A WOMAN said the lives of her family have been torn apart after the man who caused her father’s death escaped an immediate jail sentence.

Michael Thompson, who was the headteacher at the Hexham Priory School for 23 years, was killed last April when he was out cycling in Billy Mill Avenue in North Shields.

At Newcastle Crown Court on June 3, Steven Armstrong, 64, of Tudor Road, North Shields, was given a six-month prison term suspended for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to causing the death of the Hexham school headteacher Michael Thompson by careless driving at an earlier hearing.

He was also disqualified from driving for three years.

The court heard that Armstrong did not see Mr Thompson approaching, and his bicycle collided with the red Skoda Fabia. Mr Thompson, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, was thrown over the handlebars and hit his head on the road, later dying from his injuries.

In addition, Armstrong was given a four-month curfew, between 9pm and 6am, at his address and ordered to pay a victim surcharge.

Sarah Thompson, who read out a victim statement on behalf of her mother and Michael’s wife, Pauline, said: “Our lives have been torn apart and will never be the same again. I have lost my husband, our children have lost a father, and his grandson will never have the chance to meet him. Michael was also a well-regarded friend and colleague, he had integrity and such a kind heart. We received over 150 letters and cards of condolence, and in different times, his funeral would have been full instead of just the ten family members allowed due to the pandemic.

“No words can express his death, especially since it was an avoidable accident. Michael had so much more life to live and that has been taken away for us.”

In the victim statement, Sarah also expressed the wish of the Thompson family that Steven Armstrong have his driving licence taken away permanently, but this was not granted by the court.

His Honour Judge Adams indicated that there was no evidence of speeding, irresponsible behaviour, bad eyesight, or tiredness, and Armstrong was not under the influence of drink or drugs. He did, however, say that Mr Thompson was there to be seen and it is inexplicable that Armstrong did not see him.

Armstrong had one previous conviction 14 years earlier of driving under the influence of alcohol which was seen as an aggravating factor in sentencing.