she stepped on to a pedestrian crossing.
As she lay unconscious with a fractured skull, he climbed back on his bike and left the scene.
The cyclist had been speeding downhill with his ‘head down and bottom raised off the seat’ just as Leila and her au pair reached the crossing.
Although the traffic lights were showing red, Benwell failed to stop and he was forced to try and swerve at the last moment when he realised he was about to hit Leila.
But he failed, and crashed into the schoolgirl, who lives in Sandbanks, Dorset.
She was thrown into the air and suffered a fractured skull when she landed in the road.
She spent 14 days in intensive care, and although she is said to be recovering, she still suffers problems with her vision and memory.
Benwell was initially charged with causing grievous bodily harm by ‘wanton and furious cycling’ under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. The charge, which he admitted, was later changed to causing GBH.
Judge Peter Johnson said Benwell had been ‘callous and selfish’ when he failed to stop.
He told the cyclist: ‘You were cycling at high speed. It’s clear that the light must have been red for a few seconds before you went through that crossing.
‘You went through that crossing so you did not have to brake and stop so you could use your momentum to get up the hill on the other side.
‘Having struck this little girl you callously picked up your bike and carried on your journey leaving her lying unconscious in the road.
‘This fractured her skull and shattered her family’s life in one instant.’
The judge continued: ‘Miss Canibano [the au pair] was blameless, Leila was blameless. You are the only one who is to blame.
‘This was an incredibly selfish criminal act.’
Leila, whose father Darren Crofts is a company director, was being taken to the beach for the afternoon in July when she crossed the road at Branksome Chine.
Referring to the motorist travelling behind Benwell, prosecutor Carolyn Branford-Wood said: ‘He said the driver on the cycle was somewhat erratic and very fast with the rider having his head down and his bottom raised from the seat.’
Leila, who is now ten, was rushed to Poole Hospital and then on to Southampton Hospital with a serious brain bleed.
Miss Branford-Wood told Bournemouth Crown Court that Benwell handed himself in to police the next day.
She said: ‘He was asked what speed he thought he was travelling as he went down the hill and he thought it was about 30mph. Benwell said he was braking and that he was trying to take evasive action.’
The court was told Benwell had shown an incredible degree of remorse and that he feels he deserves to be punished.
Yesterday Leila’s mother Chanine Boulton, who owns a pre-school and day nursery, said: ‘After the accident we feared she may have been left with disabilities but she is doing incredibly well.
‘She had to re-learn how to walk and read music, which she has now done.’
Sadly no cyclists assembled to protest the situation as they might if a cyclist had been struck by a motorist. No one from their version of the Active Transportation Alliance shot off a letter to the editor to complain about the “lack of pedestrian infrastructure“. It certainly did not happen here or in San Francisco when a cyclist killed a pedestrian. You could have driven a truck through the gaping silence that came out of the Active Transportation Alliance offices when a 70-year old woman was struck down by a teenager on a bicycle in a park. She later died (as did the fellow in San Francisco) from brain trauma. So sad!
But cyclists continue to act as if their now disproven mantra is true, “Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t“. No cyclists bothered to organize a court-room watch to make certain that this cyclist got what was coming to him. Instead they hid and hoped it all would go away.