A BANNED motorist who drove a car taken earlier in an “appalling” manner, before crashing through a flyover onto the A1(M), was today jailed for 32 months.

The Vauxhall Astra “teetered” on the edge of the flyover before dropping and landing on its roof in the central reservation of the motorway, between the northbound and southbound carriageways, at the Bowburn interchange in County Durham, at about 10.30am on Friday January 21.

The Northern Echo:

Read more: Horror crash sees car leave flyover and land on the A1(M) near Durham

Durham Crown Court heard that as passing motorists went to their aid, Hugh Raymond Holmes kicked open the driver’s side door and tried to leave the scene, blaming his partner, who he left unconscious in the car, for the driving.

Another road user helped to detain him until police arrived, and, as his speech was slurred and, with him apparently under the influence of some form of intoxicant, he refused to provide a breath or blood sample.

Still blaming his partner for the driving, he was taken to hospital for treatment for a head laceration suffered in the accident.

The Northern Echo:

Robin Patton, prosecuting, said paramedics provided initial assistance at the scene for Holmes’ partner, who was thrown onto the inside of the Astra roof, as it lay upside down.

She was flown by air ambulance to hospital where she was found to be suffering a bleed on the brain, multiple fractures of the spine, a broken neck, a smashed right knee and five dislodged teeth.

Mr Patton said she has received various surgical intervention since, including having a plate fitted to the knee, and three months later still uses a wheelchair, although he said that is not expected to be, “a lifelong situation”.

Holmes, 32, of Tudhoe Moor, Spennymoor, was said to have 28 previous convictions for 48 offences, including several for violence, but others for dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and while over the limit.

Read more: Banned Spennymoor driver facing 'significant' jail sentence over A1(M) accident

He was also banned from driving in July 2020, which he was subject to at the time of the incident.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Patton said the car belonged to the son of Holmes’ partner, who rang asking for its return, after being taken without his permission at about 9am that day.

He was greeted on the phone by an almost incoherent response by his mother and Holmes, telling him he would not be getting it back.

Almost 90 minutes later another motorist saw Holmes’ passenger apparently trying to get out of the car at a junction, amid what seemed to be a row.

Holmes then approached a junction on the A688, overtaking cars dangerously, and ignoring a red light, driving onto the Bowburn interchange roundabout, where the Astra struck a van, careered across three lanes and went through the barriers, before it fell onto the A1(M) below.

Holmes, appearing via video link from Durham Prison, previously admitted aggravated vehicle taking, causing serious injury by dangerous driving, failing to provide a breath specimen and driving without insurance.

He also admitted driving while disqualified at today's (Thursday April 21) hearing.

Paul Rooney, for Holmes, said his guilty pleas were the strongest point he could offer in mitigation and conceded that his client showed a “disregard” for the rules of the road and the safety of both himself, his passenger and other road users.

But he added: “He does, through me, wish to apologise to all those affected that day."

Judge Ray Singh said his sentencing powers were “constrained” by the maximum limits allowed by law.

Imposing the 32-month sentence, including a one-third discount on the starting point of a four-year sentence to reflect Holmes’ guilty pleas, Judge Singh also banned him from driving for a further three years and 41 weeks.

The judge praised the “brave” and “noble” assistance offered by those who helped at the scene and said he would ask the Chief Constable to award three people, in particular, £150 each to reflect his and the court’s gratitude for their efforts.

The Northern Echo:

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, 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 public who assisted in the investigation and those who stopped to help in the aftermath.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054