‘Appalling’ – Family’s anger after pensioner accused of causing fatal crash fails to show for court again

Ronnie Johnson
Ronnie Johnson

DEVASTATED relatives of a dad killed in a motorbike crash have been left stunned as the elderly lady accused of causing his death failed to turn up in court yet again.

Margaret Kirkbride, 84, failed to show at a second hearing in as many weeks due to suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to her legal team and GP.

Now both District Judge Kristina Harrison and the family of tragic Easington man Ronald “Ronnie” Johnson, have slammed the delays as “absolutely and utterly appalling”.

She has been given a final chance to attend before a warrant is issued for her arrest.

Ronnie’s twin sister, Eileen, who attended Peterlee Magistrates’ Court for yesterday’s hearing along with other family members, said the way the case had been treated was “shocking”.

“We are lucky in as far as that District Judge Harrison is presiding over the case,” said Eileen, from Seaham.

Kirkbride, of Burnside, Peterlee, was charged with causing death by careless driving, after Ronnie, originally from Seaham, died in the collision between his GSXR 600 motorbike and a Nissan Micra on Seaside Lane, Easington Colliery on October 6, last year. His brother Alan, 46, who was riding behind, witnessed the crash.

The defendant, it emerged, had not even been told about the hearing, and defence solicitor Chris Wood had no clear instructions as to how she intended to plead. Instead he asked her GP, Dr Philip Woodhouse, to explain why she was not there.

The judge said: “My own view, never mind being a judge, but as a member of the public, is the sooner we get her to court and everybody deals with the matter, the better it is for Mrs Kirkbride and the relatives of the deceased who are sitting at the back. Now, they may well be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, particularly his brother if he is here.

“The whole thing is shocking and has been treated with nothing but disrespect. I have not heard one reason why this lady has not been to court today. It is absolutely and utterly appalling.”

The case was adjourned until Tuesday when it will be heard at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court.

“I’m giving you one last chance,” the judge added. “I expect Margaret Kirkbride to be present, I expect the solicitor to understand the instructions. I expect to take a plea and deal with venue. If not I will be issuing a warrant. I once again apologise to the family but you have seen, I think, exactly what has been going on.”