A motorist who killed a motorcyclist on Christmas Day when she pulled out in front of him has walked free from court.
Susan Gourley’s red Hyundai I3 collided with Michael Crooks’ blue Suzuki CNZR 1600 motorbike in Billingham in 2020 as she made her way home from work.
The 32-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Gourley ignored warning signs in the moments before the fatal crash but felt there was something unusual about the motorcycle which she had spotted before pulling out at the junction of Nelson Avenue onto Belasis Avenue.
Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, said the collision was inevitable once Susan Gourley had crossed over the line of the junction in her car.
He said that Gourley failed to take adequate care to establish the location of the motorcyclist even though she was aware he was on the road after telling police she saw him ‘zig-zagging’ along the road moments before impact.
A statement from the joiner’s family was read out to the court, they said: “Michael Crooks was fit and healthy and became obsessed with motorcycles when he turned 17.
“He was a big family man – he would do anything for his family. Since his death, our family has not been the same.
“He went out on Christmas Day on his motorcycle and never came back. He was our son. He was our gentle giant.”
Mr Crooks was driving at an average speed of 115mph in the final 600m before the crash and was also under the influence of cannabis.
The 54-year-old, of Ellison Street, Jarrow, in South Tyneside, was found guilty of careless driving at a trial at Teesside Crown Court in December.
Stephen Constantine, mitigating, maintained it was a ‘momentary lapse of concentration’ that led to the fatal collision but the judge told him that he did not accept that argument.
Mr Constantine added: “This is an incident that has had a profound effect on her – she lives it every day. She is not somebody that is perceived as having any factors in her life that need addressing. She leads a normal, proper, decent life.”
Judge Jonathan Carroll sentenced the Quorn factory worker to eight months in custody suspended for two years after telling her he had ignored the speed Mr Crooks was travelling and the fact he had cannabis in his system.
He said: “He will be forever loved and missed. It is a tragedy for his family, not just for him, for all the things that they will be deprived of.
“I recognise that you have lived a blameless life. It has had a profound impact on you because you genuinely feel a sense of guilt over what has happened.
“And so, I repeat, that this is a tragedy for everyone involved. I cannot give what everyone would want most, which is to bring Michael back.”
Gourley was also banned from driving for three years.
The judge added: “It has had an impact on your own desire to live. You have not driven since and are on long term sick leave from work.
“I accept that your remorse is genuine. You are not someone with a history that shows a disregard for the laws of the road.”
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