A68 West Auckland crash: Cameron Kitch sentenced for death of passenger

A young driver responsible for the death of his passenger after a high-speed crash admitted being distracted prior to the collision by an ongoing exchange of messages with two girlfriends.

But Cameron Kitch denies sending the messages himself and claims he was dictating his responses to the passenger, Callum Geary, who, in turn, was reading the incoming messages to him.

Durham Crown Court heard that Kitch was driving at an average of 80 miles per hour on a 40-limit stretch of the A68 in the lead up to the crash with a DAF lorry, at Hummerback, near West Auckland, on Friday, August 14, 2020.

The court heard that the last of the messages was received about 28 seconds before the collision, which sent the Vauxhall Astra flying into a wall, coming to rest in fencing shortly before 9pm that night.

Paul Rooney, prosecuting, said as a result Mr Geary received “significant” injuries which proved fatal.

The 22-year-old’s death was confirmed nine days later in hospital.

Read more: Driver claims he was dictating text messages for passenger to send at time of fatal accident

A witness going to the defendant’s aid at the crash scene said one of his first actions in the aftermath was to reach behind his seat for his phone.

Mr Rooney said Kitch then sent a message to one of the girlfriends saying: “I smashed the car”, followed by, “really bad”.

The defendant, now 22, but aged 20 at the time, of Oakley Green, West Auckland, initially pleaded not guilty to causing death by dangerous driving at his plea hearing, in February.

But little more than a month before his scheduled trial he changed his plea to guilty.

The case was adjourned, but prior to sentence being passed today (July 29) a trial was staged over whether or not it was the defendant who was sending and receiving the messages immediately prior to the collision.

He maintained that he was dictating those messages to be typed into his phone by Mr Geary.

On his own admission, the exchange of messages would have distracted him, even if he was not sending them himself, and he accepted he was traveling at too great a speed for the road at the time.

Judge James Adkin said that on the balance of probabilities he believed Kitch was responsible for sending and those messages, but he could not be sure to the required standard in a criminal court.

“He was trying to juggle two women at once, trying to keep them apart, which must have been a distraction.

“But I can’t sentence on the basis the defendant sent the texts in the half minute before the accident.”

Read more: Man accused of causing fatal crash on A68 in West Auckland

The court heard a victim statement from Mr Geary’s parents in which they said he was one of three male triplets and, “had a heart of gold”, being prepared to do anything for anybody.

Michael Davies, for Kitch, said he has no previous convictions.

“On his own account, he is responsible for this offense.

“The effect on him is that he doesn’t want to drive anymore.

“It’s clear from the author of the pre-sentence (probation) report that he has a lot of remorse for this.

“He keeps re-living those moments and he knows they keep coming back to him.

“He deeply regrets what’s happened. He feels a great deal of shame.

“He feels horrified for the damage he has done.”

Judge Adkin imposed a total sentence of 62 months – five years and two months – of which the defendant must serve up to half before being released on license.

The judge also banned Kitch from driving for four years and he must sit an extended re-test if he is ever to be allowed to drive legally in future.

Read next:

West Auckland man to stand trial over A68 fatal accident

Family pay tribute to man who died in crash near West Auckland

LIVE: Two taken to hospital after A68 crash at Witton-le-Wear

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