Crash driver jailed

A Minnigaff lorry driver has been jailed for 18 months after causing a crash which left another motorist with serious injuries.

Leslie Whyte’s 34-tonne goods vehicle was speeding when it slammed into the back of a small van which was preparing to leave the A66 near Appleby in May last year.

Van driver Jeffrey Bainbridge, a builder and volunteer firefighter, was thrown from his vehicle. He was airlifted to hospital, having suffered fractured vertebrae in his neck and lower back, along with eight broken ribs, and detained for eight days.

Sixty-year-old Mr Bainbridge, of Appleby, also sustained a punctured and collapsed lung, and a fractured shoulder blade.

Whyte, 36, of Holmpark, denied causing those serious injuries by dangerous driving, but was convicted after a trial at Carlisle Crown Court. A jury heard he was a methadone user whose vehicle was seen swerving erratically immediately before the crash.

As the hearing resumed on Friday ahead of sentencing, Tim Evans, prosecuting, said it took Whyte 200 metres to stop his vehicle after the crash. Such was the manner of his driving that a man behind the wheel of a wagon immediately behind slowed down to create extra distance.

Of Mr Bainbridge’s injuries, Mr. Evans said: “In effect he is certainly finished building and volunteer firefighting.”

Whyte was found to be taking prescribed methadone, a substance which he said could cause users to become tired.

“It may well be that combination of drowsiness and the taking of that medically prescribed drug accounted for some of the manoeuvres seen,” added Mr. Evans.

Greg Hoare, defending, said Whyte’s GP had confirmed he was on a proper methadone course which was reducing.

Whyte had “belatedly” told the DVLA about this prescription, but the organisation had taken no steps to revoke either his ordinary or HGV licence.

Mr. Hoare asked that Whyte, of Holmpark Crescent, Newton Stewart, be spared an immediate custodial sentence. This was because two of four children living at his home had “significant difficulties”.

However, Mr Recorder Smith said he was unable to do this, and sent Whyte to prison for 18 months.

“This is significant, serious bad driving over a prolonged period of road,” he told Whyte. “As a professional driver you carried a particular duty to take care for other road users, and to be particularly careful about the circumstances in which you drive. You must have known that your driving fell well below the standard for some time before the accident occurred.”

Whyte was also banned from driving for two years, and must take an extended re-test before he can drive again.