VIDEO: Police release footage of Stuart Hutchings being chased in Northampton before his death as pursuer gets nine years in jail
A 28-year-old man was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Stuart Hutchings at Birmingham Crown Court.
David Barnes, of Daventry, appeared in court yesterday alongside 25-year-old Craig Turner who had been a co-defendant in what was originally a murder trial.
Mr Hutchings, 22, of Southfields, Northampton, died on May 24 at University Hospital in Coventry as a result of injuries sustained in a collision which happened in Eastern Avenue North, Kingsthorpe, close to the junction with Eastern Close, a week prior.
Originally the men were arrested on grievous bodily harm charges, however, following the death of Mr Hutchings some days later, the charges were changed to murder.
After the charge changed once more to manslaughter on Tuesday, the court heard the evidence presented by the prosecution's Peter Joyce QC in relation to the circumstances of the incident which lead to Mr Hutchings death.
The court was told that in the early hours of May 18 an off-road trials motorbike belonging to David Barnes' brother Gary was stolen from an address on Valley Road, where it had been entrusted to somebody to carry out repairs.
Gary put out messages on social media to help locate the bike, and someone reported it had been seen in the St James area of Northampton.
The prosecution said Gary Barnes travelled to the area to locate the bike but he couldn't find it.
"David Barnes did go from Daventry to Northampton with Craig Turner in an attempt to find the stolen bike and the result of that search was this defendant was involved in a determined and dangerous pursuit in Northampton," said Mr Joyce, who described the 1.5 mile-long pursuit as "not a race, but a chase".
The court was shown CCTV images of Barnes' red Ford Fiesta and the motorbike being ridden by Mr Hutchings - without a crash helmet or protective clothing.
One set of images from a bus's onboard camera showed Mr Hutchings overtaking the bus, which was travelling south down Eastern Avenue North.
Seconds after the overtaking manouevre, Barnes sees Mr Hutchings driving towards him so turns his red Ford Fiesta around in front of the bus, forcing it to brake heavily, and he "went in hot pursuit of the motorcycle," said Mr Joyce. The chase begins at this moment, at 8:34pm.
Further video footage showed the car in pursuit of the motorbike at speeds of 60mph, all the while in a residential area with a 30mph speed limit.
"You remained in determined pursuit, following the bike at high speed, including the wrong way along the one-way stretch," said Judge Melbourne Inman in his sentencing remarks.
The court was presented by the prosecution with the testimonies of witnesses to the chase. One witness, who was in her car, said the Fiesta was "two feet behind the motorcycle".
Another witness who had just parked her car said the Fiesta was "centimetres behind" and they heard "a loud bang" and saw the motorcycle and the victim up in the air.
When mitigating for Barnes, James House QC did point out that the witness' description of the car being "centimetres behind" was at a time immediately before the collision.
Mr Joyce said that Stuart Hutchings was riding the bike but it was not clear whether he stole it.
A police reconstruction video showing the 67 metres the motorbike travelled while on its side after the impact was shown on the monitors in court. The bike was said to be travelling at 60mph before it slowed and was hit.
Mitigating, Mr House said: "There was no intention when David Barnes set out that day to cause harm to anyone, let alone the death of someone.
"He accepts that he drove too fast and too close, and that his driving was dangerous."
He added: "He acknowledges he made a mistake. He was deeply upset by what had happened before and after the death of Stuart Hutchings."
Without the intention to denigrate Mr Hutchings, the defence did tell the court that the deceased was a disqualified driver and he should not have been on the bike. Mr Hutchings was also found to have had cocaine and cannabis in his system at the time of the incident.
Mr House continued by reminding Judge Inman of the fact the bike had suddenly braked or decelerated, which in turn meant the car was unable to avoid the collision with the bike.
Mr House pointed to a witnesses' reports in which it was said that there was a throttling back sound, then a silence before the collision, as well as the sound of a skid before the impact.
The defence also pointed to character references submitted to the judge.
Judge Inman referenced these in his sentencing remarks. He said: "As to mitigation, you are 28 years of age and have no convictions at all. You have a good work record and, as evidenced by the references I have seen are respected by those who know you.
"You are a family man and I accept that you have great remorse over your actions and the devastating effect they have had. Since your remand in prison you have been a model prisoner."
As well as nine years imprisonment, Barnes was disqualified from driving for 10 years and six months.
When remarking on the aggravating factors during sentencing, Judge Inman said: "Culpability in cases where the driving of a vehicle has caused death can vary very widely and be reflected in a number of different offences.
"This is not a case of causing death by dangerous driving. This is a case where you have pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
"That offence lies in the spectrum above causing death by dangerous driving and relates to cases where the risk of death must be very high.
"In this case this was not only a prolonged and persistent course of very bad driving involving both greatly excessive speed and aggressive driving. You deliberately pursued the bike.
"You knew that the rider of the bike had little or no protection from collision compared with the occupant of the car.
"You deliberately pursued him at grossly excessive speed and merely feet behind him. As your counsel rightly pointed out at 60mph you would travel 27 metres in one second.
"In other words, if the bike braked you would hit it at 60mph before you could even begin to brake.
"The risk of a catastrophic collision causing the death of the rider of the bike was therefore very high.
"Therein lies your liability for the offence of manslaughter. You had ample opportunity to desist from your pursuit."