A SENIOR judge has hit out at the 18-month sentence for aggravated vehicle taking after a catastrophic crash ruined the lives of a Huddersfield couple.
Diane Bottomley, 56, suffered life-threatening injuries and was unconscious for six weeks after the horrific accident.
She was hospitalised for months after 32-year-old unlicensed driver Paul Hinchliff lost control of his father’s high-performance BMW M3 and collided head-on with her Ford Fusion.
The crash, which happened in February as Mrs Bottomley and her husband Phillip were driving to B&Q, was caused by Hinchliff pulling in at the last minute to avoid an on-coming bus.
Prosecutor Richard Woolfall told Bradford Crown Court yesterday how Hinchliff had been pestering his girlfriend, who was allowed to drive the BMW, to let him get behind the wheel.
After they changed places Hinchliff, who was uninsured, overtook another car on Huddersfield Road, near Meltham, but lost control as he pulled back in to avoid the bus. The BMW struck the kerb before veering diagonally back out across the road and colliding the Ford Fusion.
Uninsured Hinchliff, of Carr Top, Halifax Road, Dewsbury, crawled out the damaged BMW, but fire crews had to cut off the roof to get to his girlfriend.
The emergency services had to remove the door of the Ford Fusion to assist Mrs Bottomley and her husband, but the court heard that neither of them could recollect anything about the collision.
The court heard that Mrs Bottomley, who did not remember anything until waking up six weeks later in a high dependency unit, suffered a catalogue of fractures including injuries to her neck, sternum, pelvis, hip, ribs, leg and arm.
Mr Woolfall revealed that she had undergone six operations and it was anticipated that she would have to face at least another three.
She made her victim impact statement while still in hospital four months after the collision.
Her husband also suffered some broken ribs, but he also had an operation to remove his spleen and would need medication for the rest of his life.
The Honorary Recorder of Bradford Judge James Stewart QC yesterday jailed Hinchliff for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated vehicle taking causing injury, driving without insurance and without a licence.
But Judge Stewart emphasised that he was constrained in passing such a sentence because Parliament had set the maximum sentence at two years.
He could not sentence him to the maximum term because he had to take account of Hinchliff's guilty plea to the offence.
“Any member of the public hearing the sentence upon you should know the constraints upon me are created not by the judiciary but by Parliament who set the law,” the judge told Hinchliff.
The judge said that maximum sentence was “woefully inadequate” and Mr Woolfall indicated that the maximum sentence was being reviewed and a members’ Bill was likely to go before Parliament to have it increased.