A CYCLIST who ignored a red signal and mowed down a nine-year-old girl was jailed for 12 months today.

According to witnesses, Philip Benwell was cycling "erratically and very fast" as he approached the crossing at Branksome Beach where he collided with Leila Crofts on July 26 this year, causing her a fractured skull and a bleed in the brain.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that the 38-year-old, from Crescent Road in Bournemouth, veered into the opposite lane as he approached the lights, colliding with Leila as she was crossing to the beach with her au pair.

Jailing him for 12 months, Judge Peter Johnson said:  "Miss Canibano (the au pair) was blameless, Leila was blameless.

"You are the only one who is to blame.

"This was an incredibly selfish criminal act.

"You took a serious risk in order to save a few seconds on your journey.

"Having struck her you callously picked up the bike and continued on your journey, leaving her lying unconscious in the road.

"This fractured her skull and shattered her family's life in one instant."

Prosecutor Carolyn Branford-Wood said Benwell was riding a nearly brand new road racer bike at the time of the collision.

The court heard that Leila was in intensive care at Southampton General Hospital for 14 days after the crash, and she still suffers from problems with her vision and memory.

In mitigation, Brian Sharman read a report from a probation officer, who said of Benwell: "He shows an incredible degree of remorse.

"I have never interviewed anyone so sincerely remorseful for their wrong doing, whose concern is so focused on the victim rather than themselves."