‘It’s a disgrace – he took a life’ – family disgusted as bus driver spared jail after killing cyclist

Partner Ann Leonard, left, daughter Jodie Leonard and grandson Logan Smith, four.

Partner Ann Leonard, left, daughter Jodie Leonard and grandson Logan Smith, four.

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The family of a much-loved grandad who was killed when he was knocked down by a bus have blasted a judge’s decision not to jail the driver as “a disgrace”.

John Yates, 57, pulled out from a junction in Washington as Les Turnbull, 46, cycled past on his way to work at 7.40am on Thursday, January 15.

The aftermath of the accident at the junction of the A1231 Sunderland Highway and Spire Road, Barmston, Washington, which claimed the life of Les Turnbull.

The aftermath of the accident at the junction of the A1231 Sunderland Highway and Spire Road, Barmston, Washington, which claimed the life of Les Turnbull.

Yates failed to give way to Mr Turnbull, who had right of way, despite him having flashing lights on his cycle and crashed into him dragging him under the bus.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Yates failed to stop his Go North East bus for 23.6 metres by which time he was across the other side of the road.

Yates, who has worked as a professional bus driver for 35 years, admitted causing death by careless driving at an earlier court hearing.

Yesterday, he was sentenced to a 12-month community order with supervision and disqualified from driving for two years at Newcastle Crown Court by Judge John Mitford QC.

John Yates

John Yates

But that sparked outrage with Mr Turnbull’s partner Ann Leonard and the couple’s daughter Jodie, 27, who attended court.

Jodie, who is mum to Logan, four, said: “It’s just not justice, it’s not at all.

“He’s taken someone’s life and he’s got such a light sentence.

“I woke up this morning and I was nervous about court, but positive because I thought genuinely he would get a custodial sentence.

Les Turnbull

Les Turnbull

“It’s a joke, a disgrace, and I feel like it was all based on his background of being in the forces and leaving to look after his mam. That shouldn’t matter, at the end of the day he took a life.”

Ann, 51, said: “I feel gutted. The message from the district judge at magistrates was that he said it had to go to a higher court and judge, but we felt as if the court was on the defendant’s side.

“When I spoke to his friends, they were just wounded.”

The mother and daughter have sent their thanks to family and friends who have supported them through the aftermath of the tragedy.

Flowers at the Barmston junction where a cyclist lost his life in a collision with a bus.

Flowers at the Barmston junction where a cyclist lost his life in a collision with a bus.

Les, of Sulgrave, and a manager at AWC glassware firm, was also dad to Martin, 22, a brother to Jason, 44, nephew Sam, 16, and also left mum Norma Carr, 73, and grandfather to Gracie, nine, Harley, five, Kylin, three, Cameron, two, and Imogen, eight months.

Paul Rowland, prosecuting, told the court Mr Turnbull was wearing dark clothing but had flashing lights on his front and rear of his bike.

Mr Rowland said: “The bus collided with Mr Turnbull who of course had right of way and at that time he was passing in front of the bus.

“Mr Turnbull was unseated and was overrun by the bus. There were no vehicle defects which could have contributed to the accident.”

The court heard how a witness sounded his horn after noticing Mr Yates failed to stop following the collision on the Barmston Way junction on an underpass under the A1231.

Another witness, a front seat passenger on the bus, saw Mr Turnbull and his flashing lights which he described as “catching his eye and standing out”.

The court heard how he heard a “bang” as the bus and the cyclist collided.

Yates, who has worked as a professional bus driver for 35 years, admitted causing death by careless driving.

Stuart Graham, defending, described Yates as a “broken man”.

Yates sobbed in the dock as Mr Graham told the court: “I can only describe it as a broken man before you today. He won’t drive again, he will not want to go in a vehicle.”

Judge John Milford QC told Yates, of Davison Terrace, Sacriston: “Its clear that you did not see the late Mr Turnbull until it was too late.

“You collided with him causing him fatal injuries.

“When he did not arrive at his place of work his daughter Jodie who was to meet him there realised something was amiss and went looking for him with her mother Ann, Mr Turnbull’s partner.

“To their horror, as they traced his route they came across the scene of the accident.”