[A] FOOTBALL agent has been convicted of causing the death of an M6 highways worker by dangerous driving.
Peter Morrison, 37, had been using his phone to message colleagues and clients -including players – and was also speeding moments before his Mercedes 4×4 veered violently across the motorway in wet and windy weather, and ploughed into two traffic officers. They were stood on the hard shoulder as two previously crashed vehicles were being recovered.
Adam Gibb, from Penrith, was killed while his colleague, Paul Holroyd, of Kirkby Stephen, also then aged 51, suffered life-changing injuries and was left permanently paralysed from the chest down.
Morrison had accepted his carelessness behind the wheel was responsible for Mr Gibb’s death and Mr Holroyd’s injury just south of Tebay last February. He insisted, however, that his driving was not dangerous.
But during a five-day trial Carlisle Crown Court, jurors heard a fellow motorist recall the Mercedes travelling at “silly speed” prior to an incident which the prosecution called “catastrophic”.
It emerged Morrison had travelled at an average of 81mph for 23 miles beforehand. And the former professional footballer had also exchanged 25 mobile phone WhatsApp messages during those 23 miles.
The married father-of-one claimed he put down his phone having seen an illuminated warning sign, activated near Tebay amid heavy rain, strong winds and surface water, which warned of an “accident” ahead. Giving evidence, he spoke of being “truly, truly sorry for everything it has caused”.
But today (TUES) a jury of seven men and five women found him unanimously guilty of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving. Morrison sat with his head bowed and slumped forward as the verdicts were announced.
Judge Peter Davies adjourned the case and, as an “act of mercy”, he bailed Morrison until November 23 when sentence will be passed.
But defence lawyer John Dye had earlier said in an address to the judge: “As Mr Morrison has been told, the inevitable outcome of the jury’s verdict is that he will receive a substantial custodial sentence in relation to this matter.”
Robert Smith for the CPS said: “This is a tragic case where two highways officers who were making the road safe for other people were hit by an out-of-control car.
“Morrison was using his mobile phone while driving at dangerously high speeds for the road conditions at the time. He failed to heed the many variable speed limit signs and notice boards warning drivers about the accident ahead.
“Morrison pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, claiming that a gust of wind and the wet road had caused him to lose control of the car. It was the prosecution’s case, however, that his driving was dangerous and after considering the evidence against him, the jury have agreed. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims at this time.”