Matlock teacher’s ‘careless’ car manoeuvre led to death of Isle of Man biker

Father-of-two Neil Walker died in the collision on the A2 near Laxey, on the Isle of Man.
Father-of-two Neil Walker died in the collision on the A2 near Laxey, on the Isle of Man.

A schoolteacher from Matlock has been given a one-year suspended prison sentence for causing the death of a motorcyclist on the Isle of Man.

James Ricketts was attempting to perform a three-point turn when he manoeuvred his VW Golf across the path of Neil Walker’s motorcycle on the A2 - the main Laxey to Ramsey coast road - on August 6 last year.

Mr Walker, a 43-year-old father-of-two from Ramsey, suffered fatal injuries.

Passing sentence at the Court of General Gaol Delivery, Deemster Peter Birkett told Ricketts: “You attempted a three-point turn in the car. By this manner you blocked the path of any traffic travelling in the opposite direction.

“It would have been a reasonable thing to do if the road had been clear but it was not. Travelling on his motorcycle in the opposite direction, albeit at some speed, was Neil Walker. He had no chance.

“He did not see you until the last minute. Your careless driving was, in my judgment, the principal cause of this accident.

“Tragically it led to the death of Mr Walker, a decent, popular and hard-working man, and nothing I can do can lessen the grief of his family and friends; nothing I can say can mitigate their sense of loss. There must have been safer places than where you chose to turn. It was the start of a long, straight stretch.

“You believed the road was clear but it was not. You manoeuvred your vehicle so it was across the road, blocking the north-bound carriageway and Mr Walker lost his life.

“You simply could not have been keeping a proper lookout for other road users. If you had been looking properly you surely would have seen him. Your failure to do so was the principal cause of this accident and you must share the greater responsibility for this accident having occurred.

“Mr Walker was riding at speed, probably in the order of 100mph and this meant that he was travelling too fast to take any evasive action and the collision was inevitable.”

Deemster Birkett said he did not accept it was simply “momentary inattention” as Ricketts’ advocate had claimed.

Passing sentence was, he said, an “unenviable task”.

“The sentences may appear inadequate to those related to the deceased but I must reflect the law,” he said.

He said the offence must be marked by custody. The only point open to question was whether the sentence should be immediate or suspended.

He noted Ricketts was a 51-year-old teacher of previously exemplary character, and that the speed of Mr Walker’s motorcycle, albeit on a derestricted road, gave him no chance to take evasive action, but he told Ricketts: “I repeat it was your careless driving that was the principal cause.”

However, he said: “It is regrettable that you did not acknowledge your guilt when the evidence was clear and obvious, so that no doubt added to the suffering of Mr Walker’s family and friends.

“That means you can’t claim the credit that would have come from a guilty plea,” he said.

Ricketts, of Moor Lane, was convicted, on Wednesday, after a week-long trial, by a jury, of causing death by careless driving. In addition to the suspended prison sentence, he was banned from driving for three years and must pay £8,000 costs.