'We are devastated' say family of Sunderland fan Stuart Price after woman is cleared of death charge
The family of a cyclist who died after he was knocked from his bike say they are saddened by the decision not to press ahead with a trial against a driver.
Stuart Price, from Murton, was 24 when he was involved in a collision with a car being driven by Lisa Maher on Easington Lane in February 2017.
Ms Maher, 50, of Western Terrace, also of Murton, denied death by careless driving and had been due to stand trial at Newcastle Crown Court today.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped the charge against her and said there was "not a realistic prospect of conviction in this case."
The decision by the CPS comes after the family of Stuart, who would have marked his 27th birthday yesterday, twice appealed against the move not to push on with a prosecution.
Stuart's loved ones were informed of the plan not to proceed with the case in a meeting with the CPS on Friday, where its team explained in detail its decision.
Sunderland fan Stuart, who worked in the medical records department of Sunderland Royal Hospital, left mum Deborah Dobie, 54, stepdad John, 67, dad Stuart, 61, and stepmum Marion, brother James, 24, and sister Jade, 30.
Deborah said: "We were informed on Thursday that they wanted to see us on Friday and in their own words at the 11th hour.
"Two years down the line and it feels like we're not back at square one, but that we've been set back.
"As a family we have to accept their decision, but it's obviously not what we wanted.
"It does bring a bit of closure for us.
"We still have our memories of him, but this is very bitter sweet."
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Prosecutor Jolyon Perks told the court: "The Crown has an ongoing duty in cases such as this to review them and review them properly.
"As a result of an extensive review of the evidence in this case, we have come to the conclusion there is not a realistic prospect of conviction in this case.
"This was an incident which is perhaps best described as an unfortunate and terrible accident.
"In these circumstances, the family of Stuart Price, the deceased, have been spoken to.
"They are fully aware of the fact this matter was a terrible accident and the Crown formally offer no evidence and would ask for a not guilty verdict to be entered."
Judge Penny Moreland entered a verdict of not guilty against Maher.
Stuart's friends helped raise £6,500 in his memory, which was added to by his family to buy a gravestone specially commissioned to include a Sunderland footballer and pay tribute to his favourite, band The Killers.
Red and white floral tributes have been left by the memorial to mark his birthday and last month's anniversary of his death.
A stand has been named in his honour at Murton Welfare Park, as he had played for New Hesledon Club, known as the Top Club, and Murton Colliery Club, thanks to the support of Murton Parish Council.
Stuart's family are now preparing to attend the next inquest hearing, which is scheduled to be held at Sunderland Coroner's Court, in Sunderland Civic Centre on Thursday, March 21.