Cyclist calls for tougher penalty

By Rachel Tiffen

Jennifer Speakman. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Jennifer Speakman. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A young driver who crashed into a group of cyclists on Tamaki Drive should be made to work in brain rehabilitation as part of her penalty, says the man she critically injured.

Speaking for the first time since the crash in September, engineer Greg Paterson expressed his disappointment at the sentence given to Jennifer Speakman, 20, last week in the Auckland District Court.

The Papatoetoe student was ordered to pay $1000 to each of the four cyclists she injured and was disqualified from driving for six months.

Mr Paterson said he and his wife, Dr Claire Paterson, thought Speakman should have been "involved in brain rehabilitation in some form".

"So that she understands what she did. Even if she's cleaning the floor I don't care," he said.

"What she did is the harshest injury I have ever received in my life."

In his sentencing Judge Eddie Paul said he was legally bound to penalise at the lower end of the range because there were no aggravating features, such as speed or alcohol, to the crash.

In December, Speakman pleaded guilty to four counts of careless driving causing injury - one for each of the cyclists she injured.

Mr Paterson said he remembered nothing of the morning of September 26 and some time after, but had been told he flew through the air at the height of surrounding houses and landed on his head when Speakman failed to halt at a stop sign at the intersection of Cliff Rd and Tamaki Drive, ploughing into 20 Pickled Pedallers cyclists.

Mr Paterson said he had been to hell and back and had no desire to meet Speakman.

"I'm not trying to sound important or big or anything but the cost she has caused me and the opportunities she has lost me are beyond her imagination."

Mr Paterson had been told he was lucky to survive the crash and five months later he has significant trouble with his shoulder, bladder and left eye.

He was unsure when he would return to work as an engineer.

"My occupational therapist is trying to make sure I go really slow and gentle."

Mr Paterson said the law needed to be reviewed to keep sports people safe.

"In order to have fewer injuries like mine the law should be made stronger."

He said he was speaking out in support of a law review, not because he wanted to whinge, but in the hope that something good would come of the crash.

"I'm not a happy chap. I'm happier than I was but there's room for improvement."

New Zealand's legal system was flawed if judges had no ability to use their discretion and penalise further, he said.

"Although the judge in this case applied the law correctly, I think the law is weak," Mr Paterson said.

"If they want this thing to make an impact they should start at the beginning and review the law and make sure it's strong enough."

If Prime Minister John Key wanted to build a national cycleway this sort of behaviour needed to be addressed, he said.

Mr Paterson was in a critical condition in Auckland City Hospital after the crash and spent months in the Auckland CavitABI clinic, which specialises in neuro-rehabilitation.

Yesterday he expressed a special thanks to Auckland City Hospital ICU neurosurgeon Arnold Bok, Dr Richard Seemann at CavitABI and his "lovely wife" Dr Paterson for all her support.

Mr Paterson said he was due to see Mr Bok next month, when he expected to be told he would never cycle again.

"If he says 'you can' I will, but if not I will find another sport."

- NZ Herald

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