Crash had ‘life-changing’ effect on one of three passengers

A MAN drove a defective car at high speed in wet conditions before crashing into a tree, causing serious injuries to his three passengers, one suffering “life-changing” disabilities.

Adam Richardson ignored pleas to slow down before losing control of the Ford Focus, bought earlier that day, and leaving the B1281 Hesleden Road, in Blackhall.

It careered into the tree near to the entrance to the Hardwicke Hall Manor Hotel, at about 9pm on April 3, 2019.

Durham Crown Court heard that before emergency services arrived he threatened his injured passengers, urging them not to identify him as the driver.

When police did reach the scene, Richardson was said to be “very hostile” and swallowed the SIM card to his phone to prevent officers checking its contents.

Richardson, who claimed to have been a back seat passenger, gave the name of another man as the driver, stating that he ran off after the crash.

It led to the arrest of an innocent man who spent a day in police custody, but no evidence was found that he was involved.

Richardson, 33, of Greenhills Terrace, Wheatley Hill, maintained denials until December, weeks before his scheduled trial.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said months after the accident Richardson was involved in a police pursuit , again ending in a collision.

He finally admitted three charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, plus doing an act intended to pervert the course of justice, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified, at a hearing last month.

The court heard the most seriously injured passenger, a young mother, was left paralysed from the neck down, brain damaged and unable to speak.

She requires 24-hour care and constant pain relief in a rehabilitation unit.

Her sister told the court of the “heart-breaking” devastation for their family, who have since suffered from further tragedy.

Nigel Soppitt, in mitigation, said Richardson, who was injured himself, is, “acutely aware of the devastation he’s caused to others”, adding: “From the bottom of his heart he wishes he could turn the clock back.”

Imposing a total prison sentence of 71-months, with a ten-year driving ban, Judge James Adkin told Richardson: “It beggars belief you committed a second offence when you knew how much devastation you had already caused to many people’s lives in that accident on April 3.”

The Northern Echo | Teesside