Driver who fled after leaving passenger critically injured is jailed

Driver who fled after leaving passenger critically injured is jailed

Philip Johnson was jailed for more than three years

Johnson fled the mangled remains of the car that ploughed into a tree

First published in News
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St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A DRINK-DRIVER smashed his car into a tree on a pig farm and then fled the scene without dialling 999 while his passenger lay critically injured amid the wreckage.

Philip Michael Johnson, aged 28, was driving so fast on his way home from a bar in Wigan that witnesses thought he was being chased, Chester Crown Court heard.

Johnson careered off Common Road, Haydock, at 6.30am on December 22 last year while on a sweeping right-hand bend. He hit a tree and crashed on to the farm.

Ryan Forber, a 20-year-old student sitting in the back of the car, suffered “life-threatening injuries”, including a fractured skull causing bleeding to the brain.

Jo Maxwell, prosecuting, said he was left in a coma for two weeks, and temporarily unable to speak, eat or walk after suffering partial paralysis.

Mr Forber and fellow passenger Joseph Thomas were unconscious when Johnson, a care professional, abandoned his car without calling an ambulance.

The court heard he told friend James Williams, who was travelling in the front of the car, “just leave them, we’ve got to go”.

Recorder of Chester Elgan Edwards called it the “worst case” of dangerous driving he had seen where death was not caused.

Mr Thomas, who suffered minor injuries, and Mr Forber, were “fortunate not to be killed”. They were fortunate not be killed. In a victim impact statement, Mr Forber spoke of coming to terms with being “washed and dried by others”.

He added: “What Philip Johnson took away from me that day can’t be replaced. He took the life I had and loved.”

The incident happened after the group left Old Mary’s Sports Bar, Wigan, the defendant offering the victims a lift home.

Ms Maxwell said a witness walking by the smashed-up vehicle dialled 999. Police tracked Johnson down at his home address in Neville Avenue. The court heard he continued to cover up the “terrible” accident, claiming his car was parked around the corner. He was arrested and found to be nearly twice the legal drink-drive limit.

The defendant, who cried throughout proceedings, pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, failing to stop, and driving with excess alcohol. Johnson was jailed for three years and four months, and banned from driving for five years.

Defending, Geoffrey Lowe said the defendant’s early guilty plea was a reflection of his “remorse and apology”.

“This incident was very much out of character,” said Mr Lowe. “That’s something he’s found very difficult to come to terms with.”

However, Judge Edwards said Johnson had been “very drunk” .

“You ignored warnings from your friend and passenger to continue to drive in that manner, which was highly dangerous," he said.. You caused serious injury to Ryan Forber, and you also rendered unconscious his friend, Joseph Thomas. "What did you do? You ran for it, pressurising another friend who had warned you about the driving to go with you.

“The police came to your house. You lied to them, telling your car was round the corner, knowing when you said that two men lay unconscious in the back of the vehicle.

“It’s a tragedy for you, because you have no previous convictions, and are spoken of well in references. It’s a tragedy for the victim and his family.

“I know this is upsetting for you, but I’m afraid you deserve every month of that sentence for what you did on that terrible evening.”

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