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Sandgate motorcyclist James Kirkham accused of causing pal Dale West's death by dangerous driving describes moments before crash on A20 near Hythe

By Sian Napier

A motorcyclist has told a court of the moment he saw his friend's car crossing the white line in the middle of the road sideways before hitting a parked lorry.

James Kirkham, 20, was riding behind 19-year-old pal Dale West, who was driving his Peugeot 106 when the crash happened. Mr Dale died at the scene.

Kirkham told a jury at Canterbury Crown Court that he had been blinded by the headlights of another vehicle.

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

"I closed my eyes and felt the vehicle coming towards me was slightly in my lane," he said. "I shifted my bike over and because I knew the road so well I could picture it."

Kirkham said he and the vehicle passed each other. He added: "By that point I saw Dale's car on the point of crossing the white line sideways."

Fighting back tears, Kirkham said he saw the Peugeot hit the parked lorry and he stopped his bike.

Kirkham, of Meadowbank, Sandgate, has denied causing death by driving dangerously.

"I like speed, but only when I am overtaking. As soon as I'd passed the vehicle safely I slowed back down to 60mph..." - defendant James Kirkham

The prosecution alleges Mr West and Kirkham were racing each other when the accident happened on April 15 last year on the A20 between Folkestone and Hythe.

Kirkham told the jury that on that night he had met a group of friends, both on motorbikes and driving cars, at Halford's car park in Park Farm, Folkestone. He overheard someone say they were all going to Seabrook.

Kirkham told the jury he started his bike and tried to do a wheel spin which did not work.

"It was something I had seen on a video earlier in the day and I thought I would give it a try but it really did not happen," he said.

He added he rode a loud bike that was not running very well. Whenever the bike was stationary, it would cut out if he did not use the throttle, he said.

The friends set off and went to the BP garage in Cheriton to refuel and on towards the Channel Tunnel. One of the motorcyclists pulled over and waved Kirkham on, he added.

"I was too close to Evan Fisher's car so I overtook him under the bridge which was a well lit area," Kirkham said, adding his overtaking speed was about 70mph in a 60mph area.

"I like speed, but only when I am overtaking," Kirkham told the jury. "As soon as I'd passed the vehicle safely I slowed back down to 60mph."

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

He denied wanting to get to the destination first and said as far as he was aware no one else wanted to be the first there.

When he arrived at the Beachborough roundabout, he turned left as he thought they were all going to Seabrook. He pulled over to wait for the others and to make sure they were going the right way.

He said he saw one of his friend's cars carry on along the A20 so he turned back and followed the car, which was Mr West's.

"There was a distance of about three lorry lengths between me and Dale and we stuck at 60mph," Kirkham said. "I did not want to overtake him. I could easily have done that but then I would not have known where we were going. At that point I assumed we were going to Stop 24 service station."

Kirkham told the court their speed varied between 55mph to 65mph, but when they went down a hill before a section of forest he estimated Mr West's speed was 65mph to 70mph.

The trial continues.

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