‘This was nothing more than a tragic accident’ – Tractor driver represented by Mr Loophole cleared of killing biker in crash


A tractor driver who collided with a motorcyclist on a blind bend has been cleared of death by careless driving.

But according to his legal team – headed by  Nick Freeman, the lawyer known as Mr Loophole – he should never have been prosecuted for what was a ‘tragic accident’.

Andrew Ball, aged 27,  was driving along Reades Lane, Congleton, when he had to manoeuvre around a car waiting to reverse into a driveway – a move which forced him into the opposite lane.

As he did so Mr Ball collided with 56-year-old Richard Hardingham,  from Congleton, who  died  following  the collision on May 24, 2018.

Following a three-day trial at Chester Crown Court this week, Mr Ball, who lives in Sandbach, was acquitted after the jury deliberated for around 45 minutes.

Speaking after the trial, Mr Freeman, whose previous clients include David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson, said that although this was a tragic accident and that  Mr Ball should not have been prosecuted at all.

Reade’s Lane in Congleton

He added: “Here was a man of good character, there was no suggestion of speeding or mobile phone use and the breathalyser and drug tests were negative. 

“There was also no prohibition for Mr Ball to move over the road in order to get around the vehicle waiting to back into the driveway. Yet despite this the police prosecuted him for death by careless driving.

 “This case was always nothing more than a tragic accident which has devastated the family of Mr Hardingham  but which should not have resulted in the prosecution of Mr Ball.

“The jury were out for a very short time before Mr Ball was acquitted which supports  this view.”

The court heard  Mr Hardingham, who was travelling around 27mph, had braked, which led him to fall off his Yamaha motorcycle and skid into the path of the tractor.

He was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of his injuries.

Opening the case on Monday Sion ap Mihangel, prosecuting told the jury: “Richard Hardingham was 56 and riding his Yamaha motorcycle when he negotiated a bend to find a tractor on his side of the road overtaking a stationary vehicle.”

Mr ap Mihangel explained that Mr Hardingham, who was travelling around 27mph, had braked, which led him to fall off his bike and skid into the path of the tractor.

He was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of his injuries.

Rick Hardingham

Witness Karl Pepper explained how he was waiting to reverse his Toyota Rav4 into his home on that evening around 7pm.

Mr Pepper described to the court how a Vauxhall Corsa appeared behind him and went on to pull around him as he was ‘stationary’.

He said he ‘couldn’t remember’ when he first saw the John Deere tractor which Mr Ball was driving, but that it was behind the Vauxhall Corsa.

After the Corsa had pulled around Mr Pepper’s vehicle, he said the tractor attempted to do the same manoeuvre.

He told the court that the tractor was ‘a foot or two’ ahead of his front passenger door when he saw the motorcycle coming up the opposite side of the road.

Asked what the next thing he could remember was, Mr Pepper replied: “The sound of a thump.”

At this point Mr Pepper said he put the handbrake on and got out and heard Mr Ball shout to ‘call an ambulance’.

Mr Pepper said at this point he tried to help by stopping oncoming traffic and in time a retired police officer arrived and ‘took control’ of the situation and spoke to a 999 operator.

Defence barrister Martin Callery, questioned whether it was correct of Mr Pepper to have attempted to reverse into his driveway.

Mr Callery said: “When stopped on Reades Lane and the Vauxhall Corsa came up behind you, you were an obstruction?”

“Yes,” Mr Pepper replied.

But when Mr Callery said that it would have been better for him to have turned right onto the driveway, Mr Pepper said: “No, I wouldn’t have been able to turn around on my driveway.”

Alan Brooks, who was the driver of the Vauxhall Corsa, was the second person to give evidence.

Mr Brooks explained that he was a ‘keen rambler’ and was driving in the Congleton direction on his way home from Tittesworth reservoir.

He told the court he ‘assumed Mr Pepper’s Toyota Rav4 was parked’ when he overtook the vehicle.

Mr Brooks added pulling out around the car did ’cause concern’ for him due to risks of oncoming traffic.

He added: “The motorcycle came passed me within a split second. I looked in my rear mirror and had a feeling the tractor would be in that position”.

Asked whether the car “presented a hazard”, Mr Brooks said he felt it did.

In a statement released at the time of his death, Mr Hardingham’s family said: “Words can’t express the feeling of absolute devastation as the sudden loss of Rick. He was much loved by so many people.”





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