A driver who left a passenger with a broken neck, fractured spine and a bleed on the brain after crashing a stolen car off a bridge onto a motorway has been jailed.
Hugh Raymond Holmes, 32, stole a Vauxhall Astra from his victim’s son before embarking on a "dangerous" rampage which saw it fall from the A177 flyover in Durham – crashing upside down on the central reservation of the A1 on 21 January this year.
Durham Crown Court was told Holmes drove through a set of red traffic lights and hit a van, veering across three lanes of traffic and going through the crash barrier at the Bowburn interchange.
The car teetered over the motorway before falling and landing on its roof, “fortunately” missing both carriageways.
Prosecutor Robin Patton said Holmes was then seen kicking the driver’s door open and getting out, leaving his unconscious passenger trapped inside.
He then tried to blame her for the crash, telling police she had been driving and “nicked” her son’s car.
Holmes, of Spennymoor, County Durham, later pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving without insurance and failing to provide a specimen of breath.
On Thursday, Judge Ray Singh sentenced him to 32 months in prison.
The court was told the car was reported missing at 9am on the morning of the crash, and the owner was told it was seen being driven around with his mother and Holmes in it.
When he rang her, her responses were “slurred”, and when he asked to speak to Holmes and told him to stop driving, the response was “incoherent”.
A witness who saw the car that morning said he saw Holmes and the woman arguing, with Holmes ultimately stopping her getting out of the car.
Holmes was involved in a near-miss before the crash when, at about 10.30am, he was seen overtaking another car “at speed” on a single carriageway, narrowly missing a Jeep going the other way.
Witnesses who spoke to Holmes after the crash said his breath smelled of alcohol.
Holmes tried to flee the wreckage by walking up the embankment but was intercepted by a man who tried to stall his departure, the court was told.
When a police officer asked if he was willing to provide a breath sample, the court was told Holmes replied: “Am I f***.”
The passenger suffered a bleed on the brain, a broken neck and multiple fractures of the spine and three months on, she is still using a wheelchair.
Paul Rooney, mitigating, said Holmes, who was banned from driving at the time of the smash, has apologised to the woman and she “appears to have forgiven him”.
Sentencing Holmes, Judge Singh told him: “Your behaviour was utterly despicable.
“The only thought you had was for yourself – no-one else.”
Holmes was also banned from driving for 343 weeks.
A Durham Police spokeswoman said: “Not only did Hugh Holmes knowingly take a car without permission, but he was also completely unfit to be behind the wheel.
“His reckless actions resulted in horrific injuries for his passenger which will affect her for the rest of her life.
“We would like to thank the members of the public who assisted in the investigation and those who stopped to help in the aftermath.”