Case Study

Racing driver jailed for killing cyclist whilst chatting on phone

Incident date: 
Mon, 14 May 2012

Frank Wrathall, 27, a leading British Touring Car Championship driver, had been chatting to his girlfriend on his mobile phone for almost eight minutes with one hand on the steering wheel – while towing his racing car – when he hit Paul Fingleton on May 14, 2012 near Goosnargh in Lancashire.

Mr Fingleton, 47 – described as a ‘devoted family man’ – had been watching his 14-year-old daughter Hannah play at a local tennis club with his wife Ann before leaving early to prepare supper for his family.

Wrathall, who was driving a Citroen van, failed to spot Mr Fingleton and cut across him at a roundabout in Preston – knocking the chartered accountant off his bicycle and leaving him with severe injuries to his head and spine. He died later in hospital.

The racing driver from Barnacre, Lancashire, initially denied causing death by careless driving but later changed his plea.

Yesterday Wrathall’s lawyer told Liverpool Crown Court his career was ‘finished’ after he was sentenced to 21 months in prison and banned from driving for four years.

Passing sentence, Judge Mark Brown said: ‘Mr Fingleton had many years ahead of him and his family expected him to enjoy a long and fulfilling life.

‘You were obviously distracted and not in proper control of the vehicle and that is why you only saw him when it was too late.

‘As a touring car racing champion you should have been setting a better example for others to follow.

CTC's view: 

Although the sentence handed down to Wrathall was severe compared to other sentences for the same offence, the fact that Wrathall demonstrated total disregard for road safety by allowing himself to be dangerously distracted at the wheel meant he should have been prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving instead.

In their guidance to prosecutors the Crown Prosecution Service list using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving as an example of dangerous driving. The CPS should have applied their own guidance in this case and prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving.

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