A TAXI driver who ran over a student lying in the road has been cleared of causing his death by careless driving.

The jury at York Crown Court took an hour and 45 minutes to reach their unanimous verdict that Frank Norman, 71, was not guilty.

Relatives of deceased student Robert Stephenson were in the public gallery when the jury returned their verdict, as they were throughout the four-day trial.

Immediately afterwards, Judge Paul Batty QC said: “The court would wish to pay tribute to the quiet dignity of Robert’s family during the currency of these proceedings and the court acknowledges their obvious grief and abiding loss of one so loved.”

Mr Stephenson, of Pickering, was 21 when he died and was in the final year of an agricultural degree course at Newcastle University.

Mr Norman, of Brunel Court, off Leeman Road, York, showed no reaction when the verdict was announced.

He has been a York taxi driver for more than 30 years and regularly did weekend night shifts.

He told the jury he had no time to take avoiding action when he saw Mr Stephenson as the student lay in his path on the road near the Micklegate and Priory Street junction.

He had thought there was a bin bag in front of him and kept driving.

Mr Stephenson had been drinking in the city centre before he staggered along Micklegate in the early hours of March 26, 2016, and lay down in the road, apparently going to sleep.

A taxi coming into the city centre along the other side of the road saw him lying there and stopped before driving on.

A trust fund set up in Mr Stephenson’s memory has raised more than £100,000 to help young people participate in sport.

He played rugby with Malton & Norton Rugby Union Club and was a cricketer with Thornton-le-Dale Cricket Club.