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Young Sandgate biker James Kirkham cleared over friend Dale West's crash death on A20 between Folkestone and Hythe

By Sian Napier

A motorcyclist has been cleared of having any involvement in the death of his best friend, who was killed after losing control of his car on the A20 between Folkestone and Hythe.

James Kirkham, 20, broke down in tears as he was found not guilty at Canterbury Crown Court today.

Mr Kirkham, of Meadowbank, Sandgate, had denied causing the death of 19-year-old Dale West by driving dangerously.

Dale West was killed in a crash on the A20 near Hythe
Dale West was killed in a crash on the A20 near Hythe

Mr West died when he lost control of his car and hit a lorry parked in a lay-by in April last year.

Judge Heather Norton, in giving her condolences to Mr West's family, said: "It was a tragic accident and I am sorry for your loss.

"I am sure you and Mr Kirkham would wish to turn back the clock."

During the trial, prosecutor Paul Valder had told Mr Kirkham: "You pulled in behind Mr West, knowing full well he had been driving his car for just two weeks and you were pushing him through the corners at speed until he lost control and collided with a lorry parked in a lay-by."

Mr Kirkham replied: "Not at all."

The case was heard at Canterbury Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Court

He told a jury at Canterbury Crown Court: "No way were we racing. I could easily have gone ahead if I had wanted. I have lots of experience, I knew the road very well and I was riding a very fast motorbike."

When he saw Mr West lose control of his car, Mr Kirkham said he stopped by the front end of the lorry without skidding and rang the emergency services.

Asked by Peter Forbes, defending, how he felt in the days after the crash, Mr Kirkham said: "I lost my best friend. I was not feeling well at all and I wasn't sleeping.

"I was depressed and distressed. I could not believe that I was being blamed for this."

At the time of his death, Mr West's family said in a statement: "Dale was a very kind boy and always wanted to help everyone, he had a heart of gold.

"He did not deserve what happened to him and will be sorely missed by all friends and family."

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