HGV driver involved in fatal collision in Northumberland was over drug limit

An HGV driver who was involved in fatal collision in Northumberland was found to be over the limit for drugs. It was stressed in court that Craig Heal didn't cause the accident, which killed 20-year-old Drew Kyle Docherty, from Crawcrook, and did what he could to avoid it. However, a drugs swipe later revealed that the 32-year-old had Benzoylecgonine (BZE), a breakdown product of cocaine, in his system.

Newcastle Magistrates' Court was told that the crash happened on the crossroads junction of the B6309 and Lead Road, near Stocksfield, on February 2 this year, and involved Heal's Renault Recovery Truck and a Mazda 6. Emergency services attended and the driver of the car, Mr Docherty, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. Read More:Three men arrested outside Newcastle Crown Court before Jack Woodley murder sentencing

Police launched an investigation and, although Heal didn't cause the accident, he was over the limit for BZE. It was also discovered that he had been using his mobile phone while driving earlier in his journey. Now, Heal, of Front Street, in Langley Park, in County Durham, has been given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and banned from the roads for two years after he pleaded guilty to driving over the specified drug limit and using a mobile phone while driving.

District Judge Kate Meek said: "I express my sympathies to the Docherty family. I can only imagine how they are feeling. There was a thorough investigation in relation to the cause of the accident in this case and it was determined that Mr Heal's standard of driving didn't contribute to the accident and he was not at fault.

"I feel the sentence maybe difficult for the Docherty family to understand. Mr Heal is not charged with dangerous driving or careless driving. It was a tragic accident that took place.

While his offending is deplorable, anyone with drugs in their system while driving always has to take responsibility for their actions, the consequences of his actions were not the accident that caused Mr Docherty's death. "That said, the offending is deplorable. You were in a work vehicle driving an HGV and you had a significant amount of the breakdown compound of cocaine in your system."

The judge added: "While having it in your system, you were driving a potentially lethal weapon and you were using a mobile phone prior to this accident. It was repeated use of the phone while driving that vehicle." The court heard that Heal claimed to have taken cocaine four-days-earlier at a wedding, although he gave differing accounts of this when interviewed.

Sophie Allinson, defending, said Heal, who has no past convictions, had done what he could to avoid the collision, had pleaded guilty and had been left devastated.

He was also fined GBP480 and ordered to pay a GBP128 victim surcharge.

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