Suspended sentence for speeding police officer who hit cyclist

A speeding British Transport Police officer who hit a singer-songwriter in Hackney while responding to an emergency call in his van has been spared an immediate prison term.

David Lynch, 31, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, was found guilty of dangerous driving earlier this year for hitting cyclist Joseph Belmonte after driving over a bridge in Queensbridge Road, Hackney, east London, on March 31 last year.

Mr Belmonte, known as Pepe to his friends and family, suffered life-changing injuries, Southwark Crown Court was told.

Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC, sentencing Lynch to eight months in prison suspended for 12 months, said: “What has weighed significantly with me is your intense guilt, remorse and utter distress at the injuries you caused that day, coupled with your immediate and appropriate response not only at the scene but in your determined efforts afterwards, until you were told it was inappropriate, to seek information about the welfare of Mr Belmonte.”

Lynch, who has since resigned from the BTP, was also ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service and told he must be electronically tagged and subject to a 7pm to 6am curfew for 12 weeks. He was also banned from driving for 15 months and ordered to pay �1,000 towards prosecution costs.

The court heard that Lynch had come on to the rise of the unmarked bridge at 68mph while in a 30mph zone.

He had reduced his speed to 63mph before his vehicle “took off” and became “airborne” - landing so hard that it made gouges in the road.

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The van then swerved to the left, hitting the kerb, and then to the right, hitting Mr Belmonte from behind at a speed of 45mph.

The court heard that Mr Belmonte, 31, was in a coma for nine days after the collision and suffered spine, knee, brain and facial injuries.

He had a broken right elbow and little finger which resulted in him having to learn to play the guitar again. He also suffered severe psychological effects and his head and associated brain injury mean he is likely to be left with permanent cognitive impairment.

Lynch, of Comfrey Road, Stotfold, Hitchin, had already pleaded guilty to careless driving but denied one charge of dangerous driving.

It was also revealed that Lynch had two previous speeding convictions.

In 2005, before he joined British Transport Police, he was banned from driving for two months and fined �250 for driving at 98mph on a motorway.

In 2008, he was handed a fixed penalty notice for driving at 40mph in a 30mph zone.

Ben Summers, defending Lynch, said: “This is not for one moment intended to undermine the impact and the consequences in terms of the driving itself - but it was in my submission a truly momentary error measured in seconds, not minutes and certainly not miles.”

He added: “This is a case in which there was not a deliberate decision - for whatever reason, whether for reasons of bravado or thrill-seeking or aggression - there was not a deliberate decision to drive in a way that was potentially dangerous.

“This was an officer responding in the course of his duty to an emergency call.”