A MINIBUS driver who “ploughed” into a cyclist while looking at pictures on his phone was jailed for five years after he was yesterday found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
Andrzej Wojcicki, 45, of Conway Court, Blackwood, had been taking photos of vintage cars as he drove along the A472 near Newbridge up to half a mile before the fatal collision with Oakdale cyclist Owain Richard James, 30.
Judge David Wynn Morgan said after the verdict that he was “sure” Wojcicki had been distracted by viewing the images he had just taken.
A jury of nine women and three men took two hours and forty minutes to return a unanimous guilty verdict at Cardiff Crown Court.
Judge Morgan said: “The use of a mobile phone to examine images while driving is every bit as dangerous as texting. You were driving a three tonne minibus – Mr James didn’t stand a chance.”
“Nothing can return Mr James to his loved ones or assuage their grief. The court can only seek to impose a sentence which accords with the gravity of this offence.”
Wojcicki was driving his Mercedes minibus home from Coventry where he had attended a Jehovah’s Witnesses conference with his wife and two daughters.
Judge Morgan added: “The evidence led the jury to conclude you were paying little if any attention to the road in front of you. You were in a left hand drive vehicle on the same side of the road as Mr James. It’s a two lane dual carriageway. The weather was good. Visibility was excellent. Traffic was light. If you had been looking, you could not have failed to have been aware of the presence of Mr James and taken care to drive in a way that would not have brought your vehicle into contact with him.”
Looking at pictures on his phone could be “the only explanation for you driving on following the collision”, he said. “You simply did not know what had happened. It plainly took time for the realisation to sink in and for you to bring your vehicle to a halt.”
He said a description given by an eyewitness of Wojckick “ploughing” into the cyclist was graphic, but in his judgement accurate.
Wojcicki showed no signs of emotion as the judge read out the verdict.
Lord Harley, defending, said this was his client’s first offence and he had a “long history of exemplary driving”. During the trial he had maintained that the cyclist swerved into the path of Wojcicki, giving him little time to react. He added that Wojcicki ‘s failure to slow down immediately could have been because he was traumatised by shock.
Wojcicki was sentenced to five years in prison and banned from driving in the UK for ten years. He will have to retake his test before being allowed back on the road. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120.