A DELIVERY driver who killed a cyclist when he ploughed into the back of him in his seven-and-half-tonne lorry walked free from court.

Sean Ruff died instantly when his bike was hit from behind by Argos driver Joseph Reed on the A66 at Elton, near Stockton, last May.

Teesside Crown Court heard Mr Ruff was a finance director at Able UK, and was taking his regular ride after work before driving home.

The 61-year-old father-of-four, from Cleadon, South Tyneside, was wearing a high-visibility jacket, helmet and his lights were on.

Prosecutor Christine Egerton said it was 6.20pm and daylight when the accident happened on the busy dual-carriageway on May 21.

Reed, 50, from Crook, County Durham, admitted a charge of causing death by careless driving at an earlier court hearing.

His barrister, Christopher Dorman-O'Gowan, told Judge Peter Armstrong that he had been a hard-working man all of his adult life.

"He does not seek to blame Mr Ruff in any way," he said. "A thoroughly decent man died that day, and a good man was at the wheel of the wagon."

Miss Egerton said Mr Ruff would have been visible for at least nine seconds or from 227 metres away.

"Witnesses said he did not brake or deviate, even after the collision," she added. "Some witnesses feared he was not going to stop, although he did do so.

"An accident reconstruction found he was travelling at 55mph on the 70mph limit dual carriageway."

The court heard Mr Ruff died from multiple injuries, and his death was likely to have been almost instantaneous.

Reed claimed in his police interview he had seen the cyclist, but there was too much traffic in lane two for him to pull out, and too much traffic behind for him to stop.

Miss Egerton added: "Witness accounts do not support that, they say lane two was empty.

"In any case, there was room for Mr Reed to pass safely while remaining in lane one."

Reed, of Railway Terrace, Willington, has criminal convictions from 30 years ago, and a more recent conviction for speeding, the court heard.

Judge Armstrong sentenced Reed to six months in prison, suspended for two years, and banned him from driving for two-and-a-half years.

The judge told him: "Cases such as this are a tragedy for all concerned.

"Nothing I can say will provide comfort or recompense for the family of Mr Ruff, any life is priceless.

"The effect on you has also been great, you have lost your job and your home, and you will have to live with the fact you have taken a life.

"Your inattention to the road that day was not momentary, but neither was it a prolonged period of inattention.

"In passing sentence, I am bound to follow the guidelines for judges in such cases."