Linford Christie guilty of careless driving

Former Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie was cleared of dangerous driving today but found guilty of careless driving.





The jury's verdicts followed a two-day trial at Aylesbury Crown Court, in Buckinghamshire.



The 100m gold medallist, of Sherland Road, Twickenham, west London, crashed head-on into a taxi carrying a newlywed couple while driving the wrong way down a major road.













Christie, 51, told the court that he thought he was "going to die" following the late-night collision which left the two crumpled cars lying among twisted metal and debris on the carriageway.

But he managed to clamber out of the window of his badly-damaged Audi A8 before he fell to the ground, telling witnesses "Oh my God, it's all my fault", it was alleged.



The court heard that the wrecked taxi was propelled on to a grass verge while the dark-coloured Audi - with a personalised number plate 100 RUN - came to a halt in the middle of the A413 in Buckinghamshire.



Newly-married Peter Ashton had to be dragged from the vehicle, which was taking him to the Bull Hotel in nearby Gerrards Cross, along with his new wife Claire Lloyd-Ashton and her uncle Michael Burt.



Prosecutor Nigel Ogborne said the sprinter had set off to buy a pint of milk on the evening of the crash but was returning to his ex-girlfriend's home empty-handed because the nearby Tesco Express petrol station was closed.



He was making his way back along the unlit road between 11.30pm and 11.40pm when he crashed into the silver Mercedes coming from a venue named Merlin's Cave, in Chalfont St Giles.



Jurors heard that Christie later told a police officer: "I saw lights and 'bang'. I smelt this funny smell and thought 'If I don't get out, I'm going to die'."



In a witness statement read to the court, Mrs Lloyd-Ashton, who lives close to the crash scene, said an alarmed Christie approached the taxi and moments later collapsed at the feet of two bystanders.



She said: "This male, he said 'Oh my God, it's all my fault, it's all my fault. I phoned the police, I phoned the ambulance'.



"This male then dropped to the floor and started rolling around on the floor and at one point he started gripping hold of (one of the women's) legs as if the shock of what happened had just hit him."



Taxi driver Naeem Akhtar told the court he had been travelling at between 40mph and 45mph, saying: "I wanted to take extra care as the couple had just got married."



Jurors heard that Christie told a police officer he believed he had been doing around 30mph that night and the accident happened because he experienced a "lapse".



"When I arrived at the Tesco I realised it was shut, so instead of going into the forecourt I, in fact, did a U-turn back on to the service road," he told the jury.



"I was just driving along and the next thing I knew, I saw a light and we had a crash, and that was it."



He acknowledged he had been on the wrong side of the carriageway.



"I accept that it was my fault," he said. "I was driving along and I saw the car headlights and I thought he was on the wrong side of the road, and then I realised I was, and then I tried to turn."



The court heard that he travelled on the wrong side of the road for around 200 yards.



When the crash occurred, the two vehicles were drawn together "like magnets", jurors were told.



It was a clear night and there were no obvious hazards on the road.



The sports personality, who claimed the 100m gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, stepped from the vehicle in an "agitated" state and appeared to be "limping", one motorist said.



Christie denied one count of dangerous driving on the A413 Amersham Road in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, on May 8 last year.



Judge Francis Sheridan had advised the jury to treat the famous defendant as "any other person".











Christie was disqualified for 15 months and fined £5,000, and ordered to pay £1,000 prosecution costs.



Ben McQuire, defending, told Judge Sheridan: "This was driving limited to a particular circumstance, at a time when there were difficulties in Mr Christie's personal life.



"It was not combined with any other bad driving, be it speeding, or aggressive driving, overtaking or ignoring other rules of the road. His failure was to drive on the wrong side of the road, and it was not a conscious decision. From the jury's verdict, it was a lapse of concentration on the part of Mr Christie."



He said Christie was preparing 20 athletes for next year's Olympics, 10 of whom were real medal hopes, and disqualifying him even for a short time would limit his coaching abilities.



"His licence is an extremely important part of his life, and also he has to visit his children, who live in Buckinghamshire."















Please legal - Linford Christie guilty of careless driving



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Former Olympic sprint champion Linford Christie was cleared of dangerous driving today but found guilty of careless driving.



The jury's verdicts followed a two-day trial at Aylesbury Crown Court, in Buckinghamshire.



The 100m gold medallist, of Sherland Road, Twickenham, west London, crashed head-on into a taxi carrying a newlywed couple while driving the wrong way down a major road.



Christie, 51, told the court that he thought he was "going to die" following the late-night collision which left the two crumpled cars lying among twisted metal and debris on the carriageway.

But he managed to clamber out of the window of his badly-damaged Audi A8 before he fell to the ground, telling witnesses "Oh my God, it's all my fault", it was alleged.



The court heard that the wrecked taxi was propelled on to a grass verge while the dark-coloured Audi - with a personalised number plate 100 RUN - came to a halt in the middle of the A413 in Buckinghamshire.



Newly-married Peter Ashton had to be dragged from the vehicle, which was taking him to the Bull Hotel in nearby Gerrards Cross, along with his new wife Claire Lloyd-Ashton and her uncle Michael Burt.



Prosecutor Nigel Ogborne said the sprinter had set off to buy a pint of milk on the evening of the crash but was returning to his ex-girlfriend's home empty-handed because the nearby Tesco Express petrol station was closed.



He was making his way back along the unlit road between 11.30pm and 11.40pm when he crashed into the silver Mercedes coming from a venue named Merlin's Cave, in Chalfont St Giles.



Jurors heard that Christie later told a police officer: "I saw lights and 'bang'. I smelt this funny smell and thought 'If I don't get out, I'm going to die'."



In a witness statement read to the court, Mrs Lloyd-Ashton, who lives close to the crash scene, said an alarmed Christie approached the taxi and moments later collapsed at the feet of two bystanders.



She said: "This male, he said 'Oh my God, it's all my fault, it's all my fault. I phoned the police, I phoned the ambulance'.



"This male then dropped to the floor and started rolling around on the floor and at one point he started gripping hold of (one of the women's) legs as if the shock of what happened had just hit him."



Taxi driver Naeem Akhtar told the court he had been travelling at between 40mph and 45mph, saying: "I wanted to take extra care as the couple had just got married."



Jurors heard that Christie told a police officer he believed he had been doing around 30mph that night and the accident happened because he experienced a "lapse".



"When I arrived at the Tesco I realised it was shut, so instead of going into the forecourt I, in fact, did a U-turn back on to the service road," he told the jury.



"I was just driving along and the next thing I knew, I saw a light and we had a crash, and that was it."



He acknowledged he had been on the wrong side of the carriageway.



"I accept that it was my fault," he said. "I was driving along and I saw the car headlights and I thought he was on the wrong side of the road, and then I realised I was, and then I tried to turn."



The court heard that he travelled on the wrong side of the road for around 200 yards.



When the crash occurred, the two vehicles were drawn together "like magnets", jurors were told.



It was a clear night and there were no obvious hazards on the road.



The sports personality, who claimed the 100m gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, stepped from the vehicle in an "agitated" state and appeared to be "limping", one motorist said.



Christie denied one count of dangerous driving on the A413 Amersham Road in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, on May 8 last year.



Judge Francis Sheridan had advised the jury to treat the famous defendant as "any other person".







Christie was disqualified for 15 months and fined £5,000, and ordered to pay £1,000 prosecution costs.



Ben McQuire, defending, told Judge Sheridan: "This was driving limited to a particular circumstance, at a time when there were difficulties in Mr Christie's personal life.



"It was not combined with any other bad driving, be it speeding, or aggressive driving, overtaking or ignoring other rules of the road. His failure was to drive on the wrong side of the road, and it was not a conscious decision. From the jury's verdict, it was a lapse of concentration on the part of Mr Christie."



He said Christie was preparing 20 athletes for next year's Olympics, 10 of whom were real medal hopes, and disqualifying him even for a short time would limit his coaching abilities.



"His licence is an extremely important part of his life, and also he has to visit his children, who live in Buckinghamshire."











The judge said that on the day of the accident Christie had been, personally, at his lowest ebb for a very long time.



"Your relationship of many, many years had broken down, and bearing in mind that you have, jointly, children, and care of those children between you, the emotional turmoil you were in must be borne in mind."



His house sale was also running behind, which was an additional pressure.



He was driving to an address he was not familiar with, "but what you then did was really quite dreadful".



The judge went on: "It's a very bad case of careless driving, you've acknowledged your responsibility for it, you drove on the wrong side of the road for at least 13 and a half seconds. That is a long time on the wrong side of the road, driving head on into traffic coming the other way, and a near head-on collision occurred as a result."



He added: "It was a horrible, horrible day for everybody."



He noted that Christie was a "model coach" and had conducted himself impeccably throughout the proceedings.



Christie left the building with an umbrella low over his face as he was pursued by photographers.











Thames Valley Police said later that four people were seriously injured in the crash, including the bride and groom returning from their wedding reception.



The couple, who live in Gerrards Cross, were on their way from their reception in Chalfont St Giles to a hotel in their home village.



The force said bride Claire Lloyd-Ashton, 43, who was a front seat passenger, suffered bruising to her chest and knees, while her husband, Peter Ashton, 58, was in hospital for four days after suffering a punctured lung and four broken ribs.



The taxi driver, Naeem Akhtar, 55, from Chesham, was in hospital for three and a half months after suffering fractures to both his legs. He also needed surgery to repair a broken right elbow and left wrist and needs round-the-clock care now he is back at home.



Mrs Lloyd-Ashton's uncle, Michael Burt, 61, from Cheltenham, was in hospital for two months, including six days in intensive care in an enforced coma.



He required reconstructive surgery to his face and is due to undergo further surgery. His right leg was also broken in three places and he suffered breaks to his hip and pelvis, as well as several fractures, including one in his spine. He is now recovering at home but is still unable to walk more than a few yards unaided.



Following the verdict, Mr Ashton and his wife said: "We are very pleased that the matter has been resolved after such a long time. We hope that Mr Akhtar and our uncle continue with their speedy recoveries.



"We would like to take this opportunity to thank Thames Valley Police and the CPS for all their support throughout this time."



Investigating officer Pc Kate Bishop, of the Roads Policing Unit based at Amersham, said: "This was a very serious collision which left some of those involved with very serious and life-changing injuries.



"For Claire and Peter it was a very distressing end to what should have been one of the happiest days of their lives.



"Thames Valley Police will always seek to bring to justice those who drive in a careless or dangerous manner and put the lives of other road users at risk as a result of their actions.



"The force remains dedicated to reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads through a combination of both enforcement and education."



CPS prosecutor Nigel Ogborne said: "This trial was not about Linford Christie the athlete, winner of the men's 100m in Barcelona, 1992, nor was it about Linford Christie the nice man.



"It was about Linford Christie, the driver of a car who, on 8 May last year, drove his Audi for 185 metres on the wrong side of the road, hitting an oncoming vehicle - a taxi that contained a husband and wife whom had just got married, and the bride's uncle, with devastating results.



"There was no evidence that Christie had been speeding, drinking, using drugs or a mobile phone. The jury have heard all the evidence and convicted Christie of careless driving.



"Other road users going about their legitimate business have a right to do so. The defendant has been sentenced accordingly for his crime."

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