Cab driver consoled by family of motorbike passenger killed in crash

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A 72-year-old cab driver who crashed into an oncoming motorbike sending the pillion passenger “somersaulting” through the air before she died was consoled by her family as he was spared jail.

Jerome Lee had picked up a family and was dropping them to their home on Farringdon Road, London, at around 8.45pm on February 21, last year.

As he made a u-turn near the junction with Clerkenwell Road, Lee swung into the path of an oncoming, speeding Ducati motorcycle, the Old Bailey was told on Monday.

Rider Shaun Hoffman was thrown to the ground and survived. But his passenger, Claire Berretti, was thrown a “considerable distance” and suffered catastrophic head injuries.

She was pronounced dead at the scene, jurors heard.

Lee was found guilty on Thursday by a majority of 10-2 of causing death by careless driving and sentenced to a 12-month community order with an unpaid work requirement of 60 hours.

He was also ordered to pay £200 in costs, carry out 10 hours of rehabilitation and was disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Ms Berretti’s family hugged and consoled Lee as he sobbed after being sentenced.

The trial heard mother-of-two Jessenia Gonzalez was in the back of Lee’s silver taxi with her children and husband at the time of the crash.

In a statement read to the court she said that before starting the turn, Lee moved his head as if checking for traffic.

Describing the collision, she added: “There was a screeching of brakes and a loud crunch, and I knew right away that we had hit something.

“[I remember] seeing the girl somersaulting through the air like a gymnast.

“She flew so high through the air, turning and then landing.”

Opening the case prosecutor Joel Smith told jurors: “At the time that the defendant decided to turn around and perform a u-turn, a red Ducati motorcycle was travelling in the other direction nearby, up the Farringdon Road.

“The traffic lights at the junction were staggered. At the time that the defendant performed the manoeuvre the traffic lights at the junction were showing red to him – southbound traffic, but green to northbound traffic.

“Given what was said by the defendant at the scene, it appears he erroneously assumed that they were showing red in both directions, and that he would be able to conduct a u-turn without running into oncoming traffic.

“He was wrong – the prosecution say he was careless.”

Jurors heard Mr Hoffman was riding at 40mph, twice the speed limit, and that he was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to speeding.

Lee, from Edgware, north west London, had denied one count of causing death by careless driving.