Three year sentence for motorway missile thrower

Missile thrower David Maitland, jailed for three years at Durham Crown Court today.

Missile thrower David Maitland, jailed for three years at Durham Crown Court today.

First published in News The Northern Echo: Static HTML image by , Chief Reporter (Durham)

A YOUTH who potentially put two drivers’ lives at risk, dropping missiles from a motorway road bridge, has been jailed for three years.

David John Maitland, now 21, and a teenage accomplice threw a rock and a concrete block at vehicles passing under the Bowburn/Coxhoe interchange bridge on the A1(M) in County Durham, late on Sunday November 13, in 2012.

Durham Crown Court heard one missile struck the windscreen of a supermarket delivery lorry travelling southbound, at about 10.30pm.

The driver, who saw the youths above taking aim, had to “brace” himself at the wheel aware that his vehicle was a sitting target as it passed under the over bridge.

Victoria Lamballe, prosecuting, said although the glass shattered on impact, the windscreen remained intact, and the driver was able to bring the 47-tonne truck to a halt when he felt it safe to do so, before ringing police.

Both youths were seen running from the bridge and returning with another missile which they dropped onto the road, landing just in front of a northbound Ford Fiesta.

The motorist could not avoid driving over the object, causing a cloud of dust to spread over the road.

Miss Lamballe said he feared he would crash, but he managed to maintain control until he was able to pull the car onto the hard shoulder.

He, too, had seen the youths on the over bridge, as did a local resident, who observed them, one with a dog on a lead, as they ran off a short time later.

Miss Lamballe said on his arrest, three days later, Maitland, of Linden Road, West Cornforth, County Durham, told police: “I only did one,” but then made no comment in interview.

However, at a plea hearing, in July last year, he admitted charges of criminal damage being reckless whether life was endangered and causing a danger to road users.

But the court heard he could not be sentenced until the case of his co-accused was resolved.

He was acquitted with “no case to answer” following legal submissions at his subsequent trial.

Maitland, said to be of low IQ, with mild learning difficulties, was made subject of psychiatric reports.

Andrew Finley, mitigating, said he was easily-led and prone to risky impulsive behaviour for no apparent reason, although it is considered he is less likely to commit such acts now, compared to the time of the incident.

Mr Finley added that Maitland no longer associates with his co-accused and has kept out of trouble in the intervening 21 months.

Jailing him, Judge Peter Kelson said it was only “good fortune” that no serious injuries or worse were caused.

He told Maitland: “Standing on a bridge throwing stones and rocks down onto a motorway is clearly extremely serious criminal behaviour.”

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