A wagon driver has pleaded guilty to causing an elderly cyclist’s death by careless driving — after it emerged his previous admission of the offence did not amount to a formal conviction.
Neil Gass, 47, was driving a lorry towing a log-laden trailer on the A689 Carlisle bypass roundabout, on March 29 2018, when he struck 71-year-old Mike Seminara as he rode an electric pedal cycle on the same roundabout.
Gass denied causing Mr Seminara’s death by dangerous driving and was acquitted by a jury on that charge following a trial at the city’s crown court early last year. He had admitted causing death by careless driving earlier in the court proceedings.
But after a date for Gass’s sentencing on that lesser charge was listed, all parties in the case became aware there was no formal conviction before the court.
After the prosecution brought a fresh charge of causing death by careless driving, Gass’s legal team sought to have proceedings curtailed.
His barrister, Lisa Judge, submitted during a crown court hearing earlier this year it would be an “abuse of process” to proceed, and used double jeopardy-style legislation known as “autrefois acquit” to claim the trucker had been ”in peril” of conviction for the lesser offence during jury deliberations.
But those submissions were rejected by Judge Nicholas Barker, who sat again on the case this morning as Gass appeared remotely over a video link and pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.
During his trial, Gass had accepted making a “careless assumption” in a “split second” that keen cyclist Mr Seminara, of Wetheral, was planning to take the second Cargo roundabout exit. It emerged the cyclist was intending instead to take the third.
Ms Judge had asked Gass as he gave evidence: “Do you accept that the standard of your driving fell below that of a careful and competent driver. On that day?”
Gass, of Prior Avenue, Canonbie, replied: “Yes, I do.”
He also told jurors he was “so sorry” and “absolutely devastated” by the tragedy.
“That will live with me for the rest of my life, that decision,” he said. “That’s something I will never get over. I won’t.”
Gass is due to be sentenced at the crown court on July 1.
He was handed an interim driving ban in the meantime, Judge Barker telling him: “The precise duration of the disqualification period will be determined by the judge on the date of sentence.”