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.
Mr Woolfall said Mr and Mrs Bottomley had both expressed feelings of anger towards Hinchliff for destroying their lives.
Following his arrest Hinchliff said he was “gutted” and expressed remorse for the injuries caused.
Although Hinchliff had previous convictions, his barrister Robin Frieze submitted he was a fundamentally decent man who had been haunted by the incident and would be haunted by it for the rest of his life.
Judge Stewart said Hinchliff had insisted on driving the high-performance car against the advice of his girlfriend and had caused the most catastrophic accident which had ruined the lives of two people.
“Not just the poor woman who sustained the most dreadful injuries but also her husband who has now to live with a woman who is permanently disabled because you decided to be clever and drive this high-performance car in a way that we see all too often on the roads these days,” the judge told Hinchliff.
“You now know what you have done.
“This poor woman’s life is ruined all because of your stupidity and arrogance”.
Hinchliff, who again said sorry as he was taken into custody, was banned from driving for four years and ordered to take an extended driving test.
See what Mrs Bottomley thinks of the sentence and what she's been through on the next page.
A WOMAN still in hospital after suffering life-threatening injuries has condemned the two-year jail sentence of the man responsible.
Diane Bottomley, 56, suffered multiple injuries in the head-on crash in February when Paul Hinchliff, 32, lost control of his father’s high-performance BMW.
Speaking from her hospital bed as Hinchliffe was jailed, she told The Examiner: “He has given us a life sentence and he is going to walk free after a year.
“It doesn’t make sense after what he has done.
“It’s not just affected me it’s my husband Phil, who was also injured, and my whole family who have helped pick up the pieces. We have all been through it and are still going through it.
“I am still having operations. I had one two weeks ago because I lost feeling in my leg caused by where my pelvis and hip have healed and trapped the sciatic nerve.
“It is just overwhelming at times. I have hardly any mobility since the crash. “I walked 15 yards two days ago and that’s the furthest I have been.”
But despite the trauma of her injuries Diane, of Highfields Avenue Meltham, has found inner strength to face each day.
She added: “Everything is a goal. I focus on one thing one day and then move on to the next. It may just be walking a few steps but I have accepted that I have to start my life again.”
Phil, added: “Seeing her in so much pain after the crash and still now it is impossible to put into words what it has done to us.
“I don’t think the sentence is anywhere near long enough. I am not as angry as I was because we know it was an accident fuelled out of stupidity but he doesn’t know how close we came to losing her and then we would be looking at a very different sentence.”