A DRIVER who broke a lecturer’s neck during a series of crashes while behind the wheel after taking a “cocktail” of prescription drugs has been jailed for just over two years.
Michael Walton, who never passed a driving test, ploughed into Sylvia De Mars as she walked to a business school in Newcastle on March 7 – causing her horrific injuries.
Ms De Mars, a lecturer at Northumbria University Law School, told police: “I am very lucky that day was not the last of my life.”
A judge said it was “pure chance many people weren’t killed” by the 51-year-old’s driving that day.
James Adkin, prosecuting, told the court Walton, of Highfield Road, South Shields, was first in a collision on the John Reid Road in the town, where he tried to squeeze his MG Rover ZS between two cars.
Walton was pulled over by the police after the smash, which knocked off a vehicle’s wing mirrors, and then left after giving a false name.
The court heard as Walton headed to Newcastle, drivers on the Felling by-pass saw him swerving sharply, speeding and looking “out of it”.
After a visit to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, to see his ill grandson, Walton was asked to leave by his daughter, due to his odd behaviour, and got back behind the wheel.
As he headed along Claremont Road, Ms De Mars was crossing.
Mr Adkin said: “She pressed the button at the crossing and recalls walking on green and nothing else.”
The court heard that a horrified witness saw Ms De Mars crossing, along with other pedestrians.
Mr Adkin said: “He saw Mr Walton’s car approach, he thought more quickly than 30mph, and drive on, not deviating or slowing, striking Ms De Mars with its offside.
“She was thrown onto the windscreen and lifted into the air. She then fell to the ground face first, where she lay bleeding, in a foetal position.”
Ms De Mars suffered a broken neck and leg, but the court heard Walton seemed “unconcerned” and drove off.
His third collision was with a stationary Citroen on Benton Park Road. The car was written off by the impact.
Walton, who “staggered” from his car after the last smash, was arrested and taken into custody, where he continually dropped off to sleep. Once again, he gave false details.
He pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, two charges of perverting the course of justice, having no insurance, failure to provide a specimen and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.
The court heard he had been convicted of driving while disqualified a total of 10 times in the 1980s alone.
Judge Brian Forster QC jailed him for 28 months and banned him from the roads for four years.
The judge said: “You set out driving across this city while your ability was increasingly impaired. It was only chance that many people were not killed as a result of your driving.
“You drove through the crossing as if it wasn’t there. You collided with the victim. She was crossing the road as she was entitled to and her life was changed in that very second.”
The court heard Ms De Mars has made a “reasonable recovery” and returned to work, but the judge said the effects may stay with her forever.
Paul Caulfield, defending, said Walton was coping with family crises and bereavements and was unwell when he took the “cocktail of prescription medication”.
The court heard Walton’s brother usually ensured he took the correct pills but was unavailable that day.
Mr Caulfield said; “He bitterly regrets what has transpired, particularly the injury to the lady who was knocked over.”
Mr Caulfield said Walton has “complete amnesia” in relation to what happened.