THE devastated parents of a four-year-old girl left battling for her life after a taxi driver crashed into the back of their car say they will ‘never forgive’ the driver who caused the accident – after he held on to his licence at court and was fined £250.
Amir Azad smashed into the back of Lisa Orrock and Chris Bootes’ Volkswagen Polo while they were stopped at traffic lights on the A194 Leam Lane, near the Lindisfarne Roundabout in Jarrow, causing a five vehicle pile-up.
The couple’s four-year-old daughter, Jessica Bootes, was left with the left side of her skull missing, paralysis down the right side of her body and a loss of speech after the crash, as her face had smashed into the front passenger seat.
She was taken to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and spent 11 days in an induced coma and is still receiving regular treatment at the hospital.
Azad, of Taylor Street, South Shields, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving after the crash, but was eventually charged with driving without due care and attention. The 35-year-old admitted the charge at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court – but escaped with a £250 fine and six penalty points on his licence.
The family, from Centenary Avenue, Harton, South Shields, had been going to McDonald’s restaurant when the collision happened at about 6.30pm on March 4.
Others caught up in the crash offered assistance to Jessica, but the court heard that when approached by Jessica’s parents, Azad told them “calm down, accidents happen” before asking if they had insurance.
Glenda Beck, prosecuting, told the court Azad’s Peugeot taxi had slammed into the family’s car as it stood waiting at traffic lights, causing the pile-up, with one driver hearing “an almighty bang”.
In a victim statement read out in court, Mr Bootes said: “What happened will stay with me forever. It has hit me so hard. It eats away at me. I try to get my head around what happened.
“Should we have gone a different route or left sooner – but we are the victims, we had not done anything wrong. The lack of remorse from the driver stays with me. I will never forgive this man.
“He has taken everything away from my one and only princess – she has to start her life all over again while he goes on living his.”
Mum Lisa Orrock’s victim statement read: “Standing there and not being able to help Jessica was horrific and will stay with me forever.
“How a split second can change a family’s lives – it baffles me. Our lives changed but not half as much as it has for our little girl. How do you explain that to her?”
Geoffrey Forrester, defending, said Azad has been driving for 17 years and was remorseful, adding: “A determination had to be made about whether Mr Azad’s driving fell far below the standard of an ordinary driver.
“In which case, he would’ve faced a more serious situation and would have been dealt with at crown court and would have a custodial sentence.
“The police, having fully investigated, came to the view his driving had fell below the standard expected of a driver, but did not fall far below.
“So a charge related to dangerous driving was not preferred.
“The aggravating factor is the horrendous details we’ve heard in court. Nobody can have anything but immediate sympathy for what took place.
“At the time, Mr Azar didn’t realise there was an injury, his comments were not said in a flippant manner.”
Neil Woodward, chairman of the magistrates, said: “The lapse in concentration had catastrophic results.”
Azar must pay a victim surcharge of £25 as well as court costs of £85.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We are aware of the outcome and will review Mr Azad’s licence in accordance with our policy.”