A motorist has changed his plea a month before a scheduled trial and admitted responsibility for the death of a passenger in a road collision.

Cameron Kitch was involved in an exchange of text messages with his girlfriend while driving a Vauxhall Astra at the time of the fatal collision with a DAF lorry, on the A68, at Hummerbeck, near West Auckland, on Friday August 14, 2020.

But Durham Crown Court heard that the defendant claims he was dictating his messages to a passenger, who was then typing his responses and sending them on to Kitch’s girlfriend.

His car was in head-on collision with the lorry, before striking a wall and coming to rest in fencing, at about 9pm that night.

Passenger Callum Geary, 22, suffered serious injuries in the crash and died in hospital nine days later.

Kitch, then aged 20, also received hospital treatment for injuries suffered in the collision.

The now 22-year-old defendant, of Oakley Green, West Auckland, denied a charge of causing death by dangerous driving when he appeared at a plea hearing at the court, in February.

Read more: West Auckland man to stand trial over A68 fatal accident

An estimated three-day trial was set to start at the court on August 1.

But, at a further case management hearing arranged ahead of the trial, defence counsel, Michael Davies, asked for the charge to be put to his client once more.

Kitch, this time, pleaded guilty, but on the basis that he was not texting the messages himself, at the time of the collision.

Paul Rooney, prosecuting, told the court: “The texts were to his girlfriend and personal matters were being discussed.

“They were discussions between him and his girlfriend about where they should go to, general chit-chat.

“Although the prosecution doesn’t accept that the passenger was using the phone, we can’t gainsay that the driver was using the phone.”

Judge James Adkin said the factual basis put forward by the defence needs to be given in writing to the court, to allow the prosecution to formally respond.

He said it may be that there needs to be a Newton hearing, or trial of issue, to settle the basis on which the defendant is to be sentenced.

The judge said either way, he envisages that the case can reach a conclusion with sentencing at the next hearing, on Friday July 29.

Granting the defendant bail, Judge Adkin imposed an interim driving ban on Kitch and asked for preparation of a background report on him to be prepared by the Probation Service ahead of the sentencing hearing.

But he told him: “You are going to go to prison for causing death by dangerous driving, it’s just a case of for how long.”

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